The Real Reason the Birthers Don't Like Obama

09/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Tom Roston Freelance journalist and blogger for PBS.

There is an unspoken subtext to all this Obama-bashing that has been heard at the health care town halls and in the Birther movement. And I'm not talking about the racism which others have already identified. I'm talking about anti-Hawaiianism. As a native New Yorker married to a woman from Hawaii, I have first-hand familiarity with the fact that most of my fellow American mainlanders maintain a nagging impression that Hawaii is not really very American-y. If Obama had been born in, say, St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, the Birthers would never have been allowed to say boo. This is where the Birther movement found fertile soil: Obama's being born in a third-world-sounding hospital called Kapi'olani Medical Center exploited America's embedded insecurity about the 50th state. Here are ten facts about Hawaii that the Birthers and the town hall crazies have exploited to create their case:

1) Walking through Honolulu International Airport, one repeatedly hears people refer to the flight to the mainland as "going to America."
2) The McDonalds there serve rice and spam.
3) There are those native Hawaiians who still claim that their land was illegally annexed, and therefore Hawaii is an illegitimate state.
4) The street names have way too many vowels; just try saying, "Kalanianaole Highway."
5) The health care system covers more than 95% of its residents. Does that sound like America?
6) You can watch NFL football games -- live -- at 8am on Sunday mornings.
7) It's the only state that grows coffee. (Suspiciously, Kenya is also a major exporter of coffee.)
8) Hawaii's population is 55% Asian. Does that sound like America?
9) Obama himself once mistakenly said that there were 57 states, so even he is a little insecure about this whole notion of there being 50 states.
10) At least Alaska has Sarah Palin and oil; now, that's America.

Tom Roston is a journalist who writes the blog, Doc Soup, on PBS's POV documentary website. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Elle, Spin, The Hollywood Reporter, New York, and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn. You can email him at