The attacks had begun with the extreme right wing spitting out Obama’s full name—Barack HUSSEIN Obama, as if somehow he wasn’t an American but connected to the Iraqi dictator who, despite the Bush Administration’s best efforts, had no connections to 9/11.
When the right-wingers and Tea Party Pack get tired of their “cutesy” attempts to link Obama to militant Muslims, they launch half-truths and lies to claim he wasn’t born in the United States. Like Jaws, Jason, or Freddy Krueger, “birther” propaganda keeps returning, even when state officials and independent analysts proved the claims false.
And now from the caves of ignorance and hatred comes a much-forwarded letter, which the anonymous author says “shouldn’t surprise anyone.” Written as fact, the letter informs us Barack Obama: “never held a ‘real’ job, never owned a business and as far as we know, never really attended Harvard or Columbia since those transcripts have never been released and no one remembers him from their time at either school.”
The email of hate further “enlightens” us that “Being a community activist only gives someone insite [sic] on how to assist the less fortunate and dregs of society on how to acquire government housing and government benefits without ever contributing one penny in taxes.”
That’s right. The Whackadoodles Wearing Tinfoil Caps crowd has escaped again.
Among the “dregs of society” for being community activists are St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226), founder of the Franciscan order and patron saint of animals and the environment; Jacob Riis (1849–1914), a journalist and photographer who exposed the squalor of slums and tenement buildings; Dorothy Day (1897–1980), a journalist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement that advocated nonviolent action to help the poor and homeless, and who the archdiocese of New York, at the direction of Pope John Paul II, began a process leading to beatification; and Jane Addams (1860–1935), who fought for better conditions for children and mothers, was active in the progressive campaigns of Teddy Roosevelt and who, like Roosevelt, earned a Nobel Peace Prize.
Those who rail against community activists for not having “real” jobs would also oppose Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), who tirelessly established the nation’s most effective organizational structure to help the poor and disenfranchised to gain a voice against political, economic, and social oppression; Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903–1998), America’s foremost pediatrician, for leading antiwar campaigns; Cesar Chavez (1927–1993), who helped get farm workers respectable pay and decent working conditions; Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) who, with hundreds of thousands of others, forced a nation to finally confront its racism; and innumerable leaders of the feminist and gay rights communities who got America to confront their other prejudices. All proudly bore the job title of community activist.
Not dregs because they have “real” jobs are the bankers and Wall Street investors who brought about the housing crisis that led to the worst depression in the past seven decades. Also exempt from contempt are the business owners who downsized, right-sized, and shipped their production overseas, throwing millions of Americans out of work.
Barack Obama, castigated for not having a “real job,” worked more than a year as research associate and editor at the Business International Corp., three years as director of Developing Community Projects, a church-based group for eight Catholic parishes, and summer jobs at law firms. Other “not real” jobs include being an author, civil rights lawyer, and a professor of Constitutional law at one of the nation’s more prestigious colleges. Frankly, it’s rather nice to have a president who actually understands the Constitution—as opposed to the rabble who misquote, misstate, and misappropriate it all the time.
Those propagating the email of hate believe Obama couldn’t earn degrees from Ivy League colleges; the subtext is as clear as their refusal to believe in an integrated nation. So, I contacted the registrars at Columbia and Harvard. In less than 10 minutes, the registrar at Columbia confirmed that Barack Obama received a B.A. in political science, and the registrar at Harvard Law School confirmed Obama received a J.D. These are public records. Anyone can ask the same questions, and get the same answer. Logic alone should have shot down these accusations. Obama was editor of the Harvard Law Review, something as easy to verify as his graduation, and he passed the Illinois bar exam—which requires graduation from college and law school, and a personal character test—also a matter of public record.
Even if Obama provided official transcripts, which are confidential, the wing nuts of society will claim that, like the birth certificate and the death of bin Laden, the transcripts were faked.
The truth is that the politics of hate, combined with media complicity and Internet access, has led not to a discussion of critical issues but to character assassination, with racism and bigotry as its pillars.
[Walter Brasch's latest book is Before the First Snow, literary historical fiction that explores the counterculture between 1964 and 1991. The book, to be published June 20, is available at amazon.com]