It’s More than a Piece of Paper

There seems to be mounting controversy about the claims by some–maybe as many as 25% of Americans, maybe more–that President Obama was not born in the United States, and thus, is not legitimately the President of the United States.

Personally, I have no doubts about his birth, or his legitimacy (in either sense). But if you do, you might want to check out this CNN video report

Why does this controversy persist, despite overwhelming evidence that Barack Hussein Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Hawaii?

Several crosscurrents seem to be working together. First, there is a strong current of “anti-ness” sweeping the country. Many Americans are panicked. Certainly, given the prolonged economic downturn, this is understandable. Also, after 9/11, the fear of Muslims increased exponentially.

Second, electing the first non-white President is a big deal. Not everyone is comfortable with that, especially when the number of non-white residents is growing more rapidly than the number of white residents. We are becoming a truly multi-cultural society.

All the furor makes me sad. It also causes me to be deeply concerned about our ability as a country to work together.

What really is at issue is not President Obama. He will be president until 2013, or 2017 if he is re-elected. Our nation will not die during his tenure–any more than the nation did under either of the Roosevelts or Lincoln or Reagan or Johnson or even Nixon, all presidents who led us into broad change.

At issue is the legitimacy of our government and our institutions. Can we believe state officials whose job it is to keep these records? Why would they all–including Republicans–lie?

At issue is our ability to accept change, to be open to newcomers, to see our country as a shining city on a hill and not a pit of despair and evil. At issue is our ability to be civil, to not use incendiary words like “socialist” when they are not accurate, and not to caricature our opponents (as so many leaders seem to be doing, on both sides).

Can we remember of what Lincoln reminded us during the Civil War, namely that both sides–Blue and Gray–pray to the same God?

Or is that the issue: some, maybe 25% or more, don’t believe that?

We are in trouble, and it is not ultimately a question of a birth certificate. It goes a lot deeper than a piece of paper. But then, I am always hopeful–unlike Lincoln’s time, few of us (so far) are firing bullets at each other.

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