Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Nativity Scene

God bless Anderson Cooper.

The smack down he lays on Texas Rep. Leo Berman, over Berman's unshakeable fantasy that Barack Obama is not actually an American citizen, is truly something satisfying to behold. Cooper's approach isn't overly antagonistic or bombastic. Rather, it's the kind of patient, respectful probing that Socrates made famous through Plato. (Different than the kind of probing he practiced with Plato, though I've heard Anderson might not be averse to that line of discourse either.) Cooper simply shows his evidence and asks questions, which--as anyone who's ever desperately wanted to verbally string up an idiot knows--is a monumental show of poise on his part.

As for the birther issue, while I've reflexively rolled my eyes at it for years now, I think I've finally come to terms with the fact that I. Just. Don't. Get. It.

Most liberal bloggers say it's rooted in racism--Barack is black; he can't be an American President! So, the birth certificate issue is, what, the white, rightwing racist dogwhistle for the post-Jim Crow era? The bigots can't say out loud that a black man is unfit to be Commander in Chief--because they'd be ridden out of town--so this is the codeword they've settled on, "birth certificate"?

Look, I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, within sight of Stone Mountain. (I mean, c'mon.) I think I have a pretty good eye for this brand of hateful lunacy, just from years of exposure, if nothing else. Maybe I've lost my touch after some years here in the North but...I just don't see the racism here.

If I may distinguish one venom from another for a second: the white male supremacist doesn't register foreign blacks in his mythology. I would argue, in some sense, that he prefers them. "Go back to Africa!" and all that. His problem with African-Americans is precisely their American-ness, as it represents a clear threat to the image of his own. (I'm terribly tempted to make a "through a mirror darkly" joke...and I realize I just passive-aggressively did!)

The hubbub over the teleprompters on the other hand, now that I immediately understood. The idea that he couldn't speak so well, so properly, without outside guidance (from white handlers, I would imagine) goes back to the fundamental sneer bigots employ against educated black people being "articulate." Bing, bing, Bubba wins the spittoon!

But Obama being Kenyan, being other. I dunno. No buzzers go off. Which leads me to think that it's more just hopeful thinking on the teabaggers' part--a magical way to get rid of a political enemy. We'll just wish him away, they say. And believe me, I understand the desire. If someone came up to me in 2006 and said that George W. Bush was actually born in Ciudad Juarez because Barbara heard there was cheap formaldehyde down south, well, I'd be awfully tempted to believe it.

But I'd be wrong.

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