My volunteerism consisted of asking survey questions and recording responses, the vast majority of which were mundane and unmemorable monosyllabic “yes” and “no” grunts.
One phone call, however, I remember quite well.
Usually the question, “Which party do you most affiliate yourself with?” prompted the reply of “Democrat,” “Republican” or “Independent.”
But that wasn’t the case with one elderly woman I called.
“You know, I’ve been a Democrat all my life, but not after Obama,” the woman said in a raspy voice.
“He’s a disgrace to our country,” the lady continued in belligerent ignorance. “He’s not even a U.S. citizen. He’s a Muslim. He was born in Africa, lied about his birth certificate and I think he should be impeached and tried in the highest court of the land.”
Instead of reading the scripted response and asking the next question, I hung up.
I had a hard time believing she was serious, but I guess I don’t listen to Michael Savage or other nutty talk radio hosts frequently enough to realize how absurd some people actually are.
Each president has had his harsh critics and conspiracy theories. To say the so-called “birthers” are exclusive to the conservative right ignores the 9/11 conspiracy theorists and Michael Moore types on the extreme left, but the birthers are a special case.
There are more of them, they’re more outspoken and their motivation is pure racism.
An April 2010 poll by the Washington Post found only 68 percent of respondents correctly identified Hawaii as the birthplace of Barack Obama. Three percent believed he was born in Kenya. Four percent believed he was born elsewhere in Africa. Seven percent believed he was born elsewhere outside the U.S., and a shocking 19 percent were “unsure.”
It is astounding such ignorance exists two years after Obama made a copy of his birth certificate available to the public in June 2008, viewable at www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html .
Hawaii officials have, time and time again since the birther movement birthed itself in 2008, stated Barack Obama’s birth certificate exists and is legitimate.
But that wasn’t enough to cut the umbilical cord that feeds crackpot conspiracies like the birther movement.
This January, Rush Limbaugh called on Obama, once again, to release his birth certificate, this time the official one housed by the Hawaii Department of Health’s Vital Records division.
And he may be getting his way.
Current Hawaii laws limit public disclosure of vital records, although a recently-proposed bill will allow anyone to obtain a copy of Obama’s birth certificate for $100.
The birther movement is now in its terrible twos, and the Hawaii bill is likely to do nothing to quiet the birthers’ temper tantrum.
Moreover, I believe the proposed bill is an outrage. Obama should not be expected to release his birth certificate multiple times to dispel a group of fringe morons who clearly will deny the authenticity of the official Hawaii birth certificate the same way they denied the authenticity of the copy Obama released in 2008.
Other presidents have had their share of criticism. But to my knowledge, none has dealt with the same type of idiotic, dehumanizing criticism as Obama.
I am not a fervent Obama supporter, nor do I align myself with many of his policies, but I believe he deserves to be treated fairly, and with respect, regardless of one’s political convictions.