Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Palin Epiphany

I’ve been perusing everything there is to read about Sarah Palin looking for support, for a reasoned rationale for my intense gut level disdain for this first ever, Republican, female Vice Presidential candidate. As if I need more reasons than those plastered all over CNN and the New York Times, not to mention US Magazine, within the first few days of her nomination. She’s for everything I’m vehemently opposed to. She’s ‘for’ censorship and book banning at public libraries, freewheeling gun-toting NRA-style shoot ‘em ups, pre-emptive war, pro-life policies even in the most extreme cases of rape and incest. Do I need more reasons to feel nausea and disgust? Do I really need further support points to justify my fiercely profound contempt?

I want to be pleased that a woman can potentially reach the executive office. I want to be delighted that the glass ceiling in politics has seemingly been shattered. But I’m not. This is not what I had in mind, I’ll admit.

I’d hoped for a female candidate that was actually pro-woman. Pro-anyone who maybe hasn’t had a fair shake. For instance, those tired and huddled masses that I’m pretty certain she wants to keep from entering our fair land. For gays who’d like the same rights in a long term relationship as their heterosexual counterparts. I’d also hoped for a female candidate that was anti-war - aren’t women tired of sending their sons and husbands off to battle? And how about a candidate that brought to bear her shrewd mothering skills as an influencer/negotiator to build bridges.

Not bridges to nowhere – which Ms. Palin claims she kaboshed, when truth be told, she was for, until it was no longer expedient. “I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere!” Palin misleadingly told the cheering crowd after the announcement of her nomination by Senator McCain. In point of fact, when she was running for Governor of Alaska, Palin supported the 15 million dollar initiative, to be funded by Congressional earmarks, intended to connect the small island of Gravina to the mainland. But when earmarks became evil in the public eye, being against them became a meaningful platform on which to run. And Ms. Palin conveniently said no to the bridge.

I don’t really care about this bridge. But I was hoping for someone who built metaphorical bridges between people who are politically, religiously and socially on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Based on her record as Governor of Alaska, it seems her only interest is in firing those that disagree with her and hiring all of her high school buddies. McCain is the self-proclaimed party-bridger, working both sides of the Congressional aisle. How does he justify Ms. Palin’s actions in Alaska, firing the public safety commissioner who refused to fire Palin’s former brother-in-law after a nasty divorce from her sister? And what about the fact that she engineered the firing of the city’s attorney after one of Palin’s supporters informed her that the attorney had put a stop work order on his housing project? And what about the fact that she hired her high school pal, Franci Havemeister, to direct the State Division of Agriculture, when Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a primary qualification? Palin is also known for calling anyone who opposes her a ‘hater’. It’s abundantly clear that these behaviors are in no way consistent with using understanding to build coalitions amongst parties with differing points of view.

But after all my reading and all my culling together of support points, I finally realized something. I dislike her intensely for reasons far more personal than politics. A new friend recently said to me: “If you don’t like someone, it is probably because they reflect back to you something about yourself that you don’t like.” I’d heard this before. This pycho-babble, Oprah-style, introspective, self-help sentiment wasn’t new to me. But I always seem to forget it when I’m deep in the throes of hating on someone. I pondered new friend’s words. And about an hour later it hit me.

I loathe Ms. Palin because she actually believes she’s qualified to do this job with a year and half of governing a sparsely populated state under her belt. Having built an ice rink in Wasilla and said no to an earmarked bridge, she actually believes she has the know-how to rebuild our economy and war us out of trouble.

As a woman, I’ve always been measured in my approach to my career. I’ve never pushed for a promotion until I was absolutely positive I could do the job expertly on the very first day. Men pushed ahead with reckless abandon, generating a kind of fearless momentum that I interpreted as irresponsible. Often times these men pushed so fast and so far ahead of their own capabilities that they floundered in their new roles. Sometimes even getting fired. But they took with them the higher title into the work world, no doubt parlaying that into an even higher titled and salaried position somewhere else. I always dismissed this behavior as impulsive, self-satisfied and negligent.

I’m not claiming to be a selfless do-gooder. I work in corporate America. As we’ve all witnessed through the rampant corporate malfeasance in recent years and months, it is quite easy to become disconnected from the fact that the money one spends in the corporate world, that one takes for doing a job, is expected to generate a long term return for the people that own the company. But I’ve always considered this point very seriously. When I spend money on a marketing campaign, I’m very concerned that that money belongs to someone else and they expect to get it back and then some. It is not just cash that dropped from the sky. So I better be darned sure that I know what I’m doing when I take money for myself as well as those business endeavors I’ve been entrusted to carry out.

I’ve watched others, more aggressive, pass me by. But I’ve always felt right and confident in the jobs I’ve held. I could’ve pushed harder, faster, climbed the ladder more quickly. But I’m patient and, more pressingly, in need of the approval of others before pushing on to the next level. I’m a woman, and as such, a pleaser at heart. Ms. Palin, as she stated so straightforwardly, is basically a pitbull with lipstick. I assume that means she’s not an approval seeker. Of this, I’m envious because it points out my own cautiousness, my own need for others to give me the nod. This does not, however, translate into Palin appreciation.

