I've hesitated to write about the Obama birth certificate story; but since I get fewer readers on Fridays I think it's safe--at least, I won't unwittingly offend too many people.
I tend to enjoy reading about conspiracy theories. It's fun to take each theoretical position seriously and look at the story, whatever it is, from first one angle and then another. It's also interesting to ponder how a fiction writer would deal with the issues around which conspiracies swirl; truth is stranger than fiction, but fiction is saner than conspiracy, a lot of the time. Similar past times of mine include actual dabbling in fiction writing, and solving the occasional puzzle game (but not those puzzles which tell you that four girls are picnicking in a park, that each is allergic to a different food, that each is wearing a dress in her favorite color but that no two girls have the same favorite color, that only one of the girls' names does not begin with a consonant--and then ask you: if the girl in the purple dress who is allergic to strawberries is named Jill, what is the name of the park in which they are picnicking? I hate those).
But I try very hard not to get swept up in conspiracy theories. The only down side of having spent most of my life on the more traditional side of Catholicism is that there is no shortage of conspiracy theories about religious matters, and diving into any of them tends to lead one out a rabbit hole and far from Rome. Whether the theory involves a false pope secretly replacing a true one, or a plot to keep there from being any true popes at all, or a secret scam involving Fatima, a fake Sister Lucia, and a handful of assorted and nutty apocalyptic "prophecies," these kinds of conspiracies abound. Perhaps the liberal Catholics have their own versions of these conspiracies--well, we know they do, because Dan Brown writes them as pulp novels which get swallowed as gospel truth by the liberal side.
The point is that while conspiracy theories can be anything from intriguing to annoying to frustrating to entertaining, they shouldn't ever be taken seriously. If, by some bizarre chance, they end up being true, they will stop being "conspiracy theories" or become either "news" or "history." While it can also be dangerous to think of either news or history books as sources of completely accurate and unbiased information, it is less dangerous to assume that items of news or history are wacky inventions than that conspiracy theories are, because nearly all of the time, that is exactly what they are.
With all of that said as a too-wordy preamble, there is just one thing that bothers me about this whole matter. Why, after years of insisting that the short-form Certification of Live Birth released during Obama's presidential campaign was totally and completely sufficient for identification verification purposes (even though ordinary citizens have to show the long form to do such things as get a passport) and that nobody needed to see the long form--why release it now, to satisfy the whim of the wealthy host of a reality TV show?
The president stated his reason simply: "We do not have time for this kind of silliness." At which point he promptly left town to appear on Oprah--an iconic moment in political history if ever there was one.
We can only speculate as to why the president didn't simply release the long form in place of the short form, or why he didn't at least release the long form long ago when its prolonged absence started fostering conspiracy theories. After all, presidents usually don't expect to remain private figures, and other recent presidents have released dull personal documents in droves, including not only birth records but school records, academic achievements (or the lack of such) medical records, and the like. So it does seem strange that President Obama would for so long stubbornly refuse to release such an innocuous and non-harmful document--especially when examples of his horrific student-days poetry have been out there for a long time.
I think the answer may not be much of a conspiracy theory at all. I suspect that in President Obama's mind, he has already done as much if not more than most politicians ever do to talk about their families and their pasts. After all, he wrote an autobiography--before even running for President! He bares all of his secrets there, so why does anyone need anything else--and how dare ordinary, common people, not chosen to be the One to bring peace and heal the planet be so incessant in their demands for more?
The birth certificate, like everything else we know about the president's past, tells virtually the same story he tells in Dreams from My Father. Virtually--because it is romanticized, of course. The real story that Obama speaks of so euphemistically is that his mother was a jet-setting socialist and his father a habitually-intoxicated wife-beating polygamist who was gone from the young Barack's life long before the young boy was two; it's possible, given this sort of thing, that Barack Sr. and Stanley Ann never lived together as husband and wife at all.
And none of that is even remotely President Obama's fault. But having gone to so much trouble to construct with care a romanticized and mythopoeic start fitting of our cherry-tree chopping, log cabin living, up from their own bootstraps figures who have occupied the White House in days gone by, Obama may possibly be annoyed at the stark reminders of the reality, as exemplified by such coldly mundane documents as birth certificates.
The alternative is that he is simply too removed from the common man to realize that the rest of us have to be willing to show all sorts of past documents relating to ourselves with very short notice, and that birth certificates, social security numbers, academic records etc. are so much a part of our lives that we can't relate to someone who spends two years, via his political team, telling us that it's simply not possible for him to release his long-form birth certificate. But that option makes me uneasy; I'd rather believe that President Obama wants to be remembered in concert with his roseate autobiography than that he just doesn't know or remember what it's like to be a member of the common throng.