Every now and again, slivers of the American population reveal themselves as something less than that which Americans ought to be.
These slivers are omnipresent in every society, and always have been, I'm sure. They fluctuate in size depending on time and circumstance, and garner varying amounts of attention. But neither of those facts makes them any less disappointing.
Right now, that sliver has silver-tongued opinion-shapers across the spectrum of media encouraging them to believe and advance the notion that President Barack Obama is not an American citizen. It's almost too mindless to mention, but it has gained enough traction with enough people that the cacophony of crap that they're spewing has become impossible to ignore.
This sliver, which has adopted the sobriquet of "Birthers," contends that Barack Obama is yet to prove his claim to the presidency because of the constitutional requirement that the president be an American-born citizen of the United States. Nevermind the fact that he was born in Hawaii and that two local newspapers announced his birth in 1964, these people are doing their utmost to devise a contention out of thin air. The other day, for example, a document magically appeared that was purported to be a birth certificate from Kenya announcing the arrival of Barack Hussein Obama. The document was proven to be a forgery, of course, riddled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies, leaving the Birthers without a shred of evidence supporting their hyperventilations--aside from “the fact” that Obama has "taken" their country from them. Indeed, the document was so easily debunked that some of the theorists have contended that the Obama Administration planted the forgery to discredit them.
But this "Birther" notion isn't the primary concern. It's what the people who want to capitalize on the passion of the Birthers are trying to do, and are capable of inciting, that is most foreboding.
Consider Glenn Beck. He has a massive following, and has uttered malignancies like, "Barack Obama has a deep-seeded hatred of white people" in recent days. Opportunists like Beck do not seem to care about the potential consequences of their actions, only that their viewership is up. (Way up.) Indeed, before Beck followed the cavalcade down into the perdition of information, Fox News, he was just another conservative commentator, albeit a less than formidable one. Now, he impresses on his growing viewership that apocalypse looms because of Barack Obama and what he's "trying" to do to the country--and more egregiously, because of who he is.
These kinds of attacks are a troubling ramification of the themes spun by the far right in the waning months of last year's election, when Reverend Wright and William Ayers became part of the Republican noise machine's vernacular, with the vice presidential nominee repeatedly assuring her supporters that Obama had been "palling around with terrorists" and that he didn't see "America as you see it and how I see America."
(McCain did little to quiet or discourage the former Alaska governor, though when he was faced with one who insisted that Obama was a Muslim, he quickly admonished her before moving on with his politicking. Similarly, McCain's camp has gone on the record in asserting that Barack Obama is, in fact, a U.S. citizen. He remains one of the few Republican leaders to have done so.)
The result, of course, is a sliver of Americana that is unsettling. Consider the following images compiled from across the country in recent weeks, which go well beyond the "birther" movement and into a whole other category of ignorant anger.
When people believe such things, and are whipped into enough of a frenzy--and when they truly believe their country is either being led by someone that doesn't legally warrant the responsibilities of office or is using that office to undermine the country--dangerous things can happen.
Unsurprisingly, death threats against the president are up 400 percent from President Bush's tenure in the White House.
Coincidentally, gun sales have skyrocketed since Obama was elected, a phenomenon largely based on another unfounded assumption--this one being advanced by the National Rifle Association and its vendors--that Obama is going to outlaw all guns and ammunition.
"It started the day that Obama got elected," Johnny Dury, who owns Dury's Gun Shop in San Antonio, tells NPR's Michele Norris. "It is when everything just went crazy in the gun business."
Some would surely point out that lunacy is not partisan. And that is surely true. But those that believe George Bush was a war criminal were not stockpiling weapons of personal destruction, nor were their protests going unchallenged by far too many Congressmen.
It's time for Republicans to step up and lead their party and their people, and not let them be led astray into the recesses of radical hate.