I could not believe what I was hearing on NPR this afternoon.
I had heard about the “Hussein” controversy when Obama was running for President of the United States, where conservative commentators tried to make a big deal of his middle name during the 2008 election. I even changed my own middle name on Facebook to “Hussein.” I recognized the fear-mongering in this argument, in trying to make a connection between Obama and Sadaam Hussein. Since when is having the same name as someone else a crime? Or a reason to not elect someone president?
I had heard about the controversy surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate. Because his father is Kenyan (and his mother is American), conservative commentators raised the issue of whether he is really an American citizen. Of course, if he isn’t an American citizen, he can’t be president. But he was born in Hawaii so he is a citizen.
Some have argued that since he was born in Hawaii, he isn’t an American citizen because Hawaii wasn’t a state when he was born. Of course, he was born in 1961 and Hawaii became a state in 1959. Why didn’t these people raise the issue of his citizenship when he ran for US Senate? Clearly, politics are at play here.
But today, I heard a story that had slipped below my radar. Actually, I guess it’s two stories that are interrelated. The first story is about Malcolm X, a well-known African-American activist who was a member of the controversial religious (some say terrorist) organization the Nation of Islam (but who left the organization amid disagreement and hostility and who was assassinated by members of that organization). Apparently, Malcolm X secretly fathered Barack Obama. There is a resemblance between the two men. But the evidence is non-existent. And even if it was true, who cares? Isn’t our country founded on the idea that each of us should be judged for who we are and not who our parents are?
The second part of the story is that Obama is a Muslim. If his father is Malcolm X, he MUST be a Muslim, right? What if his father isn’t Malcolm X? Could he still be a Muslim? Sure, he could. But the White House adamently insists that he is a Christian and that he prays daily. Who cares? Can’t a Muslim be a good President of the US? Since when is religion a criterion for whether someone should be President? But such is our world. He has to be a Christian AND he must pray every day. I’m an Obama supporter (because, seriously, what are my alternatives?). But I would prefer that he NOT pray daily. I want a President who isn’t mystical, who uses his brain when making decision about global security. But that isn’t the world we live in today. Today, even the liberals disagree with a fundamental tenet of the founding of our country–the separation of church and state. And so, the non-story of our President being the love-child of Malcolm X and therefore, a Muslim, is given enough credibility to be discussed (and dismissed) by a respected news organization like NPR.
I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.