Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blessed is the unblinking Sarah Palin.

Caught Palin's whistle-stop appearance in Ohio yesterday, and here's what I took away:

She's blessed and she's ready, oh boy is she ever ready, so ready, so ready and eager, eager because she doesn't blink—no blinking allowed in this administration!—and that's because, again, in her blessed state of perpetual readiness...

Gag me.

Thing is, I want Sarah Palin to blink. I want her to blink because sometimes you're better off blinking than, say, sending 150,000 troops on a wild goose chase that bankrupts the nation and leaves 4160 mothers, now, hugging folded flags instead of their precious sons and
daughters. I also want her to blink because she has five kids, one of which is five months old and handicapped*, another of which is 17 and pregnant (and apparently is being thrust into the arms of a studly hockey player who represents himself on his MySpace page with thoughts that read like lyrics from 50 Cent), and still another of which, adorable 7-year-old Piper, when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, replies "a baby-sitter." (Did anyone else who saw that clip wonder what might be going on in the little girl's head? Sure, I could be making something out of nothing; this could be Freud's cigar all over again. But couldn't it be telling us something, too?)

I also confess that the more I think about it, the less I understand this whole feminist thing about "having it all." Who gets to have it all? I don't care who you are or of what gender, life is about trade-offs and sacrifices. Derek Jeter can't be both the Yankee shortstop and a top-flight OB/GYN (though from what I hear he takes an earnest stab at the latter, at least on an ad hoc basis). Baseball teams travel too much and women want their regular doctor there when they're having the baby. A (male) entrepreneur who's working 80 hours a week to launch his business can't be a great father; just can't happen. As I think I mentioned some months ago, Harry Chapin captured this fatherly predicament for us decades ago in his song, Cat's Cradle.

I hear women say (most recently Geraldine Ferraro) that this is about Choices. If you look up the word choose, as I just did on, it says "to select from a number of possibilities" or to "pick by preference." I hate to belabor the obvious, but if you're selecting and picking and preferring, that means there are other things you're not doing, or you're not doing them as well as you might otherwise. And yet we have so much trouble facing that simple reality in this country. The other day I heard Gwyneth Paltrow, on the verge of tears, explain to Oprah's audience why she was working far less since becoming a mother. Though she could easily find people to look after her baby, said Paltrow, she couldn't bear the thought of being on a distant movie location while someone else got to look into her infant son's eyes as little Moses awoke from a nap. "You can't replace those moments," said Paltrow. "Not for you or your child."

If you believe in Options and Choices, then Sarah Palin, five different times, chose motherhood, with all that it connotes and demands. Tell me why it's so unspeakably wrong for some of us to wonder whether that should limit her options in other areas.

* let's use the real words, OK? Instead of the euphemisms we so often use to avoid facing the truth.


Steve Salerno said...

Folks, these posts may not be as "clean" as I always try to make them. For some reason known only to Blogger, I have lost all editing functions, and I get precisely one shot at publishing: I have to write the item in Word or some other off-blog program, try to make it as error-free as possible, then hope for the best, because as soon as I hit "publish," all traces of the post disappear from my files. For example, I know there are spelling mistakes in this post, and I hope they're not too distracting. Bear with me till I (and/or Blogger) figure this out.

Steve Salerno said...

P.S. For the same reasons, the process of providing internal URLs is also way too complicated, and I'm not going to bother with it for now. That's why there are no links in the post. No art, either, for that matter.

2writehands said...

Maybe Palin could take some blinking lessons from Joel Osteen. I mean, have you seen that man blink? It's like he can't control himself.

Elizabeth said...

Steve, I too want The GOP Madonna to learn how to blink *and* think -- perhaps she can even manage to do both at the same time -- though I'm not holding my breath. You put lipstick on a wind-up toy, it's still a wind-up toy. Ye shall abandon all hope for igniting any cognitive activity by dressing it up.

But I wish you stopped bringing in feminism (negatively) in the context of Palin.

Palin is to feminism as Pat Buchanan is to Zionism. These two just don't go together, no matter how hard you try to make them.

