While our Republicans were in the state of rapture with their vice president’s nominee, I was stunned looking at Sara Palin’s family in their seats, with the dozing babypassed from lap to lap, finally to land in the lap of the youngest one, a child herself who from time to time graced his head with her handful of spit. (I’m not sure if it has any Alaskan ritualistic significance.)
Oddly enough, the great emphasis was on Sara Palin’s being a “woman” candidate, and an “everyday mother”, compensating for her lack of experience. Her utterances such as “our family from inside, like many others, is not typical” and “the difference between a hockey mother and a pig is the lipstick” were well praised by media as witty and well-handled. Witty and well-handled, yes; though, it could not divert my attention from what I had zoomed at.
A woman with a picture-perfect “average”, not elitist family, with a token of everything in it, a handicap, a soldier, a native, a pregnant. A fundamentalist Protestant woman who has pledged to fertilize up to the last egg in her ovary, one who is against any touch-up in what is planned by the Divine. A woman who is so committed to the life of a few cells (a fetus) that she thinks abortion should not be performed even in the case of incest and rape! (A woman who is violated by a criminal should be violated by law as well. See if the sharia could beat that!)
Indeed she is portrayed as a maverick as well. A woman who flies eight hours to Texas at a very late stage of a complicated pregnancy with a child that needs special care, and still when water breaks is so unconcerned that she does not rush to the hospital, but takes the eight hour flight back to Alaska with few hours stop in Seattle during which flight she is so calm that even the flight attendants do not notice anything unusual about her situation. Does she go to hospital that night? No way! That is not the luxury that a governor could afford. Private matter, not only are respected, but must wait for the next day when she drives some forty-five minutes to a small hospital in the vicinity of a village. Well, anything strange? Not really. We all know what it means to have emotional attachment to friends, relatives, doctors and priests and teachers and so on and so forth. It may have been the hospital and the doctor who delivered her other four children and must be the one to have the honor for the fifth. But even so, her laxness coupled with other permissiveness indicates something more than just being an ordinary person with a soft attitude.
Naturally, all members of this picture-perfect family are involved in her campaign. Each one is a testimony to the causes she advocates. Her son, who has registered to go to war in Iraq, (of course a successful war, as she keeps repeating) comes to highlight her patriotism. The pregnant teenage daughter who decided to keep the baby, sitting next to the boyfriend holding hands, tries to serve as a stamp of approval on the mother’s devotion to the “right to life”. (Lucky Bristol who can decide what to do with her baby; when her mom becomes vice president, the rest of the women won’t have that choice, but will be forced to keep it.) And the presence of an infant in the crowd and noise of the convention sleeping like a doll in the lap of another child, not in a baby basin or stroller, up to eleven-thirty at night, seems part of the campaign as well. Otherwise what is the virtue of torturing an infant who does not even understand what is going on? (Couldn’t they have left him with a babysitter in a hotel? I wonder if a rock star would have brought her/his baby to the stadium while performing, would he/she have been charged with child abuse?)
To be honest, I did not need to listen to her speech very carefully, but I did. I knew what was coming; the commentators counting her catchy phrases, examining if she “delivered” the speech well and if she received enough applaud from the audience. There was nothing of the everyday mom’s concerns in it, nothing of health insurance, childcare, elderly homecare, pension plans for women, pregnancy and childcare leave, etc., but a lot about Obama and wisecracks at his expense. “I’ll tell you a little about what a mayor do, something like community organizer” derogatory references to what Michelle and Barack Obama did after graduating with distinction from Harvard University. Yes, I guess only a hockey mom who is distinguished from a dog only by her lipstick could make such an obscene remark. And only bunch of her soul mates could laugh at them. (By the way, in her first election, she was elected by 600 votes and the second, by a little over 900.) She also talked about the ambiguous changes that their team would stand for. (I’m still wondering what those changes would be from what to what.) Shortly after her speech, I listened to the usual commentators on Jim Lehrer’s News Hour. It was only Mark Shield who caught one of her faulty claims, that she had refused federal money allocated for the "bridge to nowhere", though she forgot to mention that she did so only after the it became the subject of ridicule. It was just the day after that brought about numerous faulty claims in her speech.
However, the VP of the party of family values did not come clean as to the account of her own family values (which could have been the best witness to her executive experience as well.) Respect for their privacy should not prevent us from questioning what we would like to know and what we must know. Bristol’s pregnancy in fact is not a private matter since she comes as a support for the candidate’ right to life campaign. And the infant, Trig, pulled out of bed, dragged to the convention, and treated as a doll passed from one hand to the other hand, departs from the private domain too. They both could be dealt with as any of the candidate’s assets or liabilities quite publicly, exactly like her tax record and her driving license.
As a matter of fact, Bristol’s pregnancy at seventeen, while suffering from a disease which kept her away from school for months, and her decision to keep the baby, does tell us a lot about the mother who display her large family her as a kind of credential. It tells us also a lot about their family relationship. The pregnancy of a high school girl, unmarried, financially dependent, is indeed a personal or, at best, family matter. But when the family comes to endorse a person to such a high position and is displayed as the candidate’s assets then it is hard to push it under the veil of privacy. Sara Palin, being against sex education at schools and abortion and probably contraception should be able to explain where our children are supposed to learn about responsible sexual conduct and its consequence. Where should a teenage learn that a child needs a family first, and in order to have a family one needs to declare herself/himself independent? And finally where our children supposed to learn that just mere copulation is not the only precondition for having children? Where should they learn that a human child is not only a biological affair but a cultural one and that a huge amount of responsibility is involved in bringing another human being into the world? If the answer is “family”, then it is fair to say she is a total failure in that ground.
The general picture of an “average woman”, who is a mayor and a governor and a vice president of the most powerful country on earth, that Sara Palin who portrays herself this way, is only a myth. In reality, a working woman, particularly the capacity of being mayor or governor, needs to sacrifice many of her traditional female roles and responsibilities even if she desires them all. Not to be able to make a balance between one’s heart and mind, desires and responsibilities, by itself indicates a rawness and immaturity no less grave than the immaturity of a teenager who wakes up with morning sickness and excuses herself from going to school to take her test.
Sara Palin,with some luck, could avoid media and microphones and hide under the veil of privacy until the second Tuesday of November 2008. But after that, if she is so lucky, she should come with explanation for many of these abnormalities before she rushes to the phone at three in the morning to settle a matter of war and peace only if she is not suffering from morning sickness since it seems planning, discipline, thinking and reason have not find their way into herlife.
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