Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tail Chasing Birthers

First, the keenest insights...deliciously riddled with humor...on the post-certificate birtherism is over at Salon. Alex Pareene lists the ploys the buffoons can pull now.

The astonishing sadness rational sorts have seen in the past day following wide dissemination of President Obama's long-form birth certificate has to be that the haters, racists and irremediable loonies insist on carrying this grotesquerie high, loud and proud. I confess with mild shame that this is similar to my mother's mental change for the worse.

My late mother was not yet a birther when she died a few years ago. I have no doubt that she'd parrot Rush Limbaugh's version of this among other irrationalities were she still alive. To her defense, I note that she had reasons and excuses. Perhaps many of the other crazies do as well.

Therein lies the question for me. Some birthers, such as Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich, are disingenuous and manipulative jerks who have no shame in fooling plain folk. Yet, from my familial experience, I wonder how many of the oh-no-there's-real-doubt sorts have biochemical or other reasons why they are so weird.

I had and have a deep respect and love for my mother. She raised two of us solo with no help from a deadbeat ex-husband. She demanded that we love learning, read newspapers and books continually, and speak out among ourselves on ideas. I lost track of chums who would say how they wished their parents were as logical, open-minded, and reasonable. She raised us in true liberal fashion, considering people individually and without prejudice.

That changed...suddenly.

In her mid-50s, a confluence, a sort of River Dreadful, swept away the Wanda we knew. Among her changes' catalysts were:
  • Her long-term employer sold itself to a larger pharma company, which paid off the entire sales force (love the drugs, but we have all the sales reps we need) and dismissed them.
  • She had a lump settlement to invest in a few months or lose most to taxes.
  • She expected to "retire" (something we all knew she was incapable of) with her sister in Santa Fe, but in her late 60s. Instead, it was Pittsburgh to NM without job or full identity.
  • Her long term lover's ex-wife filed suit to get much more alimony and child support. He cowardly split to Singapore.
  • Her diagnosis of breast and lymph cancer predicted under five years to live. This came with a radical mastectomy, chemo and radiation.
  • Her doctors, faddishly following the latest study, immediately stopped her heavy dose of estrogen she was taking for a hard menopause. Most know better now but not then.
There was even more, but that's plenty for any human. She went through a major personality change, which I attribute in large part to the sudden estrogen halt. So instead of the tolerant and rational women we had always known, we found a ditto head.

Her personality revolution included listening to and parroting talk radio, including Rush. She had raised us differently. When I visited or called, we'd invariably debate. She'd bring up the latest winger conspiracy theory or defamation of the sensible and compassionate. As I out-reasoned the Limbaughisms (as she had raised me to do), she would eventually drop the issue, but I grieved that I could tell she remained dissatisfied and wanting to believe the winger fantasies.

Eventually on one Christmas visit, I heard, "Let's not talk politics anymore." Thus it was and we were better off as mother and son for that.

So it is, with a heavy mask of disdain, I have to wonder about the birthers and larger world of extreme wingers. Are they also imbalanced and thus unable, instead of merely unwilling, to plug in facts and reasoning to the questions at hand?

My mother and I grew up as great buddies and intellectual companions. With the big exception of politics, we remained so to her death. Yet, while she kept her huge store of knowledge, she turned crazy enough to let her emotions respond to vetting by the dishonest and dishonorable talkers. Moreover, there was no way even I could sway her on a given topic, much less her new gestalt. Her emotional needs overpowered her reasoning.

Many of those who give a response to the call of a Hannity, Trump or other professional liars seem relatively old, although I have met a few serious, conspiracy-oriented wingers in their 20s. I have to wonder if they too have migrated from the lands of reason to those of fantasy and feeling as results from the ill effects of aging and brain changes.

If that's the case, there's little to be done. Without the personal connection, they are not likely to propose the truce my mother did.

Yes, such trends as yet another solid proof that Obama was born an American pare off more and more of least on this one issue. They marginalize themselves, ending up with fewer and fewer ravers in the increasingly empty room. Some remain, ranting on and on to each other. Unfortunately, those who drop out of one crazy position when it is just too obviously untenable even to them are likely to come back to the ranters and ravers for the next big lunacy.

As much as I was raised to attempt to include people in the discussion and larger community of mind, some repeatedly prove themselves not worth the trouble.

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