BTW, women's groups endorse Obama/Biden in droves. And, personally, the more I learn about Biden, the more I like him. Really, really like him. (Can I say I like him more than Obama? There. I just did.) Palin could take lessons from Biden on feminism.* This guy seems to know and understand what women go through. Not much evidence of it in Palin's case. Having a vagina is simply not enough. Gotta be able to think, imagine and (gasp) empathize with others. Palin just does not have the abilities in those respects.

OK, and last, but not least, it is about choices, yes. But as the word implies, when you choose something, you, most likely, have to forfeit its alternative. This is part of having choices -- understanding what they entail (sacrificing the alternatives). Can't say more about it, pressed for time -- ha, can't have it all, obviously. :)

*You don't have to declare yourself a feminist to be one. And sometimes those who do proudly call themselves feminists are anything but.

Anonymous said...

Most mothers who are feminists know we can't have it all - and we choose. Many of us limiting family size (think Hilary and only-child Chelsea) so that we can give our children all the emotional support they need. I am angry and ***** every time I hear Palin praised as a heroic mother - she is a neglectful mother and a careerist.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, I hear ya; I know that it isn't really fair to use Palin as a bridge to critiquing feminism. She represents feminism (in the whole) about as well as I represent, well, normalcy. OTOH, you have to admit, her candidacy does embody certain issues that were, at least at one time, central to the feminist agenda--and it should be clear by now from the comments, a number of which are from women, that the support for WorkingMotherhood is not as universal as one might expect, even in 2008.

ellen said...

Working women thrashed this one out in the 90's--you can have it all but not all at the same time. After all that superwoman bilge (now being resurrected by AK Barbie) women realised that a choice for one thing means that another had to go. High-flying career women left the workforce in droves when the biological clock started to chime, others decided to not have kids, some took a long career break knowing that they would never make up the progress on their return. You rightly castigate the fools who demand special treatment simply because they are female but there are fools in both genders and always plenty who will jump on any passing victimisation bandwagon.

ellen said...

Working class women always worked from pure necessity. Feminism was a non-issue to them, they worked, their children worked--keeping the wolf from the door was the issue, not choice.
Nowadays we all work but oddly none of us class ourselves as 'working class'

Steve Salerno said...

I certainly can't quibble with your last line, Ellen. It is always dangerous to root one's arguments in sweeping generalizations or even cultural observations that are too broadly drawn.

Isn't it funny, though, what strange bedfellows Candidate Palin has brought to the fore, here in America? (You write from across the pond, yes?) So now we have dyed-in-the-wool conservatives suddenly arguing The Case For The Working Mother, while liberals are put in the uncomfortable position of having to attack a woman who--at least in some ways--personifies everything they once dreamed of, when they first evolved the Superwoman Myth.

The lengths we will go to, to Win, huh?

Anonymous said...

..."The lengths we will go to, to Win, huh?"

I will not go to such lengths. I am saddened and disturbed by the non-stop assault on Gov. Palin - much of it completely off base. It appears that the whole purpose is this attack is to make her cry. From accusing her of faking birth to hacking and publishing her private email - her whole treatment has taken on a Nixon-like feel. I still don't know much about her record, but I know too much about her family, her looks, her hobbies, and personal, non-issues.

But what is even more disturbing was that Obama made an early, public, passionate appeal to end all smearing. And it has gone unheeded. was it sincere, or can't Obama lead?

I am no longer a democrat - I'm independent now.

RevRon's Rants said...

Never mind the whinings of all us lefty pinkos, it appears that even a senior Republican finds Palin unqualified for the job of pitbull in-chief in waiting. Of course, the article below appears in that bastion of subversive socialism, the BBC. But keep in mind, they are only reporting what Hagel has publicly stated! Here's the link:

RevRon's Rants said...

"But what is even more disturbing was that Obama made an early, public, passionate appeal to end all smearing. And it has gone unheeded."

Most predominantly by the McCain campaign. The current situation is reminiscent of a previous administration, but I would suggest that the treatment of Hillary by Republicans bears closer similarity.

Bottom line is that a candidate whose primary appeal lies in her alleged values has to expect those values to be scrutinized, and for any dissimilarity between her professed values and her actual behavior to be pointed out.

She made choices; now, she has to live with the inevitable results of those choices. I only hope that voters will remember that the same truism applies to them when they go to the ballot boxes.

