Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 108-Fwd:

"I wanted to give you all some disturbing information on our wonderful president. I work with the Catch-A-Dream Foundation which provides hunting and fishing trips to children with life-threatening illnesses. This past weekend we had our annual banquet / fundraiser event in Starkville. "As a part of our program we had scheduled Sgt. 1st Class Greg Stube a highly decorated U.S. Army Green Beret and inspirational speaker who was severely injured while deployed overseas and was thought that he didn't have much of a chance for survival to come. Greg is stationed at Ft. Bragg and received permission from his commanding officer to come speak at our function. Everything was on go until Obama made a policy that NO U.S. SERVICEMAN CAN SPEAK AT ANY FAITH-BASED PUBLIC EVENTS ANYMORE. Needless to say Greg had to cancel his speaking event with us. Didn't know if anyone else was aware of this new policy. Wonder what kind of news we all will receive next. You're just starting to see the Obamanation. Your religion is on the list next."

-A chain e-mail sent to my mother.

So today's letter is a bit silly. It's been a dark, depressing news week(/month/year) and nothing cheers me up like a good e-mail from the crazy part of Michigan. Does any one out there know of any equivalent crazy talk emails from the left? Do we do that? If so, how do I get them?

Dear Mr. President,

My mother has a friend from her high school days who regularly forwards her e-mails full of right-wing nonsense. She has resisted, many times, the urge to respond to these e-mails with logic or facts that would contradict them. At my request, she often sends me the most absurd, because we enjoy a good laugh. Mother-daughter bonding, you might call it. Today's e-mail is about your apparent intervention to prevent members of the armed forces from speaking at faith-based events, an assertion repudiated by even the most cursory fact-checking. Though laughable, this e-mail is mild in comparison to many that circulated during the campaign. One memorable message from the same woman, with the subject "Can Muslims be good Americans?", insisted that you worshiped "Allah, the moon god of Arabia." More than a few suggested you might be the Antichrist, a claim I found particularly unsettling, as it involved convincing self-proclaimed Christians that the book of Revelation described the coming of a Muslim man in his 40's. I looked into this further, not so curious as to how people could believe this, (after all, once you're willing to believe in the Antichrist, it probably isn't wholly out of the realm of possibility for it to be any one,) but as to how they could be misled about the text that is central to their religion, an item so ubiquitous that it can be found and read in more places than any book besides Harry Potter. Didn't any one think, before they forwarded the message on, to open their copy of the Bible and see if that was really what it said?

I don't like to think that people act without logic or rationale. I may disagree with them, but I want to believe that people are fundamentally motivated by the same basic needs and desires. The internet constantly provides ample material to make me seriously doubt this conviction. Clearly, these rumors aren't something you can really fight, no one who believes you're a faith-hating/Socialist/Muslim/ The Antichrist, is going to be persuaded by a public denial. How would one prove or disprove any of it? (Maybe you could read Revelation at a press conference? They might think you changed it. Also, they probably don't watch presidential press conferences.) Dignifying it with a response, at all, is clearly not the right course. I suppose this is all the other side of the Presidential coin; you may be reviled by crazy people on the internet, but you still get to have JK Rowling at the Easter Egg roll.

The problem, of course, is that the people who send and believe these e-mails aren't abstractions. They're our high school friends or our grandparents; they're voters or taxpayers or citizens. They can't be reasoned with or persuaded. They pass it on, by clicking forward, or by telling their children, or by changing the text books for an entire state. How are willful lies about your birth certificate or religion any different than the misinformation Michele Bachmann spread about the Census? Or Mitch McConnell, about your financial reform proposals?

Some days, these e-mails stop being funny and just become disturbing and very, very sad. I'd like to have more respect for my fellow Americans, but it seems that many are willing and even eager to believe the worst and most absurd things they are told.

Respectfully yours,


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