The Audacity of Hate: Birthers, Deathers, Deniers, and Barack Obama

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

 The latest garbage spewing hate as it circles the Internet in a viral state of panic continues a three year smear against Barack Obama.

The attacks had begun with the extreme right wing spitting out Obama's full name—Barack HUSSEIN Obama, as if somehow he wasn't an American but connected to the Iraqi dictator who, despite the Bush Administration's best efforts, had no connections to 9/11.

            When the right-wingers and Tea Party Pack get tired of their "cutesy" attempts to link Obama to militant Muslims, they launch half-truths and lies to claim he wasn't born in the United States. Like Jaws, Jason, or Freddy Krueger, "birther" propaganda keeps returning, even when independent state officials and analysts proved the claims false.

            The issue simmered on Fox TV and talk radio until Donald Trump, the man with the planet-sized ego and the bacteria-sized brain, inserted his persona into the issue, while pontificating about becoming the next president. The media, exhausted from having to cover the antics of Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, turned their news columns over to the man who would be God—if only it paid better.

The Wing Nut Cotillion, with Trump getting the headlines, then demanded Obama produce a long-form birth certificate—which he did while leading a combined White House-CIA-Pentagon effort to find and destroy Osama bin Laden. The truth still hasn't quieted the conspiracy nuts.

Not willing to accept truth and logic, the extreme right wing, grasping for anything they could find, have attacked the raid that killed bin Laden. Among their screeches are that bin Laden isn't dead . . . that he was killed a week earlier or even years earlier . . . that Obama had hidden the death until there was a more political time to reveal it . . . that it was George W. Bush (who publicly said six months after 9/11 that he didn't care about bin Laden) who deserves all the credit . . . and that while Navy SEALS should get credit, Obama is too weak to have overseen any part of the mission.

And now from the caves of ignorance and hatred comes a much-forwarded letter, which the anonymous author says "shouldn't surprise anyone." Written as fact, the letter informs us Barack Obama: "never held a 'real' job, never owned a business and as far as we know, never really attended Harvard or Columbia since those transcripts have never been released and no one remembers him from their time at either school."

The email of hate further "enlightens" us that "Being a community activist only gives someone insite [sic] on how to assist the less fortunate and dregs of society on how to acquire government housing and government benefits without ever contributing one penny in taxes."

That's right. The Whackadoodles Wearing Tinfoil Caps crowd has escaped again.  

Among those community activists who worked with the "dregs of society," apparently on ways to scam the government, are St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226), founder of the Franciscan order and patron saint of animals and the environment; Jacob Riis (1849–1914), a journalist and photographer who exposed the squalor of slums and tenement buildings; Dorothy Day (1897–1980), a journalist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement that advocated nonviolent action to help the poor and homeless, and who the archdiocese of New York, at the direction of Pope John Paul II, began a process leading to beatification; and Jane Addams (1860–1935), who fought for better conditions for children and mothers, was active in the progressive campaigns of Teddy Roosevelt and who, like Roosevelt, earned a Nobel Peace Prize. Those who rail against community activists for not having "real" jobs would also oppose Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), who tirelessly established the nation's most effective organizational structure to help the poor and disenfranchised to gain a voice against political, economic, and social oppression; Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903–1998), America's foremost pediatrician, for leading antiwar campaigns; Cesar Chavez (1927–1993), who helped get farm workers respectable pay and decent working conditions; Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) who, with hundreds of thousands of others, forced a nation to finally confront its racism; and innumerable leaders of the feminist and gay rights communities who got America to confront their other prejudices. All were community activists.

Not dregs because they have "real" jobs are the bankers and Wall Street investors who brought about the housing crisis that led to the worst depression in the past seven decades. Also exempt from contempt are the business owners who downsized, right-sized, and shipped their production overseas, throwing millions of Americans out of work.

Barack Obama, castigated for not having a "real job," worked more than a year as research associate and editor at the Business International Corp., three years as director of Developing Community Projects, a church-based group for eight Catholic parishes, and summer jobs at law firms. Other "not real" jobs include being an author, civil rights lawyer, and a professor of Constitutional law at one of the nation's more prestigious colleges. Frankly, it's rather nice to have a president who actually understands the Constitution—as opposed to the rabble who misquote, misstate, and misappropriate it all the time.  

