Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sarah and the Big Apple

Article by Warren Adler on Gather:

If you want to give people apoplexy in the circles I travel in on my daily rounds all you need to say, however bland or unthreatening, is that you admire Sarah Palin. Their faces flush with indignation, their fists clench, their eyes dart fire and anger, and one has the impression that you are suddenly relegated in their view to the absolute lowest rung of Dante’s inferno.

Since I have never learned the art of social diplomacy and my tongue sometimes acts independently of my natural sense of caution, I find myself in a perpetual single-issue state of conflict with some of my dearest friends and relations.

Thus, I have learned every single laundry list argument against Sarah, a repetitive drumbeat of invective, most of it emotional, indignant and overwrought and, from my perspective, baffling. Here are some samples:She is stupid and uneducated trailer trash. She is a lousy mother, who allowed her daughter to become pregnant. She exploits her children by showing them by her side at public appearances. She should have had an abortion when she learned that she was carrying a Down Syndrome child. She has no experience in governing.

Alaska is a rural backwater and being elected Governor is no big deal. Katie Couric showed how dumb she was. She wants to censor books. Her voice is too high pitched. She talks funny, slangy like a teenager. She is an ignorant phony, a dangerous fascist. She likes to hunt. She dresses like a floozy. She is too religious. She is too patriotic. She is not really a supporter of Israel even if she had an Israeli flag in her office and wore crossed flags, Israeli and American, when she addressed those dumb Tea Party morons.

She is a far right Neanderthal. She had a ghostwriter for her book. She is money hungry, a racist, shallow, corny. I just don’t like her. Don’t ask me why. God forbid she becomes President. She has no experience.

It goes on and on. No defense is acceptable. If you ask why people from outside my orbit cheer her wildly, they will tell you that the people who are ecstatic supporters are flag waving brain dead far right racists, just like Nazis, ignorant, uninformed and clueless.

Yipes. I am not exaggerating. Sometimes I let the rant just flow. When I try a defense I normally get shouted down by people who, on other issues, profess worshiping the concept of free speech, justice, morality, and fairness.

No rebuttal is acceptable. If I tell them, however softly, that she has a degree in journalism, that her father is a beloved High School English teacher, that she has learned the art of politics, campaigning and governing at the grass roots, having been a member of Wasilla City Council they shrug with disinterest and opine that Wasilla is just a backwater hick town as if real people didn’t live there.

If I tell them that she has earned her political bona fides as a comeback kid after losing her bid for the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, to beat the heck out of the good old boy network in Alaska to become Governor, they will look at me blankly. If I tell them she has served on a key energy committee of her state and fought and won a battle to run a natural gas pipeline from Alaska through Canada to the American midwest they will turn away in boredom.

If I tell them she has managed to maintain a stable loving marriage, continued to raise her large family as a devoted mother, while managing an astounding career, they will shrug with indifference and point to her daughter’s pregnancy and her temerity in actually giving birth and not aborting her Down Syndrome child after tests revealed the condition.

As an aside, I try to avoid personalizing the discussion since many who criticize Sarah among my cohorts are divorced with serious dysfunctional family issues of their own. Nor do I dare reveal a personal opinion to my female friends, fearing for my life, that Sarah should be a poster girl for the women’s movement having managed to rear a family while pursuing a successful career, the dream of legions of career motivated women with kids.

If I tell them that she is typical of admired women who love the outdoors, many of whom hunt, fish, ride, hike, snowshoe and ski, they will zero in on hunting as a cruel and immoral practice while they prance in their leather shoes and eat their fill of dead animals. Of course, the wrath of vegans is not reserved for Sarah alone, although many consider her an archetype of evil red meat consumers.

Whether or not people think she can hack it as President of the United States is almost beside the point at this stage. Really folks, by any stretch of the imagination and fairness, does she deserve the calumny that is the daily diet of the so-called mainstream media. She seems to be the object of a perpetual roast.

Considering the environment in which I live and work, the very heart of the Big Apple, I am of course broadcasting from inside a bubble where the mindset is rigid and, despite all the heavy-duty yak yak, amazingly provincial.

Indeed, if I had my way, I would sentence all New Yorkers to spend time outside the bubble and visit places in other corners of America, visit the lunchrooms and diners where ordinary people gossip and break bread, visit the High Schools and land grant colleges out of the Ivy League orbit, check in to state fairs, flea markets, day care centers and nursing homes, attend PTA meetings, town councils, July 4th parades, military mess halls and places where cops and fireman, garbage collectors, doctors and nurses congregate.

I would urge them to listen and observe. America is a vast smorgasbord of divergent interests, where the New York Times and the bloviating progressive punditry do not hold sway and people don’t give a damn about what Hollywood actors think about politics.

Don’t get me wrong. I love New York and I love my New York friends, even those who are in the Sarah Palin booing section....

A few weeks ago one of my fellow questors and I walked toward Columbus Circle passing the posh Trump Tower, which stands facing the Circle and Central Park. Passing in front of the entrance, my companion noted a woman in a baseball cap busy on a cell phone standing beside a pretty little girl.

It was Sarah Palin and her daughter Piper. They were alone, out of context for us. In the Big Apple no less. There were no crowds, just a mom and her daughter. You’ve come a long way from Wasilla, I thought, as Sarah stood at the entrance to this plush establishment obviously waiting for a car to pick her up. Good for you, baby. Ignore the slings and arrows and your Big Apple detractors. Enjoy our crazy town.

Then it occurred to me how really lucky this pretty little girl was to travel around with her amazing mother and observe and learn things about people and the world that most kids will never get a chance to do. After all, Sarah could have left the child home as many busy ambitious career crazed moms often do, however reluctantly.

For some reason I felt good about America and the Big Apple, despite its contentiousness, its clashing opinions, its loud and ugly politics, and focused instead on the possibilities and the hopes and dreams of every one of us.

I wanted to say to her: Welcome to New York baby. Stick around. We’re not as bad or tough or heartless as we appear. And one day you might even make it here… and if you make it here you can make it anywhere.

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