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Archive for October, 2008

Crazy Talk

The fall semester is in full swing at the agency where I supervise graduate students in family counseling. As usual, we have a number of international students. I have one from Malaysia and one from Korea. Both of them are quite brilliant and have a genuine gift for counseling, so it really is a joy to help train them. It is also quite challenging, sometimes hilariously so, as we navigate the cultural chasms between their native countries and the USA. This is particularly true when dealing with adolescents and their families. Sometimes our client families take advantage of the grad student interns’ obvious uncertainty when addressing matters of the not-so-secret lives of American teenagers. Elizabeth, the Korean intern, is a soft-spoken, thoughtful woman with a number of graduate degrees to her name. Ready to believe the good in her clients, she has been snowed a couple of times. First, a 14-year-old nearly convinced her that it is customary in American families for the oldest son to tell his father to “fuck off” from time to time. (This may be true, but not outloud.)

Elizabeth and I were discussing this same family the other day. Like many modern families, they don’t interact as much as they claim to want to. They often go their separate ways with little more than the occasional obscenity exchange that passes for conversation. Elizabeth has been trying to introduce more routine, more stability into their daily lives, starting with a homework assignment to eat dinner together as a family at least once a week. This is part of our supervision session earlier this week:

E: The mother said they can’t do that. They can’t eat at the table because the boys [ages 14 and 9] eat better when she feeds them on trays in front of the TV.

S: Eat better?

E: Yes, she says they’ll eat their vegetables in front of the TV, but they won’t eat them at the table.

S: laughing loudly That’s a new one. OK, it very well may be true that they shovel food into their faces mindlessly while watching TV, and that they are unaware of eating the vegetables during that process, so they don’t object to them . . . but . . . NO.

E: No?

S: OK, let me back up a minute. Are they malnourished? Any sign of rickets . . .

E: smiles No . . .

S: OK. Double check this, to make sure they’re not suffering from any nutritional deficit. And by all means, if they have scurvy, we’ll sit them in front of the TV with a big ol’ bag of oranges . . .

E: laughs

S: But short of that, we don’t give a rat’s ass what they eat, or even whether they eat. They’re not here because they need better nutrition, they’re here because they have no family relationships. They will sit at the table together and make some attempt at conversation. If they can also manage to eat without the aid of television, God bless ’em. If they can’t . . . we don’t care.

E: We don’t care?

S: Not a bit. I have no concerns about these boys starving. I have a lot of concern about there being no relationship, no communication in this family.

We continued the supervision session, and Elizabeth had a plan for the next few sessions by the time we concluded. The first thought I had when Elizabeth told me about the mother saying her kids had to be fed in front of the TV was, “That’s crazy talk!” This has been one of my favorite expressions for a while now. And believe me, in my line of work, I get to use it a lot. At least in my head. Thinking about this reminded me of a “diagnostic manual” that the staff and I joke about writing some day. We make entries into it from time to time. I’m going to share with you some of my contributions over the past year or so.

Please read with the understanding that I work my butt off and my heart out, and I really am considered quite good at what I do. In order for the preceding to remain true, though, sometimes I just have to find the dark, politically-incorrect, shockingly inappropriate humor in the whole process:

THE BOOK

It has come to our attention that the agency has been criticized for not adequately teaching diagnostic skills as part of our internship experience. In an effort to remedy this shortcoming on our part, we offer the following tips for assessment and intervention:

· It is often advisable to include the client in the diagnostic process. This is done through the use of “leading” questions, as follows:

“What are you — NUTS?”

“Are you CRAZY?”

“What is WRONG with you?”

“Have you gone BATSHIT?” (“APESHIT” is also acceptable in this form.)

· For those who prefer a more direct approach, a statement can be made, followed by a pause during which the client may agree or disagree:

“You’re crazy as hell.”

“You’re freakin’ nuts.”

“You’re a wacko.” Or the related, “You’re wack.”

· The following are some brief diagnostic labels that are acceptable:
Jackass, Freakshow, Wingnut, Loon

Clients have also supplied the following diagnostic categories: Bi-polo, “somewhat mental,” and “triflin’.” The latter two are usually reserved for in-laws.

· Following the example of Jesus, it is important to talk to our clients in language they can understand — using metaphors from the context of their everyday lives. Observe:

One might assess the mental status of an obese client as, “a few sandwiches short of a picnic.” The client will quickly grasp the gravity of the situation.

A self-mutilating client will immediately understand the concept of being, “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

Assessments like the preceding may appropriately be followed by, “You know’m sayin’?” in order to ensure that the client has understood the counselor’s assessment.

· It is important to use contemporary language when confronting a client with maladaptive behavior. For example, “in denial” is an antiquated phrase, whereas “reality” is a more progressive term.

So, instead of suggesting that a client is “in denial,” one might reflect, “So . . . if I hear you correctly, you and reality are not on speaking terms.”

Another example of contemporary vernacular: When a client makes a statement which you find difficult to believe, replace the meek and outdated, “Really?” with the more modern, emphatic, “OH NO YOU DI’INT!”

