Saturday, July 4, 2009

So, Sarah Palin resigned, and the Eastern press laughs in scorn...

“How inept can she be? . . .And her hastily-arranged press conference—what a hoot! . . . The lady still can’t put one word in front of another without stumbling over them.”

Is the allegedly “elitist” press corps truly that deaf to the heartbeat of reactionary patriotism? So highly refined that sentence structure is what matters?

Sometimes I feel that I am destined, or doomed, to be the embodiment of the “culture wars gap” — the great distance which divides the Northeast and the liberal Coastal cities from the so-called Heartland. With deep roots in the conservative, fundamentalist South, I am a cultural refugee-convert to the Northeast, a progressive Christian in the Episcopal Church. Pretty far from a Palin supporter.

But when Gail Collins’ opines with ironic glee that “Sarah Palin has come a long way....Now (even) the prepared remarks are incoherent,” half of me smirks along with her, and the other half feels she just doesn’t get it at all. Not the way this will play to Palin’s enthusiastic base of supporters, many of whom agree with Sarah’s conviction that God has destined her to be President. (Which, by the way, is one of my nightmares. Remember, I’m a “refugee” from Sarah-Land.)

How is Collins’—and many other commentators—wrong, even if their cleverness is Oh So Right On? Let me count the ways:

Well, among the Alaskan governor’s alleged “incoherent” remarks are the following:

'Life is about choices' declared the nation’s most anti-choice politician. Sorry, Gail; right, but wrong. “Choices” equals “freedom” as in land of the free and home of the brave. Code word. Sure, Sarah supports what liberals call “anti-choice.” Sarah calls it “pro-life.” One language: two divergent vocabularies.

She babbled about her parent’s refrigerator magnet which apparently had a lot of wise advice. Gail; the magnet says “Don’t explain: Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe you anyway.” Maybe Gail doesn’t relish refrigerator magnets, or hers reflect her many travels, but out there in middle America religious and moral sentiments abide. That parental magnet speaks powerfully of the feelings of an embattled minority whose sentiments are considered “incoherent” by the cogniscenti.

Palin’s stated desire to save Alaska the "waste of millions of dollars" over alleged charges of ethical misconduct is seen as a possible get-out-of-town-quick move before another scandal breaks. Gail hopes it will be an adulterous affair—smirk, smirk. Again, she misses the code words: "government waste." Palin campaigned to make state government more “efficient and effective.” She has, in her telling of it, been hounded out of office by “politics as usual,” by “media hounding” and by “enemies.” Code words. Code words. Code words.

Code words galore:

“to build up, not to tear down” (well-known quote from the Bible);
“fruitfulness and productivity”;
“industrious, generous, patriotic people”
“ take the RIGHT path...though it is UNCONVENTIONAL.”

Code words, not incoherence. Forget the sentence structure. Liberals seem to believe that clear thinking will win any struggle. Truth be told, not everybody can think all that clearly, and thinking isn’t the only form of “smart” around. As e.e. cummings said in a very different context: ....since feeling is first, whoever pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you....

Palin knows how to kiss. How to kiss the sore places in the psyches of people who feel America has been headed down the wrong road since the 1960s. How to kiss the fearful hearts who believe that moral “apostasy” invites the wrath of God. How to kiss the bruises of those who feel the Establishment looks on them with scorn. She’s their icon.

If those of us in Obamaland really think the threat of a serious right-wing takeover of America has disappeared, we are paying too much attention to getting our syntax right, and missing the drumbeats going strong out there in the nation’s hinter-heartland. Sarah made it big in the headlines today, the 4th of July. That was no miscalculation on her part.

She is the dream girl of an impassioned minority of Americans this very Independence Day. Gail, northeasterners, liberals, take note! And, for God’s sake, don’t laugh.

For Gail Collins' NY Times Op-Ed piece, go to:

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