Those propagating the email of hate believe Obama couldn't earn degrees from Ivy League colleges; the subtext is as clear as their refusal to believe in an integrated nation. So, I contacted the registrars at Columbia and Harvard. In less than 10 minutes, the registrar at Columbia confirmed that Barack Obama received a B.A. in political science, and the registrar at Harvard Law School confirmed Obama received a J.D. These are public records. Anyone can ask the same questions, and get the same answer. Logic alone should have shot down these accusations. Obama was editor of the Harvard Law Review, something as easy to verify as his graduation, and he passed the Illinois bar exam—which requires graduation from college and law school, and a personal character test—also a matter of public record.

Even if Obama provided official transcripts, which are confidential, the wing nuts of society will claim that, like the birth certificate and the death of bin Laden, the transcripts were faked.

The truth is that the politics of hate, combined with media complicity and Internet access, has led not to a discussion of issues but to character assassination, with racism and bigotry as its pillars.

 

[Walter Brasch's latest book is Before the First Snow, literary historical fiction that explores the counterculture between 1964 and 1991. The book, to be published June 20, is available at amazon.com]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racism and Sexism: West Virginia Politics At Its Worst

I generally try to avoid the stereotypes of West Virginia (inbred, racist, un-educated, etc.) because for the most part they perpetuate a myth that the state itself doesn’t live up to.  We are not inbred redneck white-supremacists like a lot of the common jokes and stereotypes suggest.  However, much to my disappointment, racism is still alive in West Virginia.  It comes as no surprise because, frankly, you are bound to find racism anywhere in the United States (thankfully not to the extent of what the U.S. saw during the civil rights movement).  I’d like to believe that we live in a post-racial America, but sadly this is far from fact.  Our country has gotten better, and racism is detested for the most part by the rational portion of our population.

Even if someone is what one would describe as “racist,” they typically aren’t outwardly voicing this belief (we’ll leave out the skinheads etc. since they are in a league of their own for this).  However, sometimes people just let it slip.  One man vying for the GOP nomination to West Virginia’s Gubernatorial election did just that.

Larry Faircloth (R-WV) is one of several people gunning for the GOP nomination, and may have just killed his chances of winning.  Faircloth spoke at a candidates forum hosted by We the People of Hampshire County, an Eastern Panhandle Tea Party-affiliated organization.  Faircloth touched on the subject of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and decided to try his hand at a comedy.  Not the best idea Faircloth has had.

Faircloth referred to Pelosi as a “bimbo.”

“Is she not one?” Faircloth said in a Tuesday evening telephone interview. “I mean, a lot of people think she is a bimbo; that’s why they replaced Congress with Republicans, and they removed her as speaker. I don’t find that as anything different than a political poke at her.”

He also referred to Obama as a “Sambo,” a term many consider racist.

(Charleston Daily Mail)

When your joke offends the tea party members, and its in reference to Pelosi and Obama, you know you’ve made a huge mistake.  If this public gaffe weren’t bad enough, Faircloth only exacerbated it.  The Charleston Daily Mail reported that Faircloth initially refused to apologize publicly for his awful joke, even after being asked by the hosts of the forum where it occurred.  Faircloth claimed to have heard the joke from a poll worker earlier and decided to recycle it in order to garner some type of comedic support.  Its bad enough if someone doesn’t realize they made a racist joke, ignorance is still alive in this country.  However, Faircloth’s remark was met with gasps from the audience and caused one man to walk out in protest. No excuse for Faircloth not knowing now.

Terry Craver asked Faircloth to put an ad in the Hampshire Review to apologize to the community.

“His reply was a resounding NO,” the email said. “He is afraid that if one of his opponents were to get a hold of this information, that it would damage his campaign. He doesn’t want his reputation to be hurt. Terry told him with the National Media already trying to make the tea party out as a bunch of racists his ‘joke’ would do more damage to the reputation of the tea party.”

If his opponents got ahold of the info he was afraid it would damage his campaign?  Logic tells me that, even if he hadn’t been contacted to issue an apology, the incident would still have spread quickly.  Faircloth has really moved his way up the bigot ladder, and doesn’t show any sign of climbing down soon.  Thankfully, the primary is soon and  West Virginia Republicans would be wise to vote for someone besides Faircloth.

I commend the members of the Hampshire County-based Tea Party for actively denouncing this inane man’s comments.  I don’t find myself agreeing with any part of their platform (for the most part), but when push comes to shove we must all stand up for what is right.  Sometimes, if you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem.  Lets hope that the WV GOP has enough sense to send Mr. Faircloth packing on primary day.

(cross-posted on MyFDL)

There's more...

