In the company I keep, mostly a large and vibrant circle of intellectuals, academics, literati, elitists, entrepreneurs, activists, lawyers, all articulate and eloquent, superb arguers and largely Democrats and liberals of both genders, I sometimes reach a point that compels me to slyly redirect the conversation. It is a rather mundane but an archly provocative process.
I say quite simply in a tone without emotion that I like Sarah Palin.
At first there is a profound silence, then a confused exchange of glances, then baffled shrugs and finally what passes as expressions of disbelief. Naturally, I am expected to offer an explanation as if I had just opined to a company of ardent priests that there is no God.
My explanation goes something like this.
Because I had lived in the West for more than a decade, I know and understand the type. Sarah is tough, combative, fearless and outspoken. She is fiercely independent, understands both the glorious and treacherous sides of the natural world, having lived in the midst of the often tyrannical Alaskan landscape and, in terms of her political stance, she has what is commonly called “attitude.” It is probably environmentally instigated.
When she talks of herself as a “Grizzly Mom” the image is reflective of a fiercely possessive maternal animal spirit where protecting one’s offspring is a paramount motivation. Devotion to her mate and family is a given. Within the family, she understands her role, which is not subservient, but cooperative and authoritative. Why many feminists detest her is a mystery to me, an ardent believer in the intrinsic power of her gender.
She is fearless and cunning, emotionally lethal weapons that she has wielded to knock out the old boy network that had controlled Alaska since its inception. In short, people push Sarah around at their peril. Mess with a woman like Sarah and you are in deep doody. In a male, such attitude is considered macho and commanding. In a woman, many think of her as a bitch.
Frankly, I admire her reaction to all the outrageous put-downs she has endured since pushed out onto the national stage. She has been pummeled by the so-called traditional media, taken to task for her use of the slangy American idiom, her too high pitched voice, her ambition, her good looks, which she has tried unsuccessfully to mask with her glasses. Remember those Hollywood movies where the heroine is asked by the hero to take off her glasses and suddenly her beauty becomes magnetic and overpowering?
Like most of us who have endured put-downs, she has faced a relentless attempt by the mainstream media to diminish her, make her lesser, insult her intelligence, her background, her education, her speech, her lifestyle, her family, her parenting, her political experience, her religion, her point of view, her clothes, her hairstyle…you name it. She has been excoriated, reviled, insulted and dismissed.
In the classic worm-turns universal plot of many a novel and movie, Sarah has done what many victims of such attacks might have fantasized about doing. She has fought back with double barreled wit and intensity. She has offered no apologies and has surrendered not one iota of her integrity. Hell, I asked for it, she opines. And she has prevailed as a political force, whether you like her stated policies or not.
Her critics want her to go away. The mother of a previous President wants her to stay in Alaska. Now there is irony for you. Consider how many devoutly wished her son had stayed in Texas.
There is something quintessentially American in Sarah’s attitude, in her assumption of the role of the happy warrior, who goes into combat against all odds with a smile and a prayer. Remember that old World War II lyric “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” Hell, if this attitude was okay for the greatest generation it is okay for those living in America in the twenty-first century. In fact, it may be essential if we are to endure as an exceptional nation.
Did I write “exceptional”? Damn straight.
In an odd way, Sarah’s popularity reflects the abysmal decline of the traditional mainstream media. Their influence has dropped precipitously in the last few years, much of it self-inflicted. There are more pundits by far and less wisdom being proffered, more analysts and less meaningful unbiased analysis, more problems being cited and less solutions, more politicians professing leadership skills with little or none, lots of high-falutin baloney by intellectuals, academics and politicians with miniscule common sense and even less practical experience who think that most Americans are stupid, clueless and not worthy of respect.
If the majority of mainstream media had had its way Sarah would be toast and her political career extinguished, a fact which illustrates that the media as we once knew it has lost its power to control the American agenda, especially in politics.
I have no idea if this explanation penetrates the rigid mindset of my pals. Most of them will persist in their trailer trash view of Sarah, as opportunistic, crass, ignorant and without gravitas. The thought of her running for President gives them heartburn for which there is no cure.
Many in my circle think her politics are simple minded, the mantra of the tea party e.g. personal responsibility, smaller government, less Federal interference in our personal lives, fear of overspending, fervent patriotism and a militant stance against our enemies, especially Islamic Jihad which Sarah views as an existential threat. Expressing similar opinions in table talk conversations often puts me in the category of a wild Neanderthal menace, out of step with the complicated reality of America in the age of diversity and globalism.
Believe me, it takes a great deal of restraint and discipline to keep an open mind in the locked world of certainty and self-righteous indignation expressed in my circle. Nevertheless I am grateful for the civilized tolerance of my friends who manage to keep their internal seething in check and rise above their prejudices. On the larger stage, I hope that those who disagree would offer the same hearing and courtesy to Sarah Palin discarding the invective, anger and in some cases hair raising hatred.
They are baffled by her popularity and the admiration of so many who they characterize as the great unwashed, the flotsam of the boonies, the gun-lovers, the religious crackpots, the inane, poorly educated, redneck, fat assed hamburger flippers and assorted morons who, they truly believe, live like maggots in a rotting corpse. You know who I mean, as the big-shot from BP characterized them, the little people.
Oddly, in yet another ironic twist, my pals truly believe that they are morally invested in the welfare of these little people.
I will admit that I can’t as yet embrace the idea of Sarah taking up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But I sure would be more secure if the present resident would adopt some of Sarah’s “attitude”.