Sunday, October 28, 2012

Birthers, Deniers, and Our Future

I’d never met a Birther before.  Sure, I’d seen Donald Trump’s hair dancing around on television as the entertainer foamed at the mouth, made offensive racial insinuations about the President and his origins, and made a fool of himself by pretending that he would run for office.  And I’d heard the leading lights of the Republican Party play the game, ranging from outright questioning of the President’s American-ness to the even more sleazy “Well, I guess I’ll take him at his word”.  Nonetheless, I somehow didn’t believe that there were real people out there prepared to trade in such insinuations.


But while whiling away my last hours in Nairobi back in August before my late-night flight to Heathrow over a cup of tea on the YMCA terrace, I overheard a striking conversation.  A group of American missionaries were sitting with their Kenyan guide at a nearby table, and the topic of President Obama’s Kenyan origins came up.  The missionaries, clearly not Obama fans, were discussing how the President was un-American.  The rather perplexed Kenyan mentioned that hadn’t the President shown the country his birth certificate—proof never requested of any other President in the country’s history. 

Entirely undeterred, the missionaries explained that the birth certificate was forged, as were the announcements in Hawai’ian newspapers, all in anticipation of the sleeper candidate’s run for office, having been born in Kenya and trained in Indonesia.  Now looking a little uncomfortable, the Kenyan asked the missionaries what proof would satisfy them that the President had, in fact, been born in the United States.  “His grades”, one replied.  “No”, another countered, “they were faked, too”.  After a moment’s debate, they concluded, to the consternation of their host, that there was nothing that could convince them that the President was not a foreigner. 

Reeling, I ordered another cup of tea and some mandazi to help me process this insight.  I momentarily contemplated missing the flight which would take me back to a country in which this application of (il)logic is becoming increasingly mainstream.

For this conceptual approach to the President’s origins by a frighteningly-large number of deluded, paranoid, racist lunatics also encapsulates the nation’s approach to climate change. 

Doug LaMalfa, running for Congress in Northern California, declared in a recent debate, “I believe climate change happens every three months.  We’re experiencing one right now.  It’s called autumn”.  This places LaMalfa squarely in the mainstream of a party increasingly populated by science deniers and social and economic fundamentalists, people who would be more at home hob-nobbing with the wackier of the Islamists their neoconservative wing likes to condemn than with reasonable opinion in the world we inhabit.

Was LaMalfa’s calculated embrace of ignorance decried roundly after the debate?  No.  Instead, a rebuke in the Redding Record Searchlight was met by a chorus of climate deniers.  A sampling of what passes for logic. 

RecordStr8: “What if scientists are wrong?”  “This has far transcended science, like the preposterously false fairty tale of Evolution that you’d have to be a Neanderthal to really, truly, actually believe”. 

Valmak: “[Climate change] is not currently predictable and nothing man is able to do is going to change a thing!” 

Poorfarmer: “Consensus on flaky theories and most importantly COERCIVE abuse against those that oppose them is NOT science, it’s criminal negligence.  REAL scientists dissenting against this nonsense are being overshadowed by a biased media wishing it is all ture and coercive leftists wanting to control how you live”. 

Midwest_Cents: “The world’s climate may be changing, BUT stating it is ‘man made’ is far from established fact!  Differing opinions abound...” 

Dumb_Plumber: “There is clearly no antidote to the mental disorder of MMCC (man made climate change) ... California’s enviro-Nazis closer resemble a room full of monkeys with Kazoos trying to play Mozart, than any realistic movement o change the climate”.  

Truthwins: “The problem is the science this whole idea is based on is from computer models that has so many variables that it becomes worthless”. 

It’s not often that I’d agree with Mitt Romney, but while I don’t think that any President should allow the military to run their international affairs, I do think he should listen to his generals.  He, and others, should listen to the generals when they suggest that climate change poses a national security threat to our nation.  Mitt Romney’s current position on climate change is that he acknowledges its existence but refuses to do anything about it.  He wants to drown the issue in study after study until one of them yields the right answer—that we can ignore the problem and go on with our lives.  I’m not sure whether or not this is worse than outright denial—it’s certainly more dishonest (and therefore in keeping with Romney’s character). 

In the foreign policy Presidential debate, Mitt Romney rightly noted that we can’t kill our way out of our national security dilemmas (but he still wants more battleships).  It’s a pity he and his party can’t take this advice, and shift the focus away from threats of our own making (and the self-inflicted wounds that resort from his party’s shameless warmongering) to the much larger and more difficult threat posed by climate change.  But they are convinced—whether by their ideology, their wilful ignorance, or the strange and twisted logic they increasingly apply to social, economic, and scientific problems facing our nation—that they can ignore the big problems and focus instead on the critical issues of “legitimate rape”, the President’s birth-place, welfare for the wealthy, corporate personhood, and the dismantling of our public sphere.

The future looks bleak.

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