Fictional ban on interracial unions and abortion in America 2049 becoming all too real today

From our Restore Fairness blog-

Games, it turns out, imitate life — sometimes eerily so — just as history so often threatens to repeat itself. This week, Breakthrough’s ongoing Facebook gaming event, America 2049, tackles two major issues that become linked within the narrative of the game: interracial unions and abortion. During gameplay, players encounter the story of Bonnie, a privileged white Southern woman who is pregnant with the child of a black man: the product, that is, of an illegal relationship. But that’s not the only reason she’s in hiding; she’s also at risk of being forced to abort her baby as a “mercy” (”A baby like that wouldn’t know who its own kind is,” her father says), even though abortion too is illegal in this scenario. That’s where class comes in, too: it’s made clear that while families like hers have access to skilled abortion care, women less fortunate — and forced to seek out back-alley providers — die at a rate of 180,000 per year.

Sounds a lot like our pre-Roe v. Wade past, but also, more and more, like our near future. Last month, a Public Policy Polling survey (PDF) found that a majority of Republican voters in Mississippi would support a ban on interracial marriage. Meanwhile, on May 4, all House Republicans and 16 Democrats voted to pass H.R.3, the so-called “No Tax Payer Funding for Abortion Act,” which Ms. Magazine has called “misleading and punitive.” (For one thing, there is no federal funding of abortion.)

The bill will now go to the Senate, which is Democrat-controlled, leading many to believe that it will likely not pass. The Obama administration has also promised to veto the bill if it comes across the President’s desk.

The Mississippi poll results and the H.R.3 passage in the House happened independently, but their timing is apt. The scenario explored in America 2049 connects back to our country’s history of anti-miscegenation laws, which were not repealed until 1967. The story of Bonnie, the character in the game, echoes that of an interracial married couple Richard and Mildred Loving, whose fight for equality led to the historic 1967 decision to legalize interracial unions.

The Lovings are the subject of the new documentary The Loving Story that screened recently at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and will air on HBO in February 2012. Richard Loving, a white man, met Mildred Jeter, a woman of African and Native American ancestry, in 1951 in a small town in Virginia. When Mildred was 18, she became pregnant. She and Richard went to nearby Washington, D.C. and got married, since Virginia laws at the time prohibited interracial marriage. A few weeks later, back in Virginia, the Lovings were arrested for their union and banished from the state for 25 years. The Lovings reached out to legislators and advocates in Washington, D.C. and, after a long fight, they won their right to be together. On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all remaining state anti-miscegenation laws and the Lovings returned to Virginia to live out the rest of their lives. The anniversary of the date, June 12, is now celebrated as “Loving Day“ by some interracial couples and increasing numbers of same-sex couples, who are currently fighting for their own right to marry.

Watch a testimonial by Bonnie, a character in America 2049, who speaks about the danger she is in for being in an interracial relationship and being pregnant with an interracial child.

The right to choose whom to love or marry; the right to control one’s body and future: they’re intimately linked. And at present — with H.R.3 only one of numerous legislative attacks on women’s human rights today — the latter truly hangs in the balance.

As Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, commented:

”True to form, the House majority has cast a wide net in its attack on women’s health and rights — this time, trying to use the tax code to eradicate all insurance coverage for abortion. This move is the height of hypocrisy, because politicians who regularly rail against big government today voted to raise taxes on millions of families and small businesses — merely to stop them from purchasing insurance plans that cover abortion.”

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, added:

”Despite facing intense public backlash for bringing the government to the brink of shutdown over defunding Planned Parenthood, Speaker Boehner and his allies have resumed their war on women with the passage of H.R.3. This bill is so extreme that it manipulates the tax code to advance anti-choice policies and could spur the IRS to audit rape and incest survivors who choose abortion care.”

The H.R.3 bill also affects the rights of physicians and their freedom to properly care for their patients. While women’s rights are greatly affected by this potential piece of legislation, the providers who would administer the abortions safely will be even more restricted and possibly at greater risk. The Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) is one such group of providers who have committed to providing reproductive medical care, especially to those who with limited financial means. The organization supports the right of their doctors to deliver such care without becoming a target. Last night in New York, the PRCH Abortion Provider Awards recognized the dedication, compassion and tenacity of Dr. Eleanor Drey and Dr. Curtis Boyd. Said Dr. Boyd: “We are now facing the most repressive and aggressive legislation against women that we’ve seen since the 1950s.” How will we treat women and families of all sorts in the 2050s? You decide.