Elizabeth said...

Jane Smiley's opinion piece from two weeks ago makes many of these points as well:

Elizabeth said...

the support for WorkingMotherhood is not as universal as one might expect, even in 2008

That's because we women tried it -- or tried to try it -- and realized that there are only 24 hours in a day and our own energy reservoir is not unlimited. I agree with both Anon and Ellen here. Though a feminist by heart (but don't carry a card), I stayed home with the kids (luckily, we could afford this option) or worked part-time when needed. Never had a baby-sitter, as the idea was unthinkable to me (still is -- it's the effect of being a day-care kid). Not that it has been easy, but, well, that's life, I suppose.

Hm... I remember how, before my first (now adult) child was born, I imagined that I would go back to school right after his birth, carry him in a little bassinet and plop it down in class while he slept peacefully and I took my notes... Yep, naive and clueless. But one learns fast when forced by circumstances. Sigh.

Steve Salerno said...

Geez, Eliz, that's such sweet, sentimental imagery in that second graph there. You made me smile and almost brought a tear to my eye.

I'm such a freakin' softie that way. Is there an easy test for gayness?

Elizabeth said...

Isn't it funny, though, what strange bedfellows Candidate Palin has brought to the fore, here in America?

One of the funnier things is how right-wingers discovered sexism.

No more than a few months ago, when Hillary was still running, we were inundated by all kinds of sexist right-wing attacks, often given with the pretend "feminism" (or, what some perversely call "positive feminism," LOL) which excused those attacks by reasoning that it is sexist to be "kinder" to a woman just because of her gender. ("Kinder" being a euphemism for fair and civil here.)

Now that Palin is in the run, one cannot enter a right-wing site without the charge of sexism leaping in one's face in discussions about her. In a way, we should be grateful to McCain for Palin -- and the feminist consciousness-raising epidemic on the Right that his choice has provoked, LOL.

P.S. Somethin' tells me that the consciousness-raising in that particular neck of the woods ain't gonna bring permanent changes, though.

Elizabeth said...

I'm such a freakin' softie that way. Is there an easy test for gayness?

LMAO. If there is, I don't know it. But what's wrong with being a freakin' softie? (Much preferred to being a freakin' macho nut, IMO.)

Joking aside, I genuinely thought this was what my motherhood would like when I was pregnant with the first one. I had no idea. As I'm sure none of us parents do before we are actually thrown into this new and scary world of mind-boggling responsibilities.

You often said, Steve, that your own parenting was somewhat inadequate (you said "a joke," but I don't believe you). What I do believe, though, is that we all fumble at this. It's much harder than we (and people without kids) realize. You parents out there know exactly what I'm talking about, dontcha. :)

It's essentially one screw up after another (on our, the parents' part). It's really a miracle that our kids survive and manage to grow into more or less independent adults.

Steve Salerno said...

Independent adults, huh? Reminds me of a joke about the abortion issue. (Humor does not tend to grow organically out of abortion, NPI, but in this case...well, lemme just tell the joke.) The comedian says, "The pro-choice crowd want to define life as beginning when the entity is viable on its own. If that's the case, given the current generation, then life begins at about 35...."

Mike Cane said...

Speaking of Palin's eyes. I think Chris nailed it here: Christopher Fowler Re: Sarah Palin. Scroll down for the grpahic I swiped.

Elizabeth said...

Steve, note that I said "more or less independent," knowing all too well that it's usually less than more.

Veering off (not much though), has anyone watched McCain and Palin's speeches on economy given in Iowa today? Holy cow. Clueless does not begin to describe this duo. I have some choice words, but Steve does not allow us to use them, so I won't. Theirs is political posturing at its worst to cover a complete lack of understanding of the issues and equally complete lack of reasonable plans to deal with them.

(And sounding like Minnie Mouse on speed -- Palin -- does not make stupidity any more palatable.)

(Gasp! Dear Lord, that may have been construed as sexist! Lemme assure you that I offer my criticisms of Caribou Barbie in the sisterly spirit of feminist equality only. As I learned from the best right-wing Hillary bashers.)

Margaret said...

