And if she really is, or has the potential to become the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, then you have had an enviable life indeed.
Think about Republican Vice Presidents in the recent past. Cheney, Quayle, Agnew. I’d take my chances with Palin over any one of them, any day.
I’m not going to argue that she has the right stuff today to be President. I don’t believe she does. That’s never been our criteria for evaluating a VP candidate before. Indeed, until this woman was nominated, we’ve never bothered to evaluate the VP candidate quite so exhaustively. (This was my perception. I tried to do some research to back it up. The only person who came close to having been studied so microscopically was Thomas Eagleton, who withdrew after concerns were raised about his history of depression and electroconvulsive therapy — shock treatments. At the time of that scandal, I recall feeling sorry for him. As I read about him this week, I didn’t feel quite as sorry; he had withheld information about his history of suicidality and the very powerful anti-psychotic meds he was taking, from McGovern, the candidate who chose him. Turns out it was as much or more an issue of honesty as of mental fitness. That said, I stand by my perception that no one has been scrutinized like Palin.) Could it be that there’s an element of sexism there? Whether you are left or right, don’t be blind to what’s happened to this woman. No man in her position has ever been the subject of this kind of scrutiny.
Some say it’s more important to evaluate the VP in this case, because McCain is older and has had skin cancer. This argument carries no weight with me. As someone who’s spent my mid-forties being sick as hell, and at times having no expectation of reaching my 50s, and wishing I had the energy and wherewithal of some of my 70something friends and relatives, the age thing means nothing to me. It is not McCain’s age or health that has prompted what I will write about here. There’s something uglier going on.
When I first heard that she was nominated, I didn’t recognize the name at all. I just reminded Jif (because I like to call attention to the occasions when I’m right), that I had been saying all along that McCain would have to choose a woman to have a snowball’s chance in the election. People do vote based on race and gender. Not all people, but enough to make a difference in the outcome. If you don’t believe that, take it up with Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, two men whom I find exceedingly intelligent, both of whom have expressed this belief within the past two weeks. I, for one, would be thrilled if we Americans were issue voters, especially if we were big-picture (as opposed to single issue) voters. But we’re not. So, on that point, McCain arguably chose rather well. He chose someone who will appeal to many of the people for whom he held no appeal at all, or not quite enough.
When I did start hearing more about Palin, I remembered who she was. I remembered reading about her when her son was born. I believe the article was about older mothers giving birth, and of course, the risks of chromosomal anomalies were mentioned. And the fact that the Alaska governor and her husband knew that baby Trig would have Down Syndrome, and chose to keep him. And after McCain chose her, when I put that in context, I thought, “This will be interesting. The Republican base has been saying they’re pro-life forever, but there was never an opportunity for them to put their money (their time, their energy, their love) where there mouths are. It’s been middle-aged and old white men before, who couldn’t have had an abortion or a disabled child. And frankly, if push came to shove, and biology permitted, I’ll bet a lot of those men would have had abortions in that situation. I don’t know of any stories, but it would not surprise me to learn that some anti-abortion men have fathered some children who were aborted for whatever reason. So, yea, it’s easy to talk a good game when it comes to saying you’d keep a developmentally challenged child. Here, for the first time, is someone who clearly backed up what she claimed to believe.” Those are the thoughts I had, when I remembered where I’d heard her name before. And I admire someone who practices, at personal sacrifice, what they preach. And I’m a little suspicious of anyone who preaches loud and long about an issue which can never directly affect them anyway.
Then, when the media and internet vultures, and various friends and colleagues started ripping Palin apart, I was offended, as I am when I witness any act of human-on-human incivility, and my “defend the oppressed” buttons were pushed.
Example: A woman in my life, who can go on for days about what a feminist she is, and what a champion for woman’s achievement she is, came into my presence right after Palin’s selection was announced, and made an announcement of her own: “Sarah Palin is such a bitch.” I had just barely heard Palin’s name, hadn’t formed any opinion at all about her. What did she know about Palin that I didn’t? Nothing, it turns out. And that offends me. Agree or disagree with her political platform, this is a woman who has accomplished quite a lot in her life. In a state that, I have learned in recent weeks, is arguably the most unwelcoming toward and disrespectful of women (based on incidence of violent crime against women). Are “feminists” going back to the days when a woman who doesn’t take shit from powerful men is, by definition, “a bitch?” Where is the element of feminism that applauds an ambitious, achieving woman? Where is the element of feminism that says a woman is free to think as she chooses, even if I disagree? I’ve been profoundly disappointed in many women’s responses to this choice. If you don’t want her in office, the solution to that dilemma is to vote against her. Demeaning her and yourself by calling her names is not an appropriate solution.
