Igitur non dormiamus sicut ceteri.

My Silly Thoughts On The Birthers

Yes, most of you have heard, Obama has confirmed again that he is a citizen of the United States and legitimately holds office.  All has been show at a press conference so that maybe, just maybe, we can talk about the real problems of this presidency. As much as I’d love to see reason win out, I have experience with conspiracy theorist to know that the lack of evidence is all the evidence they need.

At every family meal around the holidays I can be guaranteed that one elder will be a birther, one of the younger and more liberal members will be a Truther, and the grandest of the Irish will still believe that Freemasons invented the Novus Ordo and encrypted the secrets of Kennedy in its hand puppet theatres. I have argued with all members until I was blue in the face, and then had to bear their scrutiny when I realized I was wrong about Bill Clinton’s body count. They’re family, I love ’em and they love all my wackiness.

With my experience, I know that nothing the president can do will ever satisfy the people who think he’s a foreign born Muslim who is acting as a sleeper agent. Barak Obama could hold his birth certificate, at a pig roast, drinking a beer, and being blessed by the bishop and there would still be people looking for the hidden symbols of the Koran in the pig’s dripping fat. It remains true what Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy, “The madman’s explanation of a things is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory.” I can tell someone that all evidence points to the president being a natural born citizen and the response will be, “That’s because the evidence was placed there in 1961.” I’ll then point out that it is unlikely for someone in 1961 to know that he would become president and thus have motive and then the response is, “Yes, that’s what they want you to believe. Are you defending a man you yourself have criticized.”

The alternative is that someone knows that this is all crazy and unlikely and then they’ll say, “Well, I’m not saying that he isn’t legitimate, but this raises questions…” and this is then followed by their raising bad arguments to the level of legitimate evidence and trying to lead people. The justification is that this will allow them to plant seeds of doubt without actually laying claim to the crazy conclusions that they are leading everyone else to believe. This isn’t madness or confusion, but is in fact lying or perhaps something worse. Some well-meaning people know that Obama and the political machine presents many dangers to America and so they employ consequentialism, using bad ends to bring out the good. To lie and deceive about the president in hopes of turning things around is to claim a power that belongs only to the divine: bringing good out of evil. However, even angels will not commit evil to bring out the good and the destroying of a man’s good name based on a lie is exactly the evil that should repulse the angels of our better nature.


5 responses

  1. Tony

    A few questions, Michael:

    1) Why are Catholic commentators so eager to consign entire swathes of Americans to the asylum? Does this comment from Lawrence Auster betray insanity?

    Meanwhile, let us understand that every media writer who has with unbearable condescension stated that the birthers are whack-jobs because the birth issue was resolved by the release of the certification of live birth in 2008 has been shown to be a despicable liar or at best stone-cold indifferent to the truth. If the birth issue was resolved in 2008, then why did Obama release the birth certificate today? If the birth issue was resolved in 2008, then why did Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie try to get the birth certificate released in early 2011, and wasn’t able to do so, because Obama was still refusing at that point to allow his birth certificate to be released? The answer is that the birth issue was NOT resolved in 2008. The people who have been complaining for the last two and half years that the birth certificate has not been released have been proved right, and the people who have been oh-so-knowingly declaring for the last two and a half years that the birth certificate has already been released have been shown to be lying apparatchiks.

    In other words, the “birthers” were not insane when they pointed out that Obama’s birth certificate had not been made public. Obviously the issue distracted from more important questions that the media refused to ask about Obama’s past, but enough with the asylum talk. This isn’t “modern madness,” it’s the way people have engaged in politics throughout history. And what’s wrong with Catholics, for example, who look upon the ruin of an American Catholic culture (parishes, schools, etc.) that was once the envy of the 20th Century Catholic world and spend some time blaming Freemasons? If it wasn’t a conspiracy, it might as well have been.

    2) Since when has the birth certificate issue prevented debate on the “real problems”? Even World Net Daily has always had a constant stream of articles on every other issue imaginable. It only came up again because of Trump and media hype.

    3) Is Bradley Manning at the top of your list of Obama’s “real problems”?

    4) Why does this issue [the birth certificate] have particular import for a discussion of conservatism today?


    28 April, 2011 at 1:04 am

  2. M. Jordan Lichens

    Mr. Sifert, thanks for your comments and observations. I might have to come back to a few of your points as I’m burning the midnight oil as it is, but I do want to respond to a few of your questions before I forget and get distracted.

    To your third question, I don’t know that Pvt. Manning is on the top of my list given the many, many problems that are going on. I probably could have listed the war in Libya, the funding of abortion, the use of torture, and all could be placed under improper use of authority. Manning just happened to be the first thing I thought about while I was writing.

