Since I was looking pretty shaggy last week in advance of a speaking engagement I was committed to in Kansas (see below), I visited the barber shop for my regular non-do. Although Commerce is a tiny town, it ain't exactly Mayberry on several counts, not the least of which is the total dissimilarity between the barber shop on the square here and Floyd's place on the Andy Griffith Show. The guys who cut hair locally are loud, opinionated and aggressive. Usually I just shut up and tolerate their nonsense.
Not last time.
As he bent into his job, clippers brushing my right ear, the barber asked me casually whether I was ready for a Muslim president.
"Obama's not a Muslim," I said, struggling to remain calm.
And so began a maddening dispute in which neither of the shop's proprietors were willing to accept any evidence against their cherished conspiracy in which Obama's membership in a Chicago church, his public statements about his Christian faith, the baptism of his daughters, his marriage in a church and all the rest was merely an elaborate cover for a secretly held commitment to Islam.
I was reduced to telling them "You've been lied to. He's not a Muslim," repeating it like a mantra, like a catechism, like a devotional.
This isn't the first time I've heard the Muslim allegation locally, and it bodes ill for November if the conspiracy theory has the traction elsewhere that it appears to have in this spot on the hinterlands. I wonder if maybe Jon Stewart should lead his Daily Show report with some sort of corrective every night from here on out: "Day 56, and he's still not a Muslim," and so on. I wonder if every newspaper and TV station in the country should do the same. I wonder if it would have any effect? Snopes didn't have any effect. Neither did About.com.
Why should the facts get in the way of bullshit? Xenophobia will out.