Photo courtesy of america2049.com

Like America 2049 | Follow America 2049 | Like Breakthrough |  Follow Breakthrough

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“With Osama Bin Laden dead, can we have our rights back?” – How the effects of 9/11 could lead to America 2049

From the Restore Fairness blog-

On Sunday, May 1, President Obama announced the death of Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the notorious terrorist who spearheaded the 9/11 attacks against the U.S. While the predominant reaction from around the world has been one of relief and joy, bin Laden’s death reminds us of just how big an impact the 9/11 attacks had on us and the way we perceive and treat each other.

While the U.S. was already grappling with the immigration issue, 9/11 triggered a major overhaul of legislation that imposed stringent restrictions on immigration and gave the government much greater power to infringe on the rights of citizens and visitors to this country. The U.S had essentially gone into lock-down mode domestically, and U.S. foreign policy became more aggressive. At the time of the attacks, Barack Obama was an local politician only known in Chicago, and largely unknown to the world. He wrote a short article for his local newspaper, the Hyde Park Herald, in which he reacted to the tragic events of that day and suggested a cautious approach to its repercussions. He stated-

The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity….

We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin American, Eastern Europe, and within our own shores.

Obama's emphasis on steering clear of blind rage and discrimination, as a way of blaming certain groups for the attacks, seems prophetic now. Over the last ten years, we have witnessed increasingly stringent immigration enforcement, and a steady dissolution of civil rights and attitudes towards immigrant communities, especially Muslim-Americans and South Asians. This view was echoed by Chris Hedges, a senior journalist and war correspondent who witnessed 9/11 and was plunged into its aftermath. In an address at a fundraising event on Sunday night as news of bin Laden's death was creeping in, Hedges remembered-

When I was in New York, as some of you were, on 9/11, I was in Times Square when the second plane hit. I walked into The New York Times, I stuffed notebooks in my pocket and walked down the West Side Highway and was at Ground Zero four hours later. I was there when Building 7 collapsed. And I watched as a nation drank deep from that very dark elixir of American nationalism … the flip side of nationalism is always racism, it’s about self-exaltation and the denigration of the other.

The risks and backlash that both Obama and Hedges referenced have materialized over the last decade and placed the U.S. at a crucial crossroads where the decisions we take now will significantly impact the America of the future. In its fifth week, Breakthrough's human rights Facebook game America 2049 takes players to their mission in Phoenix, Arizona, which has been in someway the epicenter of the immigration debate.  In Phoenix, players confront heightened debates around severely restricted immigration policies. Players are also confronted with a scenario where ethnic celebrations and festivals have been outlawed for fear that "they promote dissent and unnecessarily emphasize differences between populations." The game presents players with choices for how to address such a situation in the future, and by referencing historical artifacts, shows how our present could very well lead to the dytopic future that the game depicts. One example of this historical reference is a 1920s songbook - "O! Close the Gates." (see photo) - that demonized immigrants in popular culture.

In Level 5 of America 2049, players also meet Cynthia Espinoza. Watch her testimonial about the need to preserve America's multicultural heritage:

America 2049 addresses the rights of immigrants, including forced immigrant workers, in a country that has struggled to reach a rational solution to the "foreign threats" amplified by the attacks of 9/11. The attacks changed the immigration issue in America dramatically, sparking off a wave of new legislation or a tightening of existing ones. In an intriguing article, the Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) outlined five ways in which Osama bin Laden -- and the 9/11 attacks he masterminded -- altered the immigration landscape in the U.S. These include, perhaps most notoriously, the establishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has been responsible for a growing number of deportations each year, as well as the now-canceled Secure Border Initiative network (SBInet) or the "virtual fence" that was planned for the entire stretch of US-Mexico border. The erosion of basic rights accelerated with the Patriot Act, which considerably expanded the government's ability to conduct surveillance over Americans.

The calls for comprehensive immigration reform have intensified over the past few years, making it even more pressing to address the rights of immigrants who have no criminal records and are working hard to become part of American society. Another aspect of the immigration debate that is brought up in America 2049 is the degradation of immigrant worker rights and forced migration. While the tragedy of 9/11 caused the government to enforce stricter anti-immigrant legislation, one of the side effects has been the neglect of immigrant worker conditions. In America 2049, players discover an actual account by a Puerto Rican laborer at Camp Bragg, Rafael F. Marchan, who protested against his deplorable working conditions in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, such situations still exist today, as reported by the New York Times about a story of "500 Indian men hired by Signal International of Alabama for rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina were confined in squalid camps, illegally charged for lodging and food, and subject to discrimination and abuse." The fact that such forced servitude of immigrant workers continues a hundred years on from the example in America 2049 proves that prompt action must be taken to restore basic human rights for everyone.