Hello Steve, as always thank you for your erudite blog. While I don't always agree with your opinion, I always agree with how you present it. Good writing seems to be on a fast train out of town these days and your blog is great for intelligent dialogue, friendly banter and, on occasion, some good ole fashioned fightin' words. It's enlightening and a hoot to boot.

I realize that the comments have taken a turn towards the feminist slant and I would like to comment on this portion:

"Thing is, I want Sarah Palin to blink. I want her to blink because sometimes you're better off blinking than, say, sending 150,000troops on a wild goose chase that bankrupts the nation and leaves 4160 mothers, now, hugging folded flags instead of their precious sons and daughters."

I'd like to weigh in on this. My son turned 18 on July 1 2008 and promptly enlisted in the United States Army.

All his life, he seemed to be geared toward this. He played with dolls as a child - GI Joes.

Our ancestors, his ancestors, fought in the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I and his great uncle was a lawyer, assitant to the Adjutant General at the Nuremburg Trials.

His second cousin graduated from West Point. My grandfather, his great-grandfather, served with Patten and MacArthur when they chased Pancho Villa back into Mexico in 1914. His great-grandfather spent 18 months in the trenches in France, and was reported to have been the first American officer wounded in WWI. He went on to earn the DSC, the Silver Star and the list goes on and on. I am a member of the Womens' Legion of Valor.

My son has a trust fund, he was scouted by Duke University in the 7th grade and took the SAT then - he did well.

My family begged and attempted to bribe him to not join the Army. He is smart; the sargeant who enlisted him had never had a recruit score 99 on the test before.

I begged my son to go Navy Nuclear. I begged my son to be a writer for the Army or a cartoonist or a tumpeteer - he is gifted in all. I begged him to go into the Intelligence Service, and discussed all of the potential benefits of each.

He attended high school in Sydney, Australia and was an Army Cadet here. On Anzac day, in the dark quiet morning, we would be traveling to the cenotaph at toen square at 4am so he could play the trumpet - The Last Post - for the community to commemorate Australian soldiers who sacrificed their lives since the Boer War, and especially the huge numbers of lost lives in WWI.

I begged him to join the Australian Army - he could apply and get dual citizenship and attend Duntroon - the equivilant of West Point. He refused.

I begged him to simply attend college in the US as ROTC on his trust fund. I urged him to join as an officer to have greater control of his own destiny. He refused.

He told me that innocent women and children are being slaughtered, and he must do what he can NOW to help them.

As I type, he is at Fort Benning Georgia learning the art of warfare.

He has been graded as expert in marksmanship, hand-grenades, and was one of 27 in the entire crew of 220 to pass his hand-to-hand fighting skills the first try.

He is happy as a pig in mud.

I don't know where he will be stationed or what will happen to him.

I birthed him and nurtured him and guided him. That is all I can do. I cannot design his life. Believe me, I tried.

How long will be his life span? Who knows?

When a young person joins the US military, at least in the example of my family, it has little if anything to do with the sitting president or vice president.

So what does a mother do when she hugs a folded flag that graced the coffin of their son or daughter?

She still loves him. That is all.

Lest We Forget.

Steve Salerno said...

Margaret: What a wonderful, insightful, and above all, touching comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to share it with us here. I will ask my wife--who handles the divine intercessions in this household--to say a prayer for your boy.

ellen said...

