One of the criticisms surrounding Barack Obama is whether or not the man is actually eligible to be president.  The US Constitution states:

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Obama’s biological father was Kenyan.  His mother was born in Kansas and has always been an American citizen.  All very well.

‘So what’s the problem?’ you might well ask.  That’s pretty much what I want to know.

But there are a number of people, apparently enough of them to form a named group (“Birthers”), who claim that Obama is not a natural-born citizen.  The primary claim, as far as I can tell, is that he was born in Kenya.  This, despite the fact that the man has a birth certificate from Hawaii (which is where he was actually born) and that the certificate’s authenticity has been verified numerous times by multiple parties.

Birthers claim the Hawaii certificate is forged.  Okay, then where is his Kenyan one?  Assuming, of course, that there is even any evidence that the Hawaiian one is a forgery.

Here’s the best part: it doesn’t matter if it is.  Obama’s mother, being an American citizen at the time of his birth, makes him a natural-born citizen no matter where in the world he is born.  That’s the way American law works.  No one disputes Ann Dunham’s citizenship (as far as I’m aware).  His father’s country of citizenship doesn’t matter.  It wouldn’t even matter if Obama had been born in Kenya.  He’d still be a natural-born citizen.

But Birthers are pretty adamant about this:

These people are crazier than squirrels with their heads stuck in a dog food can.

But it got me to wondering.  In the face of such obvious evidence, to persist in their vitriol suggests that the real motive for their anger is not Obama’s country of birth.  It must be something else.  In this video, the touchstones are “my ancestors fought in wars for this country” and the Pledge of Allegiance (the meaning of which obviously escapes these people).

Are we seeing nothing more than pure racism?  “I don’t want a nigger for President”?  But they know they can’t say that out loud.  Or, more precisely, they’re afraid to admit to themselves what really motivates them.  Is this apparent insanity the logical manifestation of a culture where it is believed that changing how people talk will change how they think?  Outlawing the word “nigger” doesn’t make people stop being racist.  It just sends that racism underground, to seethe and foment and seek other avenues of expression that are more acceptable.

I don’t know a great deal about Delaware’s social customs or cultural origins, but I wouldn’t generally call them Southerners (despite the accent of the shrill woman in the video).  The Southerners I’ve encountered over the years are pretty blunt about their racism (if they are racist, which most of them are not) and are not afraid to use the words that go with it.

Birthers are, then, a possible window into the consequences of a culture where speech is regulated (and don’t kid yourself about that).  They may also be an example of jingoistic craziness, which is also still alive and well in this country.

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