Similarly, replace, “That is a cognitive distortion,” with “Now, that’s just CRAZY TALK!”

· On occasion, it may become necessary to exclude a particular client from the counseling process. (Often, this will be “mom’s boyfriend.”) When that time comes, the most efficacious way of removing the uncooperative, non-compliant client is to say to that client, kindly but firmly, “You’re dead to me.” (More experienced counselors may use this intervention with its accompanying hand gesture for emphasis: as you say the previous sentence, raise your right hand in a saluting fashion, but instead of saluting, draw it sharply across the front of your throat, mimicking a quick and decisive severing of the carotid artery.)

*******

There you have it. Anyone want to come see me? MWAHAHHAHHAAA!

(Oh, and contributions to “the book” will be gladly accepted.)

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It’s happened again. My daughter came home from a trip to the county library with a stack of books. She reads dozens of books a week. I can’t keep up. Ever since third grade when her teacher recommended a book I found inappropriate, I have skimmed the books she brings home. Sometimes she brings home books that I veto; she has to wait a while to read them.

I’m not sure I can tell you here what my standards are for which books I find worthy of space in my child’s brain. I’ll try. It’s not so much that any particular subject matter is disallowed. It’s the way in which the subject matter is treated. She’s not allowed to read some of the books that are quite popular with her friends. And she’s read, then loaned, many books that her friends have had to return to her unread, once their parents knew the subject matter. She has read books about homosexual teens, teens who self-injure, suicidal teens . . . these are some of the topics that her friends’ parents have vetoed. Again, it’s not the topics that I nix so much as the treatment of the topics. If a controversial or provocative topic is treated in an honest, creative, productive way . . . if the teens depicted somehow find their way . . . to safety, to health, to peace of mind . . . if adults aren’t wholly depicted as untrustworthy morons . . . if there is even the tiniest attempt to connect behavior to its logical consequences . . . those books are all OK with me, for her. And of course, that leaves millions of books from which she can choose.

And I’m not so naive as to think my daughter will never a read a book that I’d rather she didn’t. We discuss that openly, too. All I can do as a Mom is my job — share with her the benefit of my best judgment; what she does with that once she’s out of my sight will always be her choice. So far, I believe she trusts and respects me enough — and is intelligent enough about considering such things — that she isn’t sneaky about her reading.

So, yea, ever since her third grade teacher had her reading about how messy ejaculating boys are, I’ve tried to screen teacher-recommended books. On Saturday, LG brought home a book about a 16-year-old dying of cancer. The kid has a bucket list of sorts. Number one on the list — have sex. Not surprising; perhaps not unrealistic for a kid in that situation. So I started flipping pages. I ended up crying. Not at a poignant, beautifully written story. But at the reality that once again, the people that I’m paying to look out for my child’s best interests do not take that responsibility, that trust, seriously.

From the email I wrote to the reading teacher:

There are a number of sex scenes, perhaps the most memorable of which is an account of Tessa’s boyfriend performing oral sex on her, and her inviting him to masturbate while she watches, which he joyfully does. “I have never shared anything so intimate, never seen such a look of bewildered love as his mouth opens and his eyes widen,” Tessa says. Even if I didn’t object to the graphic descriptions that preceded this quote, I absolutely object to my pre-teen getting the message that sex equals intimacy, and orgasm equals love.

If you’re aware of the content of this book, and you believe it is
age-appropriate for your 11- and 12-year-old students, then you and I must agree to disagree. It’s not appropriate for LG.

I am writing this in the hope that you were not fully aware of the book’s content, and that this information will be helpful to you in the future.

It is difficult to find books that engage a voracious, advanced reader, but contain age-appropriate content that holds her interest. I do appreciate thoughtful recommendations from people who have more experience of children’s fiction than I do. I didn’t appreciate this one; indeed, I felt I was put in the position of having to protect her against the recommendation, against exposure to content for which she (thankfully) has no context, and which she really isn’t ready to thoughtfully process. Even beyond the graphic descriptions of sexual encounters, the message of the book is objectionable:

“we made love twenty-seven times and we shared a bed for sixty-two nights, and that’s a lot of love”

The bed-sharing is because once Tessa’s parents know she’s dying, normal teen “rules” are recognized as being unimportant after all, and the boyfriend moves into her room.

[what I didn’t add in the email, but what happens in the book is that apparently, if you’re 16 and dying, you might as well do whatever the hell you feel like — drugs, stealing — because, hey, you’re dying! What a pathetic message; what a missed opportunity. If your life might be cut short, be as selfish and irresponsible as you can. Mmmkaayyy, that’s one way you might go. Or you might think about what is the most positive, productive, lasting way to spend that time. Just sayin’, another way one might go when writing (and recommending) such a novel for children to read]

I’m a family therapist and counselor educator. I’m not naive as to preadolescents’ sexual curiosity. This book is beyond LG’s and most of her peers’ level of sophistication. We have always educated her about sex, talked openly about it, in a developmentally-appropriate way. She is in the very earliest stages of being able to comprehend the relationship between sex and love. This book would be damaging to that developmental process. I won’t go on and on; I trust I’ve communicated how much I object to this recommendation, on many different levels.

