I respect the birthers: really I do. For those who don’t know (most Canadians follow American politics, but this is a rather obscure issue) birthers are people who care intensely about whether or not President Obama is a naturally (born) citizen of the U.S. This is part of their Constitution, and whether I agree with it or not, it is there. It is part of American Law. The president must be a natural citizen: born in its territory. This issue started up some years ago, as it had for several presidential candidates: Chester Arthur, Barry Goldwater and John McCain among them. In the case of Mr. Obama, proof was delivered to the courts that decided such matters as his capacity to run for president, and they approved. This was well before the 2008 election: but the court of public opinion was not as easily assuaged. Doubt continued to ripple: and on June 12 of that year, still before the election, an image was released of his short form birth certificate to the public. That should have sufficed: it was not just any image, but an image approved by the hospital where he was born. Person after person testified to its legitimacy. (In April 2011 the long form was also released: this was “over the top” in my opinion.)
So far this is good, and I understand: but the birthers were wrong. Proof had been generated and testified. Most understood, and took different tactics to express their frustration against the African American president. Sure some people didn’t believe it: but they won’t, period. They have already made up their minds. This is where we branch: from the birthers I respect, who were intent on making sure that the Constitution was followed, to those I don’t, who simply want an excuse to create trouble: and in fact are discriminating against anyone who was not born of a white family whose parents never left American soil. They do not doubt: they are convinced. Wrongly.
This small sect of birthers: the wacky birthers, are the ones I can do without. They have gone overboard in trying to generate doubt on this issue, solely because they do not like the president. Rather than accept him as their leader (as they demanded Democrats do when Bush was their president… even though he did not win the popular vote… hmm which president was less legitimate?) Because the fact is: he is their leader. If… if… if… it was discovered tomorrow that Mr. Obama was not born in the U.S., he would still have to be removed from office. If… if… if… it is ever found that this birth certificate is not the real one, and he was born in some other land of Nod: it will not mean that he was not president for these years. He is their leader, whether they like it or not. They might hope to impeach him tomorrow, but they can’t change that fact today.
And that is why I have so little respect for the birthers in the military who have refused to serve because they “doubt” his legitimacy as president (Salon, 2011; Associated Press, 2011). He is still their leader now, and they have still sworn an oath to follow him. Period. Now it’s one thing if he asks them to do something immoral: like killing children or invading a country that has not actively shown aggression toward the U.S. Those are both examples of moral difficulties where they would be violating their humanity by killing defenceless people simply because they’ve been ordered to. That I can understand, and even support.
But people who refuse to serve their oath because they “doubt” Mr. Obama’s legal status at his birth, in spite of dozens of experts testifying to that fact: that is just arrogance. One thing soldiers cannot have is arrogance like that before their leadership. Especially if they do this publicly, they deserve to be discharged. I wouldn’t trust them on the battlefield. No matter what they’ve done in the past, part of a soldier’s mandate is to follow his leadership: no matter what the beliefs of that leadership. The military does not break up and reform every four years, or every time a president changes. They have to follow whoever is put in that position by the people of the country. If he or she is lucky, it is the president they voted for. If he or she is not, they have to bite the bullet.
Now before I get any comments about not being a soldier and not being able to relate: I can. I work for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and I have to follow whoever is elected by the province to lead. I am a public servant… not that far from a soldier (except I probably won’t shoot anyone). We are having a provincial election in just a few months, and until recently it looked like our conservative party might be poised to take control of the government. This would potentially mean big changes in my workplace. I work for the ministry not because of the salary (ha!), but because I believe we are doing good things for the environment. If the conservatives are elected, I fear that some of those “good things” might be brushed away in favour of budget cuts. However, that is “Ian the private citizen” talking, not “Ian the ministry employee”. I would be wrong to use my capacity as a ministry employee to undermine their leadership, as these soldiers are doing with the President. They are not “courageous”, as some have called them. They are the definition of traitors: putting their own opinion above the Commander they have sworn to serve.