::tangent::And it’s not just women, being vulgarly reactionary. Yesterday a friend recounted a conversation with a male colleague who agreed with her that Palin is ignorant and unfit to be Vice President, but added that he still may vote for her, because he’d rather look at her than Biden. And he added, “I’d fuck her.” I haven’t heard that “reasoning” as a consideration in evaluating a male candidate.::end tangent::
Example: I’ve seen Palin damned to hell and raked over the coals for her personal religious beliefs. Including beliefs about abortion and creationism. From everything that I have read (and I really am one who investigates as much as I can, I don’t just eat from one media spoon), these really are personal beliefs. I have not been able to find any incidence of her attempting to impose these beliefs on her city or state government. We know that these are her beliefs because someone asked her about them, both in old debates and in recent interviews. And every time I’ve seen her answer, she also says that she respects other people’s rights to their personal beliefs. So where is the problem? She’s not allowed to have beliefs that differ from yours? She doesn’t feel that way about you. And to my knowledge, isn’t calling you names because you disagree with her. She seems to have a firm grasp on the notion that she can hold her beliefs and not have to impose them on you. Why isn’t she extended the same courtesy? Again, I am perplexed by the intense reaction to her. We don’t skewer men who hold these beliefs. They’re all around us; a bunch of them get elected every couple of years.
Example: Her children. Truth be told, this is what pissed me off to the point of writing something that will no doubt lose me a lot of “friends.” The first horrifying thing I read was the essay “calling her out” in The Daily Kos. The one that explicitly called Palin a liar, and exposed the ugly “truth” that her teen daughter, Bristol, was in fact Trig’s mother. The appearance of that article is what forced Palin to “formally” announce Bristol’s pregnancy, in order to refute the internet wildfire of erroneous information. The family had not been keeping the pregnancy a secret. Everyone who knew them knew. It just might not have been the whole world’s business at that very moment. Except then it had to be. Funny thing; that was one of the most heinous uses of media I’d ever seen, and I checked back for days and never did see any sign of an apology or a retraction. What I did see, though, was, “See?! We knew there was something bad here! Yippee!” And that made me want to puke. Rejoicing over a teenager’s unplanned pregnancy, because it makes her mother look bad (or so you believe) and it furthers your political agenda. Am I the only Democrat who finds this abhorrent? Even if I am — I do. Absolutely abhorrent.
And a related point: Get over yourselves already with the, “That’s what abstinence-only education gets you!” You cannot be serious. You think there aren’t pregnant teens whose parents believe in comprehensive sex education? You think there are no members of Planned Parenthood who’ve had pregnant teens in their families? If that weren’t such a tragic display of ignorance, it would make me laugh.
There may not be a lot of absolutes in this election; maybe there aren’t many absolutes in life at all, but here’s one: Teen pregnancy does not discriminate. (And this might be an absolute, too: karma is a bitch; as a mother, you will NEVER see me taking joy in the misfortune of another mother and her child.)
Example: Then there’s the hunting. I don’t hunt. I don’t own a gun. I took my kid to the Million Mom March. But I do recognize that there are perfectly legitimate lifestyles other than my own. Lifestyles that include hunting and eating wild animals. Again, it’s not my thing. But the way some people write about this aspect of Palin’s life, you’d think she were a cross between Michael Vick and Jeffrey Dahmer. Aren’t Democrats the ones who have the monopoly on acceptance of others’ lifestyles? Once again, I don’t get it. I can’t say I understand the hunting laws in Alaska; some of them don’t seem right to me. But then, I don’t rely on caribou or moose for my protein in the winter, and certainly have never had to compete with wolves for my family’s dinner. The laws are apparently consistent with regional, cultural values. And Palin’s behavior is well within the law.
Example: Speaking of behavior within the law, many people like to write about “Troopergate.” Because (for those who’ve forgotten) this is the country where one is innocent until proven guilty, I don’t see how this is presently an issue at all. The “victim” is a man who was removed from one job (where, according to his superiors, he performed poorly) and offered another job, which he refused. The allegations suggest that maybe Palin wanted him to fire her former brother-in-law (that would be the one who tasered his own 10-year-old son and made death threats against Palin and her family). But the guy wasn’t fired. I don’t know, but as a family counselor on the outside looking in, it seems to me that Palin has bent over backwards to minimize the drama in an effort to spare her sister and her sister’s children the humiliation of fully airing the extended family’s dirty laundry. And I have strong feelings about judging people based on allegations that are made. False allegations have been made against me, in my work. Not one scintilla of truth. They’ve been made against my pastor, who was taken all the way into a court of law over the matter. Again, not the tiniest grain of truth in the charges. They were made against my husband’s family business, and picked up by the local media. And like the other examples, those were absolutely false, and nearly ruined a good man’s name and life’s work. Again, some common sense is in order. The fact that there are “allegations” made sometimes simply means that you’re in the public eye and you’ve pissed someone off.
