I'm optimistic about the future of the United States. But one fact makes me cautious about being wildly optimistic: about half of Republicans (maybe more) won't accept facts.
Working together to solve our problems requires that both political parties look upon clearly evident aspects of reality with the same fact-accepting eyes. Then we can have a vigorous debate about how to change the way things are now, so they can be better in the future.
But when Republicans refuse to accept obvious truths, this creates a gulf between reality-accepters and reality-deniers which keeps them so far apart, policy discussions are carried out with both sides talking about wildly different subjects.
The facts is we already knew that President Obama was born in the United States beyond any doubt. We already had his certificate of live birth, not one but two separate birth announcements in local papers who printed birth announcements from hospital records, witnesses who had seen this original birth certificate, and of course also the fact that his mother was an American and his grandfather fought in World War II.
Now Obama has proven the birthers wrong by asking the State of Hawaii to release his long form birth certificate, even though what had already been released was an official document.
When any citizen born in Hawaii requests their birth certificate, they receive exactly what the President received. In fact, the document posted on the campaign website is what Hawaiians use to get a driver’s license from the state and the document recognized by the Federal Government and the courts for all legal purposes. That’s because it is the birth certificate. This is not and should not be an open question.
The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country. Therefore, the President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting. President Barack Obama's long form birth certificate can be seen here (PDF).
Any reasonable person would have recognized that Obama was born in Hawaii a long time ago. The fact that so many Americans, mostly Republicans, were wedded to being unreasonable is a disturbing symptom of what ails our body politic.
Reality acceptance dysfunction.
Being non-religious, I'm inclined to blame this largely on fundamentalist Christianity -- which loves to embrace blind faith and push away observable facts.
Other factors are at work here, though. Liberals and conservatives may differ in brain structure, with fear playing a bigger role in how conservatives see the world, and liberals being more comfortable with understanding complexity.
This could explain why Republicans who fear Obama are unable to comprehend simple facts about where he was born. Their brains filter reality in accord with primitive emotions rather than more evolved cerebral cortex functions.
Regardless, I'm hoping that reality-deniers will wake up to the danger this poses for not only the United States, but the entire world.
Global warming is another fact that gets denied by pretty much the same people who refused to accept Obama's American citizenship. Climate Progress has a post that lays this out, "The top 5 ways the 'birthers' are like the deniers."
Birtherism is a manifestation of the GOP’s embrace of anti-intellectualism and anti-science ideology whose “most harmful delusion” is climate science denial, as even Washington Post’s Editorial Page Editor — the guy who runs the disinformation of George Will, BJorn Lomborg and Sarah Palin — acknowledged.
So this seems like a good time to repost and update the 2009 CP post “The top 5 ways the ‘birthers’ are like the deniers“:
The people who refuse to accept the reality that President Obama was born in the United States share much in common with those who refuse to accept the reality that humans are dramatically changing the climate.
[Update: Politifact shows that the birthers aren't giving up on their craziness. Some people just won't take truth as the correct answer.]