What Really Motivates the Birthers?

Just coincidentally a week or so ago, I was looking for something in my desk and came across an envelope with my mother’s handwriting on it. Just one word–“Important.” I had a vague memory of seeing it when I was going through papers after her death, so I decided to open it. Guess what I discovered? A Certificate of Live Birth.

For some reason I needed a copy of my certificate of live birth in 1990 and sent for it. The certificate itself is a Xerox on elaborately bordered, special paper (manufactured by the American Bank Note Company, no less), which bears the words, “Certification of Vital Record.” It was produced by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Health, Division of Vital Records. At the bottom right is the seal of the Virginia Department of Health. At the bottom left is a raised version of that same seal. In tiny print at the bottom, it reads, “This is to certify that this is a true and correct reproduction or abstract of the official record filed with the Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia.” That’s followed by the photocopied signature of the then State Registrar.

It has a birth number and all sorts of interesting statistical information. Of particular note is box 15 “Birthplace (State or foreign country)”. Typed in is the word, “Virginia.” Not, Virginia, USA; just Virginia. As certified by the doctor attending, a Dr. Jones–hmm, that sounds like a made-up name, doesn’t it–it even includes the time of birth: 2:20 a.m.

All of this bureaucratic information, the birth number, the raised seal, even the facsimile of the original record, etc., is reminiscent of the Certificate of Live Birth for Barack Hussein Obama, which I’ve viewed at Politifact.com, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner, by the way. However, according to Donald Trump and other birthers, there is a question as to whether I was really born in Virginia, because for them, a certificate of live birth doesn’t cut it.

I guess my mother and father conspired before my birth to make me a bureaucrat in a Federal agency, so they submitted false information to the Commonwealth of Virginia so it would appear I was born there. How devious is that?

Then, deeper in the envelope, I found a 1976 version of my certificate of live birth. Though the middle portion of this version is the exact same record as the 1990 version, the whole certificate is a Xerox. Uh, oh. I now have two versions of my certificate of live birth. Highly questionable. The information on both versions match to every letter and comma, but two versions? I better not run for office–I have my own conspiracy in the making.

Then, there’s the whole matter of one citizen verbally abusing another citizen over the production of a “long form” birth certificate. I went to Virginia’s state government Web site and searched for “long form birth certificate.” No hits. Apparently, either of my two versions of my certificate of live birth is a long form birth certificate because it’s the only birth certificate Virginia issues.

I am still amazed that we’re discussing this in America. I’ve written before about how my mother and her family came to America when she was very young and how a town in Virginia “adopted” them, got them SSN’s, and any other government form a citizen would need. So, yes, I’m an anchor baby, apparently. The fact that my mother wasn’t a citizen didn’t come to light until the late 1970’s when she and my father were supposed to go to the Soviet Union at the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an agricultural expo. She simply refused to apply for a passport, and my father finally figured it out and decided it would be way too complicated to get her “established” as a citizen. They didn’t go. Several flags got raised, but my mother was never investigated. She even served several times on juries. The difference, of course, was my mother looked like the majority of people in the country at the time she immigrated. She was European and white, not of African descent and dark, like our President.

And that, my dear Watson, is the crux of the matter and the answer to the question I posed in the title of this post. Would anyone be questioning the validity of President Obama’s certificate of live birth if he were as white as Sen. John McCain? Of course not. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone when his father, on active duty in the military, was stationed there. That should hold the same concern for the ignorant Tea Baggers who raise the issue of the President’s birth, but it doesn’t. (By the way, children born overseas to American citizens, whether on active duty in the military or not, are U.S. citizens, but you have to dig into the law to know that, and we all know the Tea Baggers only go for the superficial.)

