Our country has created some interesting and unassuming neologisms, most notably the addition of words like ‘hashtag‘ or ‘favorited‘ to link and save the latest social media phenomenon. However, not every new word we cultivate as a society is as safe and trendy. Recently, the new term Birtherism has taken on a life of its own.
This phrase is generally attributed to none other than business mogul, Donald Trump, when he savagely went after current President of The United States (P.O.T.U.S) Barack Obama in his second term run against Mitt Romney. Trump thrust himself into the limelight claiming that Obama had no right to run for presidency because he was not a natural born citizen, after which dominated a large percentage of the news coverage that year.
According to James Taranto, in his article published in the American Spectator, “That same week, Donald Trump’s revival of citizenship questions accounted for much of the attention directly on the Obama administration, at 4% of the newshole in PEJ (Project for Excellence in Journalism) reports.”
Briefly fueled by the media, Trump is slinging the same accusations against a new opponent, namely Ted Cruz. Birtherism thus takes a gruesome pirouette in the spotlight in a year where refugees, immigrants, racism, and religious outcasts are always sure to be the topic of conversation for any candidate. Considering that I’m not a huge fan of politics, I’d rather briefly discuss the emergence of this word and the societal attitude that bore it than rant on about Trump and his inveigling tactics.
As President Obama stated in his last State of The Union address:
We live in a time of extraordinary change — change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world.
It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.
So the question remains: Why the fascination with where someone was born?
It’s arguable that most Americans, in Trump’s case, most rich Anglo-Saxon Americans, may feel a sense of entitlement over the North American territory as it stands. Hasn’t that been the case since the country’s inception?
Why now in a time of turbulence and hope is it so important to have been born here in the good ole U. S. of A? I can’t say I have a direct answer for this question. However, the mentality that allows words like birtherism to enter our everyday language becomes more and more apparent. Like one’s skin color or family background or economic status, you can not control where you’re physically born; which adds another tier restriction to an already long list of things we as Americans use to divide ourselves and separate ourselves from other nations.
From a political standpoint, I will admit this arrant buzzword along with ‘radicalized‘, ‘extreme fundamentalist‘, and of course,’terrorist’, goes a long way in swaying public opinion. Yet more importantly, it speaks to who we are as a society and the role we play in a much larger, global culture.
Right now we’re coming off as imperialist to say the least, and I for one don’t like to be represented in that light when I’m at the bottom of the socio-economic scale in my own country. Thoughts affect words, words influence motives, and motives drive change.
We’re changing as a country.
But what are we changing into…
Have an opinion? Leave a comment.
Excerpt from President Obama’s “State of The Union Address”. Jan 13 2016. Transcript.
Taranto, James. The American Spectator. “The Birth of a Notion”. Article.
Peterson, Claudette M.; Ray, Chris M. Journal of Adult Education. “Andragogy and Metagogy: The Evolution of Neologisms”. Article
The world changed.
Books disappeared, replaced
by glowing screens.
Poems that mattered once
were gently laid to rest.
Once, the summer was
the summer, the fall the fall.
Outside, cars sat quietly at the curb,
puffy like soft sculptures,
or finned like giant fish.
a boy on a bicycle delivered
news of the world.
Then suddenly it all ended.
There was only the present
looping continuously on a screen,
but you couldn’t make sense of it.
Outside people still jogged,
walked their dogs, coffee
in one hand, a phone in the other.
Holding bright little gods,
they texted and twittered.
Vainly, you tried to recall
when everything had mattered,
when the summer was the summer,
the fall the fall. When people stood
on the sidewalk in the cool
of the evening quietly talking.
When a rolled newspaper hit
the door, mornings, afternoons,
delivered by a boy on a bicycle.
Whatever had happened,
had happened overnight.
You open your mouth.
You open your mouth.
Although there is nothing
to sing about, you sing.