Is Birtherism More Nationalist Than Racist?

Daniel Larison has an interesting spin on what’s more operative in the Birther movement’s attempt to discredit Barack Obama as genuinely American:

Assuming that racism is the central or overriding element behind this obsession, as Aziz does, is the easiest move in the world, but it is not necessarily accurate. It is a ready-made answer that in this case relies on a number of prejudices about Southerners, conservatives and attitudes towards race that are largely outdated, and it is an answer that fails to take account of the potency of political ideology, partisan attachment, and a particularly assertive, aggressive post-9/11 nationalism that took over much of the right in the last eight years. The insistence that Obama was born outside America, or that he must be in some way foreign, may be the only way for extreme Americanists to account for how someone born here and raised for almost his entire life in the U.S. could come to have views that they regard as un-American and anti-American. Those who have elevated the nation into a sort of church or religion, and those who are most attached to this kind of national idolatry, cannot abide the idea that the President–the secular high priest of their religion–believes what Obama believes (or, just as important, what they imagine he believes). For the Americanist, this is something like the abomination of desolation.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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