Example: Palin went to X number of different colleges, and it took her X number of years to get a bachelor’s degree! That must mean she’s stupid. I suppose it could mean that; but here’s another thing that sometimes means. I went to three different colleges and it took me 7 years to get a bachelor’s degree. That’s because I paid for every dime of my education myself. I worked full-time plus overtime during most of my pursuit of my first degree. It takes a little longer, and life may take us in different directions during the process, than when the parents are footing the bill. It didn’t surprise me to hear Palin’s father say that all his children knew they would have to make their own way through college.
I have some sort of rebuttal for most of the personal attacks that have been made against Palin. As you might have gathered, I don’t like personal attacks made on people. I’ve defended, where possible, the same kinds of attacks on McCain and on Obama. There’s no place for this kind of crap in the political discourse of a civilized, well-intentioned people. I don’t understand the joy that people are taking in this. A woman I know, love, enjoy, recently told me about the movement to make donations to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin’s name. And this friend of mine had done that. I’d never do that. It’s a Golden Rule thing. (Remember that outdated concept?) I wouldn’t want someone making a donation in my name to an organization that I find objectionable. So I wouldn’t do that to someone else. I have no problem with anyone donating what they want, where they want. But I do find it offensive when you take a charitable donation and turn it into an act of hostility. How is it that you don’t see that is not the product of healthy thought processes?
Then there were those attacks that are almost too stupid to warrant rebuttal. Sarah Palin banned library books! Oh, wait, a lot of the books on that list hadn’t even been written when she was supposed to have banned them. And even though that one was debunked almost immediately, supposedly intelligent, well-educated, well-meaning bloggers continued to include it in their anti-Palin diatribes. Then there was that adorable (I thought) video of Palin’s little girl, Piper, holding her baby brother and smoothing his unruly hairdo by licking her hand and wiping his head. I saw a little girl whose family had taught her kindness, gentleness, love, and resourcefulness. Gross resourcefulness, yes, but still. I saw a little girl who had probably seen her very busy, yet attentive Mom, smooth someone’s hair with a bit of spit. Others, however, saw: OMG! That is so unhygienic! Palin is such a low-class redneck, not teaching her children about proper grooming and personal hygiene! Oh, come on. Just this past weekend, I read how “crooked” she is — as mayor, she accepted a spa treatment, and a bouquet of roses . . . and there is evidence of such unethical behavior, in the undeniable form of *GASP* handwritten thank you notes! Have we really gone that far ’round the bend?
The more of this kind of bullshit I’ve seen, the more I’ve thought, “Wow. She’s really threatening to some people. And what’s apparently worse, for Democrats, is that they can’t find anything substantive against her. So it’s all about her lifestyle, her faith . . . ” To me, the frenzy over her personal life and family seems to indicate that there’s not enough to critique about her public service performance.
What is it about this woman that pushes your buttons so? Why do we have such a problem with a pretty, smart, successful, ambitious, popular woman who has an interesting career and a family? If you are provoked by Palin’s candidacy (or her very existence) into behaving in the ways I’ve described here . . . you have work to do. And it’s not political work.
This is not a post about supporting Sarah Palin for Vice President. As I’ve suggested, I don’t think she’s ready to be President. But there are ways to say that without attacking her as a human being. Here’s an example of someone who disagrees with her candidacy based on at least somewhat objective (although there are some errors in timing and some spin on interpretation) criteria. That was tremendously refreshing to me.
I deliberately chose to publish this just before Palin’s first national debate. I have no hope nor expectation of how she will perform. Well, that’s not entirely true. I hope she does well. Anyone watching my Twitter during last week’s debate will see that I hoped both candidates did well there. I said I prayed that they both brought their best selves, their truest selves. I don’t take pleasure in seeing someone publicly humiliated. Maybe that’s just me. So, yea, I hope the same thing for both Palin and Biden. Voters will be better served if both of them can fully articulate their true personalities, their true beliefs and positions. So will you be watching the debate hoping you get a glimpse of both candidates’ real strengths, weaknesses and intentions? Or will you be watching hoping that someone fails, and not caring what they have to say? Sadly, I know the answer for most. And once again, I’m out here on the island of misfit voters, because I’d rather really understand what both candidates mean to communicate, than to have a “gotcha!” moment, a moment to laugh at later on YouTube.
Palin might make an impressive showing in the debate. Or she might fall flat on her face. And either way, she won’t deserve the kind of treatment I’ve described here.
As I proofread this, the TV was on behind me, and former Democratic VP candidate, former Congresswoman from New York, Geraldine Ferraro had this to say regarding Palin in tomorrow night’s debate, “I want her to do well, because it’s important for girls to see that a woman can stand toe to toe . . . ” Ferraro certainly doesn’t support, isn’t going to vote for Palin. But she gets that this is a first; this is an historic occasion. It may not be ideal; in fact, it certainly isn’t ideal. But women, this is the occasion we have. If we don’t want to vote for her, we can call her a stupid bitch, or we can acknowledge the achievements she’s made and celebrate the fact that she has been able to make them, express our disagreement with her policies and vote accordingly. We’ve only been allowed to vote for 88 years! Our kids are watching how we treat one another.