Most people and the media, as usual, have tried to overlook the overt racism in Trump’s and the other birthers’ claims, saying it’s just politics as usual. No, it’s not. Every time Trump or Bachmann or the half-governor of Alaska or any of the other self-aggrandizing publicity hogs mentions that the President may not have been born here or questions why he doesn’t produce that elusive long form birth certificate, call them on their racism. Point out exactly what they are–so insecure we have a President who doesn’t look like them that they have to resort to childish finger-pointing and bullying. They are racists, plain and simple. That, not patriotism, is their sole motivation.

A Woman for all Seasons

I had to take time to process that we lost Geraldine Ferraro, and I still find it hard to believe that the vibrant, active woman who stood toe-to-toe with George H. W. Bush in the Vice Presidential debate (She belonged there, and she knew it.), who sparred brilliantly with the idiots at Fox News, who told multiple generations of women that a woman as President was achievable, is gone.

The utter excitement I felt when Walter Mondale selected her as his running mate was beyond words for me. Yet, it’s still amazing to me that even in 1984–that infamous year–having a woman running mate wasn’t just a novelty, it was a first. She maintained her dignity through all the sexist hoopla, the nasty political cartoons that lampooned her gender, the bogus campaign slogan “Fritz and Tits,” and she was an excellent campaigner. I wasn’t as excited about Mondale as I was about Ferraro, but I thought at last we have our foot in the door at the highest levels of politics.

I was furious with Barbara Bush–frankly, I’ve never been an admirer–during her interview with Connie Chung. The whole tenor of the interview was an unspoken “how dare this woman challenge my husband.” When asked what she thought of Ferraro, the first woman on a Presidential slate, Bush could have, should have said, “What a tremendous step forward for women!” What she actually said was, “I can’t say it, but it rhymes with rich.” Bush insisted she meant witch, not bitch, but I think we know exactly which she meant. To her credit Bush indicated years later that she had apologized to Ferraro about the remark.

Ferraro had a life of public service, starting as a teacher. After becoming a lawyer, she was an assistant District Attorney in New York. She created a special victims unit that handled cases involving crimes against children and the elderly as well as sexual abuse and domestic violence cases. First elected to Congress in 1978, she rose quickly in the Democratic party and earned the reputation of being an outspoken critic of Reagonomics. Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment was something for which she fought tirelessly, even in the face of obvious defeat. She had hope before it became pop culture.

Ferraro brought energy to that 1984 campaign, but she and Mondale were up against the incumbents Reagan and Bush. However, she treated every speech and every event as if she and Fritz Mondale had a chance. In probably the sleaziest act in that campaign, when her opponents’ party didn’t want to attack her head on and appear sexist, they went at her through her husband’s financial affairs. (It turns out he did have some shady business dealings, namely fraudulently obtaining financing for a real estate venture. He pled guilty and served 150 hours of community service. A later indictment and trial for bribery resulted in acquittal.)

After that campaign Ferraro brought her energy and drive to journalism and other issues, especially human rights. She tried twice to become a senator from New York. One race was dogged again by questions about her husband’s finances, and she lost by a narrow margin. On another occasion she lost in the primaries for the nomination. Speculation was that she had stayed away from politics too long, but that was when politics in this country started to become particularly nasty. I think she was too good a person to lower herself to that kind of mud. In 2008, she was a Hillary Clinton supporter and advisor, but when she pointed out that America could accept an African-American President more than a woman President, charges of racism arose. As with many things, her remarks were taken out of context, but it cost her a place in Clinton’s campaign and the vast contributions she could have made to the Obama Administration.

Geraldine Ferraro was intelligent, dedicated, and did not suffer fools lightly. She was a woman I admired greatly, and I had the privilege of attending several functions where she was the speaker. I will never forget her sense of humor, her outrage at injustice, and her steadfast support of her ideals. This is a loss to all Americans, but especially to us “first generation” of political feminists who saw in her possible election such hope for the future, a future not yet fulfilled.

And a note to the half-governor of Alaska: You did not stand on her shoulders. She wouldn’t have let you. She would have taken you aside and pointed out just what your failings are; namely, you’re no Geraldine Ferraro and never will be.