During a recent train ride, a fellow commuter, who was reading the news on his laptop, asked me what I thought of the "birthers". I told him commuter trains don't have sleeping accommodations.
"I'm talking about birther, i-r." he said.
"I'm sorry. We're on a train. I thought you were referring to berths".
"I'm talking about the birther movement." He was getting more emphatic.
"Oh, the birther movement, you mean midwives, those who assist women giving birth --"
"No," he interrupted, "I mean the birther movement that is gaining quite a bit of support. Don't you surf the Net or watch television? There are a growing number of people who don't believe Obama was born in the United States --"
"Wouldn't that make him the "birthee"? Wouldn't his mother be the birther?"
"No, this is not about his mother," he countered. "This is about whether Obama was born in the United States. There is no conclusive proof that he was and if he wasn't, he cannot legally be president."
"Where was his mother when he was born?" I asked.
"What's that got to do with it?" I could tell he was getting annoyed.
"Babies like to be born near their mother, it makes them feel more secure. His mother, an American citizen, was in Hawaii at the time of his birth. Maybe that's just a coincidence but it could be significant."
"As I said, there is no conclusive proof that he was born in the United States."
"Are you saying that Hawaii isn't considered part of the United States? I know Hawaii didn't start off as the United States, but for that matter, neither did the United States."
"There is no proof that he was born in Hawaii. His father was Kenyan, he may have been born in Kenya which would mean he wasn't born in the United States and therefore is illegally holding the office of the presidency."
"Interesting concept. Where were you born?"
"What difference does that make?"
"Are you hiding something?"
"Of course not. It's a ridiculous question."
"No. Delaware. Why would you suggest Pago Pago?"
"It's fun to say, but more importantly, why should I believe you? I don't know you. I haven't seen your birth certificate."
"I'm not the President of the United States."
"I appreciate your honesty about you not being the president." We finally hit on something we could agree on. "So there is no reason for me to believe you."
"Why should I or anyone else believe Obama?"
"He has been more vetted and subjected to more scrutiny over the past three years than any other presidential candidate in history. You think the idea of him not being an American citizen just happened to slip by?"
"I think there was a conspiracy to get him elected without verifying his citizenship -- a lot of right minded people are looking to protect our country and keep it in American hands." He was getting more agitated.
"A conspiracy to hijack the presidency hatched by a biracial couple 46 years ago." I said. I was distracted by a shiny object soaring across the sky. "Did you see that?"
"The flying saucer that just flew by."
I pointed. "The sky is out there."
"I didn't see it," he said, looking out the window.
I shook my head. "That's another conspiracy. The government doesn't want us to know about the outer space visitations we've had, the alien abductions. You know about the flying saucers and alien bodies recovered in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947."
"I've heard about that. Was there any definitive proof it happened?"
"Plenty of proof for those who believe the proof there is, but not nearly as much proof as there is supporting Obama's birth in Hawaii."
"That's not funny." He closed his laptop, picked up his briefcase and moved to another seat.
He was right. It's not funny. It's frightening, frightening that the media lends credibility by seriously reporting on a group that has no factual foundation for its claims and rejects all factual materials that refute them. I thought that's why there were shows like Jerry Springer, to accommodate the fringe and the audience who enjoys such sideshows.
The birthers, however, could be right about a conspiracy, the conspiracy to destroy any credibility the right may have by devoting and diverting attention to this kind of destructive nonsense instead of having informed debate about real issues like health care, the environment and foreign policy.
There are currently ten co-sponsors for a bill originated by Representative Bill Posey of Florida to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and create requirements to assure candidates meet the qualifications for the Office of the President. I commend Posey and his co-sponsors for creating a bill to address a problem that was created so there would be a problem to address. Obama, our 44th president and the first black president, is the first to ever have to tolerate questions regarding his legitimacy to hold office. Is there any relationship there?
The birthers have given birth to something that is embarrassing and insulting to all of us. Congratulations on your new baby.