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Tamar Abrams Headshot

"Birthers" Hit a Nerve

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Those damn "birthers" -- they sure know where to stick the knife! Hopefully by now they've figured out that Hawaii is part of the US, and may soon even realize that New Mexico is also a part of the Union. But their cowardly insinuations that President Obama was born outside the U.S. exposed old wounds of mine. You see, I wasn't born in the U.S. My father was stationed on the northernmost island of Hokkaido when my mother gave birth to me. Talk about patriots -- he was willing to spend two years on a snow-encrusted island in service to the U.S. Air Force.

The consequences for me, however, were that I could never serve this country as President. You may think it's a small thing, but I was aware of it beginning in third grade civics class in Newfoundland, Canada. (Don't ask -- the Air Force had some wicked sense of humor posting my dad and his family to the coldest, most remote places where they could set up a base). It was then that I learned about the birth requirement for the loftiest job in the U.S. I was an early "unbirther." While I had never seriously considered being President -- not when there were such juicy jobs as newspaper writer, stewardess and secretary available -- but it still hurt that I was shut out of contention.

Over the years, I've endured lots of bad jokes about the place of my birth, mostly along the lines of "You don't look Japanese!" But it's this whole birth thing that has been most galling. There was a brief glimmer of hope when John McCain's origins in Panama were discussed, but of course who was going to question his credentials? So I was shocked to hear the right-wingers lob the "birth" bomb at President Obama last week. I know they are running out of credible challenges, but still... The man has made his birthplace a well-known part of his biography; it probably wouldn't even qualify as a question on Teen Jeopardy.

But perhaps the larger issue is whether the place of your birth even matters anymore. This big old melting pot that we call Home becomes more diffused with each passing day. Am I any less American because of where I spent the first few years of my life? Does it matter that President Obama spent the latter years of his childhood in Indonesia rather than the first? Are there well-qualified, smart people who would make stellar leaders of the Free World but will be unable to run because of their birthplace?

The "birthers" have done us a great favor by placing the issue front and center, if for the wrong reasons. I, for one, vote to eliminate this antiquated requirement. Presidents should be chosen for their acumen and not for a word or two on a birth certificate. And, please, let's move quickly on this one. I've already started preparing my platform.