A blogger friend wrote a thoughtful blog post on the number of Americans who eagerly believe the flat out lies masquerading as news tossed about in the media and cyberspace about President Obama, his wife Michelle, and his administration. I think that he is correct about the people who orchestrate the lies and misinformation; they are not stupid and they act with well thought out deliberateness. The problem is that their target audience functions on a mix of fear and ignorance, a dangerous combination.
If their beliefs weren't so destructive, they would be laughable. Their litany goes something like this: Obama is a Muslim, who since birth has been laying the foundation to become president and destroy America and its Constitution that's why he faked his birth certificate. Michelle hates the United States and as a bonding exercise, the two of them burn the American flag. Presumably to diminish any opposition or just to strike terror in the hearts of Americans, the president supports using death panels to kill grandma.
Why would sane people fall for any of this? I have a theory and a lot of people won't like it. Ultimately I think it is because they perceive Obama as "other." It's not as simple as racism; most of these people would never think of themselves as racists and are genuinely appalled at exhibitions of racist beliefs. However, Obama makes them uncomfortable in ways that they can't quite fathom. It's not a new discomfort. They've always been uncomfortable with dealing with issues of race head-on. These are the people who believe that the most non-racist assertion that they can make is, "I don't see color. All people are alike."
They become defensive when there are those of us who tell them that being colorblind is not a desirable end. If you don't see my color, you don't really see me. All people are not alike; we are all of value but every group or subgroup has its shared cultural norms and beliefs that make the group unique. What I value most about my diverse group of friends is the diversity. Who wants a box of crayons of all one color?
Obama, who is both black and white, creates cognitive dissonance in many people. They can't admit that they are uncomfortable with his perceived race--black, so they are quick to adopt any other theories offered for their distrust of him. He lies; he's not really one of us; he's anti-American; any theory other than that an intelligent, articulate, well-educated black man scares the hell out them.
These people easily embrace black professional athletes, black performers, because they don't feel threatened by them. Black people who achieve in accepted categories are fine.
So how did Obama win? Because there was a massive get out the vote campaign. People who were desperate for change saw hope embodied in Obama. People went to the polls in record numbers, but it was a momentary fever of involvement; the thrill has long faded and the general apathy has returned in record numbers among those who were inspired to vote to put Obama in office. In addition, many of Obama's strongest supporters have succumbed to disillusionment. They read Obama's message as a promise to implement sweeping change with all deliberate speed. Unrealistic expectations engender disappointment. In spite of all that the Obama presidency has accomplished, there is more attention focused on complaining about what is yet to be done rather than being enthused about what has been done.
As the vocal support for the Obama administration has diminished, so has the criticism become louder. The more outrageous the allegations made against the president, the more that they are believed by those predisposed to fear what his election means to their way of life. Obama's election has rocked the fundamental beliefs of many Americans in the myth of Euro-ancestry superiority that has served them well since the beginnings of America. The country that they want back is the one that existed before the election of Barack Obama as president capsized their boat. What they fear most is the very thing that Obama made the cornerstone of his campaign--change. When the status quo serves your interests in maintaining your perceived superiority, the last thing that you want is someone suggesting that the times will be a-changin'.