I am interested to know whether your recommendation was made after having read the book. I appreciate your having read my concerns here.

I received a terse reply, which included the statement that the book was on a list recommended by a librarian from the county system, and that the reading teacher had not read this book, nor many of the others, and that in the future she would tell the children [as she recommends books she’s never read] that just because she’s recommending the books, or because county, state or national children’s librarians are recommending the books, does not mean that they are appropriate for reading by the children to whom they’re being recommended.

WHAT? Yea, that didn’t reassure me. I don’t recommend books I haven’t read. Would that really be too much to ask? And as for giving kids a list and then saying, “but this might be inappropriate…” Are you kidding me? There’d be a run on the juvenile fiction section. So…this is me, not reassured.

And you know what? I wanted an apology. I’m slowly, painfully realizing that was too much to ask. But had I been in her shoes, my reply would have been more like, “I am SO sorry; I had no idea of the content of that book. I will talk to LG . . . blah blah.” I got nothing like that.

I don’t think any lessons were learned here. I guess my somewhat pessimistic view that there is no one who is going to look out for my kid’s well-being the way I do, was reinforced.

I told LG that there is nothing in the world more precious to me than her brain, and that is why I take so seriously the honor of being entrusted, for these few short years, with its care and feeding. And I hope that some of the standards that I have — out of respect for who she is and who she will be — that some of those standards stick. That she decides, at points along the way, that there are some pursuits that aren’t consistent with where she wants to go, who she is and wants to be. I hope; I pray.

My lovely, thoughtful child was perhaps more generous to her reading teacher than I was. She said, “You know how I trusted Mrs. P to recommend books that are good for us? Well, she probably did the same thing; she probably trusted the county librarian to only recommend books that would be good for us.” Do you see? Do you see why that brain is so precious, why I want to throat-punch someone who doesn’t treat it with the respect it deserves?

I don’t know where, if anywhere, this will go from here. I don’t think the teacher really gets it. And frankly, I don’t know which is worse — if the teacher had read the book and thought it was appropriate, or that she’s recommended books she doesn’t know. Is it too much to ask that she be familiar with the books she’s telling the kids about? And it’s no small matter to me that other preteens are getting that book, and other comparable ones, and they’re not telling their parents. If parents ask at all, the answer of “Mrs. P said we would like it,” will be more than sufficient reassurance for most.

I’m not about banning books. I’m about helping children choose wisely. And having parents be aware of what their kids are putting in their brains. I don’t have the physical or emotional energy for crusading. But there’s always that Golden Rule thing. As a parent, I’d want to know. I don’t know what I will do with what I’ve learned this week.

I found the source of Mrs. P’s recommendations. It’s the YALSA: Young Adults Library Services Association. That might be part of the problem. There’s something called Teen Read Week. The thing is, my kid isn’t a teen. And even next year, when she is . . . there’s a huge jump between just turned 13 and nearly 20. Between early teens and late teens. And I certainly don’t think of my 12-year-old nor of her peers as “young adults.” The closest she might come to that is an “old child.” Maybe there’s a need for a literary category that fits in between children and young adults. They want to make that leap instantly, for sure. But a leap is not the healthiest, wisest way to travel from childhood to young adulthood.

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You’re not really reading this, because I’m not really writing this, because both my husband and I agreed that it was inappropriate. So, even though it’s too inappropriate for me to write, it IS something you would have overheard IF you were hanging out with us.

Susie: So, I’m looking at my blog stats today, at the search terms people used to get here, and somebody got here by searching “I’d fuck Biden.” Just one person got here that way. Then I wondered what other sites people get when they Google that search term, so I Googled it, and guess what?! Nothing. Nada. Zip. I am the one and ONLY! All thanks to William! (Jif already knows that William proclaimed his intentions toward Biden in the comments of the previous post.)

Jif: Only one person? I’ll bet it was Biden!

Susie: (guffaws) Yea, he Googles that every day, just to see what opportunities might be out there…

Jif: He’ll be showing up here next week.

Susie: Wait (laughing hysterically and pretending to look out the window), here comes a Secret Service motorcade down the street!

Jif: Tell William, thanks a lot, Biden’s sitting in our driveway, now.

Susie: Say it ain’t so, Joe! Doggone it!

We’re both cracking up; my stomach is hurting and I can’t breathe for a second.

Susie: Ohmygosh, I have to blog that. No, I can’t write that, it’s too horrible. But it’s so funny. But it’s too horrible…. Isn’t it?

Jif: Yea, you can’t say that.

So, I’m not going to say anything. The only way you would ever know about Biden Googling and stalking and whatnot, is if you were hanging out here and overheard it. (Jif just went outside to redirect him to your house, William.)

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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.

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