    In the case of Manning, let it not be mistaken that I don’t think that the crimes he’s accused of should go unpunished if (and, in my opinion, when) he’s convicted. It just worries me, as it should worry all who are concerned about the rule of law, that his treatment has been particularly harsh before we even have a verdict. All the same, your point is well made and I should have thought a little harder before making that point.

    To the Freemasons, I think you make a great point in that there was something that went wrong, but it was no conspiracy. It might be easier to blame Freemasons for our problems than have to admit that the enemy is within. Lacking evidence, however, I need to say that the problems of the ruin of American Catholicism cannot be easily placed at the feet of a secret society or even a band of monstrous, modernist clergy. I believe Von Hildebrand has written on this subject extensively, but I have yet to read his work on it.

    The certificate of live birth in the short form was released and verified in 2008. As a note, I only possess a certificate of live birth (without a raised seal, even) and that is how I was able to obtain a passport and go to Rome in 2007, so I know for a fact that it is legitimate for proving citizenship. Along with that is the birth announcement published in hometown newspapers, and the only reason I could see these being faked is if they knew he would be president.

    The reason why I think this is important for conservatives is similar to the situation faced by some of my personal heroes in 1962 when the conservatives had to deal Robert Welch’s fiery and accusatory rhetoric. Then, as now, the left wanted to lump all conservatives in the lunatic fringe based on some rather vocal participants. Granted, some on the left don’t need much of a reason to excuse the conservatives, but Buckley, Goldwater, Russell Kirk, and Baroody knew that how people perceive the movement was important. That is why they collectively decided at The Breakers in Palm Beach to publicly separate themselves from Welch lest their message get tainted by the fringe elements of the group.

    We are in a similar situation in that we can’t let our legitimate criticisms of Obama be drowned out by conspiracy theories. The distraction from the issues that are more deserving of our attention has mostly been in the economy of media attention and personal energy. This is a point that is even seen by people by those who normally love rabble rousing, such as Glen Beck.

    Donald Trump is using this particular point to play on peoples fears, many of them legitimate. Now, given my dislike and disgust of Trump, I think this also has concerns for conservatives. Unless things have really changes, I think most thoughtful conservatives and voting Republicans know that Trump is as dangerous as he is silly and a betrayal to just about everything that is good about the conservative tradition: the place of private property, faith value, the central importance of the family, and the emphasis on social mores. For these reasons I thought it was important to discuss.

    Thanks, as always, for being one of my five readers and even finding me worth your time to challenge and engage. Hope all is well in Arizona!


    28 April, 2011 at 2:03 am

    • Tony

      Fair enough on Manning. Lame quibbling on my part anyway. On the Freemasons, my point was not that there is/was a Masonic conspiracy to undermine the Church, but, first, that any culture’s “articulation of dispossession” is bound to include conspiratorial elements and, second, that these elements are not in most cases evidence of insanity or deception. To say, for example, that certain anti-Roman elites (clergy and laity) filled a vacuum of power in the institutions of the American Church due to faulty governance in the aftermath of Vatican II, etc. is not all that different from describing those elites as conspirators.

      I think you are right about the reason that the editors of magazines like National Review think it is important to distance themselves from this kind of thing. But it is, in my opinion, a waste of time. A far more accurate indicator of the problems of conservatism is something like Jonah Goldberg’s claim that the rise of the “homosexual bourgeoisie” is “good news.” I pick that writer and that topic because neither will ever be seriously considered “in the lunatic fringe.” Same with humanitarian intervention. I love Russell Kirk, but I wonder in what way he could be said to have won the day for American conservatism.


      28 April, 2011 at 3:26 am

  3. M. Jordan Lichens

    Tony, a further note,
    You are right about my tone. I have some personal issues here and I shouldn’t just condemn people to the insane asylum because I disagree with them or question their motives. It’s easy to just call someone crazy and it is harmful to someone who actually might suffer from mental illness who comes across this piece, so my apologies to all. I still maintain my main points, but they can be made without name calling or ad hominum attacks.

    While I hate it when authors change their text after it is written, I’ll be changing the title and the tags. However, like so many of my other embarrassing pieces, I’ll be keeping up the bulk of the text on this one.


    28 April, 2011 at 3:02 am

    • Tony

      I am sorry, Michael, I did not mean to cause you to change the post. I just notice a lot of Catholic commentators (in the Mark Shea mold) going all out against certain groups of conservatives. I know you use the modern madness tag in a Chestertonian way and not, of course, to imply genuine insanity or other mental problems. I hope you did not think I meant to suggest the tag itself was a problem. My general argument is that irrational articulations of conservative discontent are neither new nor very problematic for what I believe is our mostly shared perspective.


      28 April, 2011 at 3:36 am