Margaret's comment was truly sobering--the human perspective on war and soldiering. I come from a military family, schooled in military schools on bases across the world and recognise the need for an effective military.
My hope for her son is that he gets a commander-in-chief who is worthy of him, one who will not squander soldiers lives on pre-emptive strikes against supposed foes, actions that are thinly-disguised grabs at the worlds remaining energy resources.
When Tony B Liar hitched the UK to the Bush bandwagon in Iraq, a million people took to the streets here to protest-- to no avail.
B Liar had already used the so-called 'War on Terror' to undermine our rights to legitimite and effective protest and to gag debate and truthful reporting. Strange, since we have had IRA terrorist bombings on the UK streets constantly since the 70s, and never before required the rafts of legislation undermining civil liberties that have proliferated since 9/11.
Terrorists had previously been dealt with adequately as criminals.
The reasons for the current war jaunt to Afghanistan have long puzzled me; this area of the world has repelled invaders for centuries. The terrain and the calibre of the defenders defeated us Brits in the 19th century, the Russians in the 20th century and will defeat the Nato forces this time.
I don't buy the noble sentiments regarding the freeing of Afghan women or the search-and-destroy mission for a bearded crack-pot living in a cave.
Imagine my surprise when it turns out that the forbidding terrain is a goldmine, a veritable cornucopia of all sorts of priceless minerals and natural resources just begging to be exploited by behemoth western corporations.
Karzai was an employee of one of these corporations (with murky affiliations to US Gov defence organisations) which originally tried to buy off the Taliban--no consideration then for the plight of Afghan women or the hunting of crack-pots in caves.
The Taliban got wise to this, took the money and then broke the bargain; they quite like their inhospitable country and don't want their hills strip-mined.
I'd do the same were I an Afghan with a medieval mind-set, suddenly introduced to global real-politik.
Instead I'm a cynical British woman, sick of being cynically hoodwinked and exploited by the profit-driven war-mongers masquerading as our leaders. I fervently hope that Tony Blair is eventually indicted for war crimes.
And to return to the topic, I find Sarah Palin's brandishing of her AK47 and the promises to zap the uppity foreigners who won't surrender their heritage, land and resources deeply offensive to me as a woman and a thinking human being. said...

Hello Steve,

Between your election and ours (I live in Canada), it's becoming increasingly surreal. At least you have the option of voting for Obama. I'm not happy with any of our choices. As usual, I'll plug my nose and choose the least annoying candidate when I mark my ballot.

I'm old enough to know better, but the hypocrisy of the right is so blatant it's annoying, not just a little, but a lot. If Obama, for example, had a pregnant, unwed 17-year old daughter, you can bet that the Republicans would be going at it like a dog chewing on his or her favourite bone. But, I'm not seeing anyone saying "Hey, the emperor is naked!" Oh wait, we'd rather hear the latest about Britney, Angelina and what's his name and their ever growing litter. Watching what's happening with the elections is like watching a bad TV sitcom and these people (I've seen more convincing performances at high school productions) need to be held accountable for their words and deeds.

As a former journalist, it never ceases to amaze me that so few reporters are truly doing their jobs. They need to be asking more questions, pointed questions, even if it means they won't be receiving Seasons Greetings cards from politicians. Sarah Palin is scary. The fact that many women are now rushing out to buy glasses just like hers is creepy. What's next? Are these same women going to pop out baby after baby and later smile proudly when a child follows mamma's lead and abstains from using birth control, resulting in (gasp) a baby? Look ma, a playmate for Trig!

It's a strange, strange world we live in!

J said...

P.S. Regarding feminism, when it comes to making choices I don't want to be held back because of my gender. But, you're never really "free" in any sense of the word until you accept and deal with the realities as they exist. Wishing and hoping won't magically change anything.

In other words, you can only make the best choices based on what you know to be true and then take action. For instance, my body was designed to carry a baby, not to impregnate someone else. Like it or not that is my reality.

As for having it all, no one can be in two places at the same time -- no matter how much money, power or help a person has, it just can't happen. So it's all nice and fine for Palin to continue to add to her family, but while tending to her career, who is tending to her kids, especially her youngest who has and will continue to have more issues than the rest of her offspring?

It's about choices. And her choices not only effect her, but the kids she chose to have. It's selfish to have kids just because you can, especially if you're focused on a demanding career which will leave you with less time for your children. It's also selfish to show off your kids as one of your big accomplishments so that you can be elected.

While I would love to see a woman in power, I would never vote for anyone just because of her gender. She has to bring more to the table than an ability to serve as a baby incubator and a closet filled with dresses. She has to have values I agree with and who will do her best to serve the people she represents.


Elizabeth said...

I pushed (Palin) on the earth's creation, whether it was really less than 7,000 years old and whether dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. And she said yes, she'd seen images somewhere of dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them.*

Munger also asked Palin if she truly believed in the End of Days, the doomsday scenario when the Messiah will return. "She looked in my eyes and said, 'Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime.'

Full text:

*That must have been the one and only moment when she blinked.