Through analyzing my disgust with Ms. Palin, I’ve realized the personal really is political. I dislike her politics. I mistrust her person. I’d want her to not just be confident in her ability to do the job, but to have shown some evidence that that confidence is warranted. Seeing Russia from Alaska doesn’t count. Simply being from a small town doesn’t count either. It’s reckless, self indulgent and downright negligent to assume that these are qualifying factors.

I’m working towards gratitude that a woman could achieve this level of success in the political arena. She may indeed be the first ever female Vice President. Admittedly, I’m not quite there on the road to celebrating her achievement. I’m really nowhere near half way there, in fact. Perhaps, when women are broadly represented on the national political stage, I’ll be able to accept a range of views and ideologies. But for now, I’m wanting a gal that reflects an underdog-friendly point of view and has the resume to prove she’s viable. I guess, in the end, my personal politics dictate that I want a candidate just a tad more like me.


Anonymous said...

you don't like Palin out of female jealousy and out of urban versus rural disdain.

Still Palin is the iconic fertle Mertyle Earth mother. She is almost literally the clan of the cave bear woman.

Way better than prissy, nervey corporate chicks working out their teen age angst at 40.

P.s. No offense, you are halfway cool at times. Other times, I think you could benefit from getting some of the liberal pussy beaten out of you.

Jennifer Sey said...

I don't like Palin for the reasons I stated. Nothing to do with the jealousy you allege. I'm grown enough and thoughtful enough to state my own reasons.

Allison said...

Your gymnastics background is showing! I, too, never thought I could try something new or apply for certain jobs unless I perfected what I was already doing...even if my current job wasn't working for me. When I was done in gymnastics, I never tried out for other sports because how could I if I hadn't dedicated most of my life to it?

Like her or not, Palin has found something that she's good at and "went for it". We'll see what happens. Like Obama, she's fresh. I might not agree with a lot of (Ok, most of) her politics, but I think it's cool she's running.

Funny how people think we were brave for doing gymnastics, yet in the end we become way too cautious and self-limiting.

Great book, by the way.

bethiegirl said...

Jennifer- I just finished reading your book and it was wonderful. I am a former gymnast from the same era (im 38) I appreciated and believed it all. I had some similar experiences- so thank you.
I fully agree with every word on Palin. I do believe she is intelligent, but not qualified for the position of vice president. (I sometimes think she knows it too!) It seems that a vote for her would be a huge step backward for women and our country. I occasionally wonder and hope she may say-"Sorry, Im really not cut out for this c-ya!)

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Everything you said regarding you know why I opposed Obama as my presidential choice.

It has to do with a difference of politics. Not skin color. Not gender.

But after all my reading and all my culling together of support points, I finally realized something. I dislike her intensely for reasons far more personal than politics.

If you're politically in disagreement with a candidate, chances are, you're probably going to find everything wrong with her. Reading your post, I see that as balanced as you think you might be, you've gravitated to any and seemingly every negative media hsyteria-mongering that they drummed up about her. I'd think you might be able to relate, given some of the negative reaction you received in wake of your book, some of the criticism which I'm sure you'd agree was unfair, bordering on slander.

Do you even know why Palin had the highest approval rating amongst governors? It wasn't because she could wink really well. Do you understand what she was able to accomplish in just a short time as governor? In taking on members of her own Party? Something that Obama, in his short time in the U.S. Senate (with the last 2 years campaigning for the presidency) hasn't done, for all his talk of reaching across the aisle from his far left voting record. Please do better research on the broo-ha-ha over "the bridge to nowhere", also.

I’d also hoped for a female candidate that was anti-war - aren’t women tired of sending their sons and husbands off to battle?

Women don't do that. Sons and husbands and wives make their own decisions to enlist in the military.

Most soldiers are anti-war; which is why soldiers often fight in them. Remember: the absence of war is not the same thing as justice and peace. Being anti-war alone doesn't reduce suffering and minimize the evils in this world. Some wars need to be fought. And whether you regard Iraq as an optional war or a necessity, it was a bipartisan accumulation of effort with a papertrail that stretches back to the early 90's. The Bush Administration cited mostly the UN's own reports when putting forth the justifications for war. There's a whole history there that goes back to the Clinton era.

When the war turned unpopular and difficult, rather than showing some backbone and the intestinal fortitude it takes to win wars Democratic leadership who voted to authorize the use of force jumped ship and absolved themselves of responsibility. Obama's no vote doesn't count, since he wasn't privy to the classified 2002 NIE assessment (which most Senators didn't bother to read, btw). Obama admitted as much, especially when things didn't seem so bad in wake of the purple fingers. When things went south after the Samarra Bombing, he could then again say, "see, I told you so." And then his judgment on the surge? He was wrong.

I hope for the sake of the country, that Obama does govern from the center and proves his critics wrong. Myself included.