Polls and the Big Lie

As a regular responder to on-line polls and surveys, I’ve decided to “sit out” any survey asking whether I believe the President is a Christian or a Muslim. On many polls, even though I have a strongly held position, I have to concede that there might be legitimate differences of opinion. But this topic responds to the success of the Big Lie. No responsible person believes that this Muslim issue is anything but a canard, aimed at discrediting Mr. Obama. It is on a par with the “birther’ nonsense, and it all adds up either to, “My mind is made up, don’t try to confuse me with facts,” or to a cover-up for resentment at an African-American president.
The saddest part of this particular Big Lie is that we tend to get so indignant at the scurrilous intent of the question that we forget to ask, “What difference does it make?” Hidden in the question is an Islamophobic attitude that in and of itself is contrary to all the principles of American democracy and to all principles of Bible-based religion, which should be teaching that every human being is created in the image of God.
I don’t care (for the purposes of this discussion) whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, whether you voted for the person who is now the President of the United States or for his opponent — this is not about politics, it is about decency and about the ability to differentiate between truths and obvious lies. If the political opponents of this Administration think they need this kind of ploy to regain power, it is a sign that they are morally bankrupt as well as bereft of any positive programs to offer the American public.
Note that I am not suggesting that the responsible Republican leadership is behind this immoral, unethical tactic — but until the party leaders strongly denounce not only the Big Lie but also the Big Liars who are perpetrating it, we have to assume not that they believe it — surely they are not that stupid — but that they are willing to tolerate it because they think it will serve their ambitions.
As it happens, I know the editor of one website personally on which such a poll was conducted. I urged her to remove this particular poll — and to apologize for posting it in the first place. She justified it, saying “Of course the President isn’t a Muslim, but apparently many people believe he is, so I don’t see anything wrong with posting it…. Actually, I don’t think of a poll as settling any issues; a poll just lets you know what people are thinking. It’s just putting your finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.”
I responded with what is wrong with posting it: It gives credibility and dignity to the Lie, and suggests that matters of fact can be settled by popular vote. It also reminds me of the days when anti-Semites tried vigorously to vilify FDR as the Jew Rosenfeld. Even a question on creationism would make more sense than this one on Mr. Obama’s religion, since the theory of evolution, even though widely accepted by responsible scientists, goes against the “evidence” of the Bible. When the idiot fringe couldn’t discredit Obama for having been a member of Reverend Wright’s church, they went on to their next ploys, trying to present him as a Kenya-born Muslim.
But leaving the Big Lie aside, I too would object if any candidate for any office ran on the basis of a falsified biography. Some day, in fact, the citizens of the United States may knowingly elect a Muslim president. I have lived to see many things that, as a child, I would have never thought possible, an African-American president being one of them. (Others: the existence of the state of Israel; the serious candidacy of a woman for President; a Jewish vice-presidential candidate; the legalization anywhere of same-sex marriage; three Jews or three women on the Supreme Court.) For that to happen, the American Muslim community will have had to find its way into the American mainstream, and to have established that its religious positions are compatible with American democratic and social values. When that day comes, if my friend posts a poll on her website asking which I believe, that the President is a Muslim or a Christian, I’ll willingly participate – because it will be a Big Truth indeed.


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