When I say “death” I don’t mean physical death, but death of a way of life. Birthers are mostly old white people who are saying: “Obama is destroying the country.” Ignore the “Obama” part for a minute, and listen to the fear that they live in the midst of some kind of destruction. Some of them think that the world is about to end in the Biblical Apocalypse, but even if the world isn’t ending, it is passing them by.1 Change comes at what appears an accelerated pace (and even if the pace were not accelerated, it would seem that way to older people whose sense of time is different). Change scares them witless because it could mean the death of their way of life. And out of this fear, they seem to be grasping at straws: that Obama is ineligible and every law he signed can be made to go away, that the Tea Party can set the clock back to 1950, that all the immigrants can be expelled2.
“Immigration and people of color” is a big deal for the status quo because in the future the United States is going to populated and controlled more by non-white people, and that can be a source of anxiety for white people. The Southern slaveholder’s greatest fear was of a slave uprising in which they would be murdered in their beds, and revenge would be exacted on them for the cruelty they had inflicted on their slaves.3 The people of the United States have exploited immigrants from the beginning, whether it be the unwilling Africans, the Irish, the Chinese or the Latinos today who work for less than the minimum wage and in some cases in slave-like conditions. Those classes will share in the leadership in American. Even racial distinctions are becoming blurred by mixed-race families. What’s even scarier to some is that other countries like Russia, India and China (among others) are growing at tremendous rates and America must share world leadership to a growing extent. (I was just in Russia and was impressed by their potential in land area, natural resources and a well-educated population if they can stay at peace and maintain internal stability for a while.)
I’m 63 years old now and I am reconciled to the reality that each generation makes its own rules and has to solve its own problems (except that the next generation will have to solve its own problems plus the ones my generation left them). While I love my Country, I also believe in the equal value of all human life. If someone not like me does well, that’s a good thing too. My view is not that white people are in decline, nor that America is in decline, but rather that we are seeing the “rise of the rest,” to use a phrase borrowed from an immigrant with a funny name, Fareed Zakaria.4
It is a brave new world, but it’s not necessarily a bad one.
I’m really not sure what to say to the birthers. “Chill out” seems trite. My former pastor strongly recommended prescription drugs for anxiety. To the extent that you can, find constructive activities, delete those gloom and doom chain emails, and spend time with your family.
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. John 21:18
2Note this headline from an article on Orly’s site:
How to fight Soros pro amnesty thugs? We need bikers and truckers there, advising them that they are under citizens arrest and we need to call immigration and police immediately, demand deportation and have the call to immigration on loud speaker and on video. We need congressmen there talking to immigration on loud speakers. Maybe George Soros should be arrested for misprision of felonies, for inciting violence and violation of immigration laws? Is Soros a U.S. citizen, did he get his U.S. citizenship under false pretenses?
3The book The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory talks about paranoia over real and imagined slave revolt plots.
4I had a really hard time writing this article, and making it say something worth reading, instead of being a collection of platitudes. A great deal was written and deleted. I don’t think I succeeded beyond offering the idea to the reader that part of birtherism can be attributed to old white people’s fears of losing their way of life.