So while the world celebrates the end of a tyrant, we must remember that more than celebrating a death, we must take this opportunity to work towards lasting peace and respect for basic rights for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or background. Osama bin Laden caused much havoc around the world and claimed countless innocent lives, but letting his actions be used as a reason for the dissolution of respect and rights for hard working, innocent people can simply not be justified. As a statement that circulated virally soon after bin Laden's death was announced said- “If Osama Bin Laden is dead, can we have our rights back?” Ten years on, let's make that our main goal.

Photo courtesy of Norton, et. al., A People and a Nation (5th ed., 1998)

Re-enactment of Chinese immigrant exclusion and recent quelling of protests show a future without diversity and freedom

From the Restore Fairness blog-

"The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don't agree with."
- Eleanor Holmes Norton, civil rights activist and Democrat Delegate to Congress representing the District of Columbia.

The freedom to disagree forms the bedrock of a thriving democratic society. Today, as we witness numerous incidents of suppressed protests and dissent around the world, the call for this freedom becomes even more pertinent. It also reminds us of America's fortunate position as a society where considerable disagreement is allowed to foster healthy debates on issues. This freedom of speech and debate is inextricably linked to our nation's fabric as a confluence of immigrants. This week, Breakthrough's ongoing Facebook game America 2049 addresses the issue of quelling dissent in the future, reminding us that the freedoms we have today can easily be restricted for the sake of supposed national security. On Saturday, April 30, Breakthrough is also partnering with the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF) in San Francisco to host the Interrogation Reenactment Event,* an opportunity for visitors to witness a historical scenario and learn about its repercussions today. From the event organizers-

...actors in period costumes will reenact an actual interrogation of Chinese immigrants attempting to overcome the Chinese Exclusion Acts [of 1882], the first American legislation to exclude a specific race or nationality from immigration to this country. We will see what these intended immigrants went through at the island’s Administration Building, and the outcome of their ordeal. Following that, well-known professors Judy Yung, professor emerita at UC Santa Cruz, and Bill Ong Hing, law professor at the University of San Francisco, and a recent immigrant who is a college student will participate in a panel discussion relating the Angel Island experience to what immigrants face today.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 provided a 10-year absolute moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. It was then extended in the form of the Geary Act, which added further restrictions on Chinese immigrants already in the United States. Chinese immigration was stringently regulated until 1943, when all these exclusionary acts were repealed in favor of more rational quotas on immigration for each nationality. The targeting of specific immigrant groups (based on their ethnic background) in the U.S. exists in other forms even today with some states passing stringent immigration acts that tend to affect the Latino communities primarily.

Harsh immigration laws affect our country to this day. The diversity of opinion that comes with healthy immigration forms the unique social, cultural and political fabric of our country. Today, as the people of several Arab nations are rising to claim their rights for equality and fair governance, some of their own governments are actively halting their protests. While the future of the 'Arab Spring' remains to be seen, this moment in history points to the greater issue of freedom of speech. Americans are fortunate to have much greater freedoms in protesting and dissent, but we must remain aware of this and not take it for granted.

In America 2049 this week, players are confronted with a situation where the authorities have sanctioned the use of a chemical agent in the water supply, SerennAide, that would pre-emptively quell any dissenting activity, making the population completely passive. Whether fictitious, as shown in Joss Whedon's 2005 space western film Serenity (in which a chemical agent was added to the air processors of a planet to calm the population), or the very real new "calming" drink 'Just Chill' from a California-based company, a SerennAide-like scenario is not too far from reality. Most importantly, SerennAide is also a symbol for institutional measures that have sought to prevent dissent or difference of opinion for the sake of national good throughout our history. In the bleak future of America 2049, the situation is at an extreme, raising awareness for the value of diversity of opinion.

A society that is so heavily based on immigration and diversity, such as the United States, must remain aware of its uniqueness and strengths. We must learn from our past, from decisions we made then to actively prohibit specific groups of immigrants, and understand how such practices today or in the future will only damage our social framework.

Watch a message from 'M,' the masked leader of Divided We Fall, the presumed terrorist group in America 2049. 'M' speaks about the the importance of dissent and difference of opinion to nurture a healthy democracy, especially as authorities in 2049 sanction the use of SerennAide.

*Be sure to check out the ferry schedule to allow for more time to arrive to the Immigration Station. For more information on ferry, tickets and schedule, visit AIISF's event page.

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Click here to "Like" the America 2049 Facebook Page.

Photo courtesy of guardian.co.uk

 

 

 

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