Sunday, April 17, 2011

This Gun Smokes

       I wish you would ever write me a Letter half as long as I write you; and tell me if you may where your Fleet are gone? What sort of Defence Virginia can make against our common Enemy? Whether it is so situated as to make an able Defence? Are not the Gentry Lords and the common people vassals, are they not like the uncivilized Natives Brittain represents us to be? …
      I am willing to allow the Colony great merrit for having produced a Washington but they have been shamefully duped by a Dunmore.
     I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Equally Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and christian principal of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us.—Abigal Adams to John Adams, March 31, 1776

Mrs. Adams was an amazing lady. In the above citation, taken from her prescient “Remember the Ladies” epistle to husband and future United States president, John Adams, she hits at the contradiction of the ideals of the Founding Fathers and their practice.

She is a bit chagrinned that Lord Dunmore has caught them out.

In 1775 Lord Dunmore, royal governor of Virginia, declared martial law and promised freedom for slaves who would desert their patriot masters and join the British in stopping the revolution. His proclamation was somewhat successful, and at the end of the war, the British evacuated some 20,000 freedmen from their former colonies.

Mrs. Adams in the midst of all this blames the Virginian slaveholding patriots. They talk liberty, and “deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs.” This is not right. More importantly, for Mrs. Adams, this is not Christian.

The founding of the United States of America was a wonderful, multifaceted event that bequeathed both a blessing and a curse. The blessing was the promise of liberty for all. The curse was the denial of liberty – the continuation of slavery, particularly in the southern states like Virginia, the home of slaveholders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Even James Madison, who played a major role in the drafting and ratification of the Constitution and later in the appending of the Bill of Rights, owned over 100 slaves to do the work on his Montpelier plantation.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of beginning the Civil War. In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln called upon the country to “recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals…” The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s further addressed the “faults and crimes” which issued from the curse of slavery. With the election of Barack Hussein Obama in 2008, America’s first African-American president, one would like to think that this country had finally consigned the curse to history.

The birther movement, however, squelches such optimism.

The birthers claim that Mr. Obama is not legally president of the United States of America because – they contend – he was not born in America. Mr. Obama’s birth in Hawaii was never questioned before his election. He fought a vigorous campaign first against his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton and then against the formidable Senator John McCain. Both opponents were capable of raising the question of his origin and did not. It was only after the election that the movement gained a following.

The blogosphere was the medium and the message resonated with everyone who believed that a man with a name like Barack Hussein Obama, and a skin of a different hue from their own, could not possibly be the legitimate president of their country. This was despite the facts that both elected and bureaucratic officials of Hawaii vouched for his birth in their state, and contemporary news accounts in the local papers witnessed to the birth. Even the publication of a copy birth certificate suitable for the issuing of a United States passport did not satisfy them.

Still the birthers claim fraud. Recently the state of Arizona has taken up the lost cause by requiring presidential candidates to supply documentation proving birth in the United States. The law does not stand a snowball’s chance on a summer day in that sunny state of surviving a court challenge. It will contribute to the state’s growing reputation as the most xenophobic state in the nation.

The connection between birtherism and racism I must admit has been tenuous. No birther has appeared on Fox News in a white robe with a peaked white hat – the only confirmation that would satisfy some on the right.

Still, in the light of the supplied documentation and government testimony little else explains the irrationality of the birther. I suggested as much in an exchange on Facebook and was taken to task. It was awkward, because while many indications of racism are present in birtherism, it is never explicit.

Then this came up on my Google news page, without a search. It is an Associated Press report, not the New York Times or some other biasedly liberal source.

An Orange County Republican Party official is under fire after sending an email with an altered photo depicting President Barack Obama as an ape.

The email, sent Friday afternoon by party central committee member Marilyn Davenport, depicts a family portrait-style image of apes with Obama's face superimposed on one of them. The photo is accompanied by text that reads, "Now you know why no birth certificate."

Now in all fairness this needs to be added:

Scott Baugh, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, has called on Davenport to resign and said the party's ethics panel will hold a hearing into the incident if she does not do so. The panel will make findings, and a majority vote of the entire 73-member committee can oust her.

"It's just highly inappropriate, it's a despicable message, it drips with racism and I think she should step down from the committee," Baugh said. "It undermines everything we are doing to reach out to ethnic communities."

Kudos to Mr. Baugh. The Republicans of Orange County are not at fault here. This connection of birtherism to racism should not be blown out of proportion. Not all Orange County Republicans are racist. Let us go further and say not all birthers are racist. All that being granted, the irrational birther movement owes much to racism. That much is established by the Orange County Republican Party official’s email.

This is Palm Sunday. Christian churches begin the most holy week of the church year by stripping the liturgy of the lesser Gloria and responses. The Lenten liturgical austerity bespeaks a heightened emphasis on repentance.

This is the 150th anniversary year of the beginning of the Civil War. When the war ended, the life of President Abraham Lincoln ended on Good Friday, April 15, 1865.

Now, we have our first African American president. Love him or hate him, he is the President and Christians are admonished by the Apostolic Scriptures to pray for those who rule over them.

The confluence of things suggests a time for conservative Christians to examine their hearts. It is a time to denounce what is false and rejoice in what is true, but most of all, to know the difference.
Monday April 18, 2011

When I wrote this the Arizona legislature had passed a bill requiring Mr. Obama and all other candidates to provide proof of their birth as United States citizens. I should have waited before making the broad judgement above.

This just in from AP:

[Governor] Brewer said in her veto letter that she was troubled that the bill empowered Arizona's secretary of state to judge the qualifications of all candidates when they file to run for office.
"I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions," said Brewer, who was secretary of state until she became governor in 2009.
"In addition, I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on Earth to submit their 'early baptismal circumcision certificates' among other records to the Arizona secretary of state," she said. "This is a bridge too far."
The certificates are among the documents a candidate could submit in place of a birth certificate. 

So, two cheers for Arizona. Their governor has pulled the state back from the brink. On the other hand, the reported details of the bill raise serious questions about their lawmakers. Nevertheless, two hearty cheers for Arizona.