Generally, the main reason that a conspiracy theory exists is that it’s difficult to disprove. So you may think it strange that this year’s big one has been able to survive. I’m talking about the notion that Barack Obama was not really born in the United States and that there has been a conspiracy to cover that up. Obviously, if he wasn’t born in this country, then he couldn’t legally be president. Even though this has been disproved over and over again, that hasn’t stopped a small but vocal minority from passionately buying into it. This week, Congress took time out from avoiding the health care issue, and declared that Obama was, indeed, born in the United States. I’m sure this won’t be enough to satisfy the birth doubters. These people are out there. They probably don’t just believe that there was a conspiracy to kill Michael Jackson so that his music would sell more CDs; they believe there was a conspiracy to kill Walter Cronkite so his music would sell more CDs.
The president has provided a copy of his birth certificate indicating that he was born in Hawaii. The conspiracy folks responded, “Yeah, but it’s just a copy.” Well, who has the original of their birth certificate? Almost a year ago, Hawaii’s state health director, Dr.Chiyome Fukino, and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, personally verified that Hawaii’s health department has Obama’s original birth certificate as it should.
Remember the acrimonious Democratic primary? If the Clintons thought this story had been even the least bit credible, don’t you think they would have brought it up? And then there was the general election. Are we to believe that John McCain and Sarah Palin were also part of the grand conspiracy to conceal where Obama was really born?
And yet, some TV and radio talkers, along with a handful of Republican officials have kept this thing alive. So finally, when Congress passed a resolution ostensibly celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii becoming the 50th state, there was a clause in there that read, “Whereas the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii on Aug. 4, 1961.” It was passed unanimously, but that doesn’t mean this thing is over.
It probably won’t be over until everyone in the world believes that we really sent astronauts to the moon, and the whole thing was not staged on a movie lot. It will be over when nobody believes that people met with extraterrestrial in Rockwell, N.M. It may not even be over until nobody believes that John Dillinger’s penis is in the Smithsonian, but they aren’t allowed to show it to anyone.
In other words, this ridiculous story has become part of urban legend. However, there is an ugly side to it. There has been so much anger, so much venom behind this contention that I can’t help thinking that hatred and intolerance are involved. It seems that those who just cannot accept that an African American is their president have to find reasons to reject his legitimate right to have that position. They can’t believe that someone other than a white guy was elected president, so they conclude that he must have cheated.
It would have been nice if more Republicans hadn’t been just passive about this. It would have served them — and us — well if they had stepped up and said, “Let’s end this nonsense now. We have more important things to deal with. Of course, Obama was born in the United States.” It’s like during the campaign when John McCain famously told that woman at the town meeting that Barack Obama was not a Muslim. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing for him to do politically, but it was the right thing to do.
While we’re on the subject of conspiracy theories and Obama, here’s a message to those who see a plot wherever they look: the “beer summit” involving Henry Louis Gates, Police Sgt. James Crowley, and the president was not secretly put together by Budweiser to increase beer sales. Of course, I can’t prove that.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his Web site at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.