Seldom does something I read cause my head physically to snap backwards as though I’d taken a good punch. A column by Dorothy Rabinowitz did it. If it had been boxing, it would have been the end of the fight for me.
Understand, please; I adore that woman’s writing. And she’s been doing it and I’ve been adoring it since long before the name “Obama” rang any bells. Once, Dorothy walked into the Christmas banquet of the Heritage Foundation where I was a guest. I sort of shriveled and shrank off to one side. It’s a Southern thing. Although I knew I was basically good, I didn’t think I’d done anything good enough to deserve to meet Dorothy Rabinowitz.
Her column that punched me out raised and sustained the theme that President Barack Obama is simply not one of us. She called him “the alien in the White House” and then artfully elevated that phrase from what might sound like a barroom jape into an unassailable geometrically proven truth. And then came the killer-clause: “He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.”
Ouch, Dorothy! I guess that sums me up: demented fringe! What have I got wrong here? Football players like to score touchdowns. Baseball players like to hit home runs. Don’t politicians like to shatter the credibility of their opponents? Obama could instantly chimpanzify millions of Americans who dislike him and galvanize his supporters to standing applause if he were ever to say, “By the way, I understand many of you would like to see this document. Here it is!” Whereupon the president would unfurl and brandish a kosher long-form hospital-originated birth certificate indicating he was, indeed, born in the state of Hawaii.
Who can explain why that performance has not yet taken place? There is doubt in the land that the president is eligible to hold that office. If proof exists, a simple showing would blow that doubt away and boost Obama’s sagging ratings. Instead, derision is pressure-pumped upon the doubters like Gulf oil. And many of the president’s detractors oppose those of us in the “demented fringe” as vehemently as they oppose the president himself!
I suspect a strange kind of elitism. Sometimes an alcoholic can best be reached by another alcoholic; one compulsive gambler by another. I think I understand that kind of elitism. In college, I spent a summer term at the University of Oslo, Norway. Classes were in English, and most of the other American students learned only enough Norwegian to ask for sex and beer. I really got into it. Let me tell you how good I got in Norwegian. I learned it. I spoke it well enough to knock their socks off. You could pinpoint my whereabouts by noting where the cloud of flying socks began in downtown Oslo! But toward the end of the summer, the Norwegian socks quit flying. The fall-off in crowd-love of me and my spoken Norwegian was palpable and troubling.
I asked a Norwegian friend why everybody had quit making such a fuss over me. “At the beginning you were obviously an American with no Norwegian connection who was doing very well with our language,” he explained. “By the end of the summer, however, you improved so much the people assumed you were a Norwegian-American, and they felt put off because you didn’t speak it even better than you did.”
I remember my disdain, even contempt, for my fellow Americans who never went beyond five or six words of Norwegian. When they greeted me on campus in Norwegian, I’d answer them in English. I didn’t want to “play” with them. They weren’t in my league. I sense something like that here. Writers like Dorothy Rabinowitz are capable of writing toweringly brilliant essays that stagger the reader. Nothing personal against Dorothy, whose work I will continue to devour and admire, but I think it’s possible she and those like her simply don’t want to “play” with the ungifted hordes who can’t do much better than ask, “Where’s the birth certificate?” We (the hordes) embarrass them (the Dorothys)!
As a lifelong and well-briefed anti-Communist, I recall viewing the John Birchers as a “demented fringe.” Whether Birchers or Birthers, don’t forget the sociology that became apparent in the lifeboats of the Titanic where, according to the famous song, “The rich refused to associate with the poor.”
Speaking for my little corner of the “demented fringe,” I would welcome being smashed into silence by the appearance of a real Barack Obama birth certificate. I shudder to think this great American population is silenced by nothing more than reluctance to ask a tired, much-ridiculed question.
Why doesn’t the president produce his birth certificate? The best answer I’ve heard so far is, “If he showed you that, you’d just want to see something else!”
And if that answer were a rope bridge, I wouldn’t march an underweight ant across it.
Come on, Dorothy. It’s going to take all of us.