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Susan Deily-Swearingen Headshot

Sanity at Last: Enough With the Birth Certificate "Debate" Already

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Here's hoping Hawaii's latest move to stop repetitive and baseless requests for information on the place of President Obama's birth will take some of the hot air out of this non-story story. "Birthers," as they are called, still contend that Obama was born outside the US and is therefore ineligible to be President. Their propaganda goes on to link him to Jihad and general extremism and terror. Honolulu legislators have just passed a measure allowing that state's agencies the right to refuse to aid in the perpetuation of this myth. According to a May 12th story in the Huffington Post:

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law Wednesday a bill allowing state government agencies not to respond to follow-up requests for information if they determine that the subsequent request is duplicative or substantially similar to a previous request.

Although the claims of the "birthers" are little more than an ineffective distraction technique, analogous the fifth-grade tactic of saying "Hey, look over there. Purple Cow!" while stealing someone's cookie, this low level "debate" is still an annoying undercurrent in the background of almost anything Obama tries to do.

More than that, this whole thing is bound to be at least a bit hurtful to our President. Last summer, some dear friends of mine were to be married in England. With my husband's blessing, I planned to leave my four kids and him behind and travel to the event alone. This meant getting a passport, which I hadn't had in some time. Did I mention the FOUR kids? Getting a passport meant getting a birth certificate, and here's where things got sticky.

I should tell you that I was adopted. Mine was a closed adoption through an agency in Pensacola, Florida. I have only brief physical descriptions of what my birth-parents and grandparents looked like. I have no names, no places of birth, nothing that would allow me to find these people if I wanted to. In fact, a few years ago I contracted the Children's Home Society (the agency from which I was adopted) to try and find my birth parents for me. The search was unsuccessful, and, somewhat painfully, I put the thought of finding them aside.

To further protect the identity of these people, I assume, my birth certificate appears rather devoid of much information. For example, though I often say I was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida, that may not be entirely true. My birth certificate does not list an actual city only a county. It does not list a time of birth or even the name of the hospital. Instead, it lists my name, sex, county of birth and the names of my adoptive parents. That's it. It's a rather odd and empty-looking document on the whole.

I took this record down to my local Post Office to apply for my passport. The woman behind the counter looked at it skeptically and explained that it might be best for me to write a letter to the State Department explaining the lack of detail on my Birth Certificate. I have lived in the US my entire life. I was born here, even if I don't know exactly where. To suddenly have to explain myself to a country of which I am a citizen, to be treated with some sort of implied doubt over a record of which I have no control was, for me, exceptionally bizarre, and hurtful.

I did finally get my passport in the mail, but during the weeks I waited for it I had constant worries about whether my explanations would be enough, if I would be allowed to leave and return to my native country. I understand that my story cannot even approach the level of indignity faced by the immigrants in Arizona or in so many other places in the US. It is also nowhere near on par with being a ground-breaking President only to have your legitimacy questioned over something that has been demonstrated false time and again. Still, my experience allowed me a very small glimpse of one of the many indignities such people face, to be treated with suspicion. As a country, we are so much better than this.