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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Me, Sarah Palin, and The Universe

I’d jump at the chance to sit down and have a beer with Sarah Palin, but that doesn’t mean I like her politics. Without outlining my political persuasions (which would probably take some research on my part!) let me just say I’m not a fan. I am not and have never been a fan of Sarah Palin.
And yet, ever since she became a household name, I have this recurring internal conflict. It’s like the Universe keeps tapping me on the shoulder, and every time I turn around some vestige of Palin is there. I’m not sure why this keeps happening. Maybe it’s the Universe’s way of reminding me that in this era of such intense political polarization, we are all more alike than I realize. 
Yes, Palin and I could probably sit down and talk about motherhood, fashion eyewear, and the media’s super lousy representations of women without getting into all that other stuff...But then, all that other stuff is what creates so much conflict for me when the Universe starts up with its Palin nudgings...
It started at a 2008 family Christmas party, when one of the Husband’s  younger cousins said what I had been bracing myself for, for more than three months. After election day, I had thought I was out of the woods. But then, on that Saturday in December, I heard it:
“Hey, you look like the Governor of Alaska.”
I was 7 months pregnant with the Bear and had just failed my first gestational diabetes test, which meant, according to the docs, no added sugar until delivery day. (Which meant, according to me, no holiday sweets...are you kidding? I will admit that I ate a small brownie and a single piece of fudge, but this, in the face of my in-laws' dessert buffet, was a Christmas miracle!)
Sugar-free me was no party (just ask the Husband), but I managed to keep my cool with the kids, who began calling things like Hey Sarah Palin! every time I was near.
Just to be clear, I don’t think I look like Sarah Palin. But I’m a brunette who wears glasses somewhat similar in style to hers, and at the time I was following the “don’t cut your hair while pregnant” rule (which I read about in the Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy) so my hair, which is usually short, was getting pretty long.  
All things considered, I think the glasses were my biggest problem. For the record, I purchased my silver rimmed Vogue eyeglasses in the Fall of 2007, long before Sarah Palin was on the radar of most people in the Lower 48. My chief concern, up until the Christmas party, was that someone would take a look at my glasses and think I was trying to imitate Governor Palin. (I wasn’t).  
The next spring I was at a family gathering when my grandmother cut me off mid-sentence with this remark: “You know who you look like, don’t you?”
I shrugged, thinking she would mention a family member as we were in a room filled with relatives.
“The Governor of Alaska,” she announced proudly.
If there was a smile on my face, it faded. “Really?” 
“She’s a very smart lady.” my grandmother replied quickly,  as if she sensed my discomfort with the comparison. “Very smart.”
I’d like to assert right now that I love my grandmother dearly, and I don’t have any particular beef with Sarah Palin, but I’m not sure she’s a very smart lady. I’m glad she’s not the Vice President (because, as suggested above, I disagree with a lot of her political positions and tactics). I’m also not impressed with her early resignation as Governor, but I don’t live in Alaska, so she was never my Governor to begin with. 
(And then again, maybe she is very smart. ABC News reported that she earned an estimated $12 million in the nine months following her resignation).
Look, I’m not writing this to call Palin an idiot. (After all, isn’t that Keith Olberman’s schtick?) It’s just disappointing that this history-making female politician (first female on the Republican presidential ticket, and all...), lacks the intellectual chops. I know this is why so many people like her. We can relate to her, they say. She’s one of us.
I guess I just don’t want “one of us” in the Whitehouse running the country, you know? I’d prefer to have someone who was better educated and in possession of sharper critical thinking skills than most of “us.”
And so, I find myself a little troubled by the idea that someone (anyone) might take one look at me, notice some physical similarities with Palin, and then make the leap and assume that these physical similarities translate to political similarities...Or (heaven forbid) assume that my likeness with Palin is a consequence of efforts on my part to resemble her.
A few months after this exchange with my grandmother, The Husband and I started watching Thirty Rock on DVD and by the end of the first season, he confessed “I think I might have a little crush on Liz Lemon.” 
So okay...maybe being compared to Palin is not all bad, especially when it aligns me with the likes of Tina Fey. 
(Just for the record, The Husband claims he never said he had a crush on Liz Lemon or Tina Fey...but I swear, he totally did! the time I was a bit sleep deprived, nursing my sweet young baby who refused to sleep through the night, so I guess you’ll have to decide who you want to believe...)

Several weekends ago, The Bear spent the night with my parents and a pesky sore throat sent The Husband off to the doctor, leaving me with the opportunity to pull up the Sarah Palin cover article from October’s Vanity Fair, curl up with my iPad and a cup of coffee, and read quietly while the sun streamed into our living room.

This article, by Michael Joseph Gross, has been quite controversial since it hit the newsstands in early September. Even the Huffington Post called it “somewhat questionably sourced.” Still, I tend to have faith in the integrity of journalists. (Perhaps as a result of my B.A. in journalism?) I read Gross’s response to criticism of his article and also caught an interview with him on Morning Joe, during which he made the case for the integrity and accuracy of his reporting. And while I have no intention of defending Gross or proclaiming the veracity of his work (after all, I’ve never met him or any of his sources), I can say that I found both his response and his spot on Morning Joe highly plausible and compelling.

When I finished the Vanity Fair article, despite the fact that I am not at all a Palin fan, I felt something I wasn’t expecting to feel: sad. One paragraph in particular really tugged at me:

After starting her new career as a national figure, Palin disengaged from the community. When in Wasilla, she rarely leaves the house. At her favorite coffee shop, Mocha Moose, Palin has been seen only once in the past three months. On those occasions when she goes to Church on the Rock, she usually arrives late, leaves early, and sits in the back. For runs to Target, she waits until it’s almost closing time...Her Wasilla social circle has narrowed practically to nothing.

Despite my dislike of Palin the politician and regardless of my discomfort with being told I look like her, there is something almost heartbreaking about a woman thrust into the national spotlight without her community behind her all the way. A mass of Birthers, Deathers, and Tea Partiers has jumped aboard, but many of those nearest and dearest friends from her formative years are no longer on the bandwagon. It’s just a little wrenching...don’t you think?

Beside our house runs an alley that remains incomplete since our homes were built in 2006. Thanks to some gravel, it is passable, but it is not complete (if you’re reading this City of Louisville, step on it! We’ve been calling and emailing for years!). Last summer a mechanic opened shop in a garage that faces the alley, and he is a super nice guy who does quality work at a fair price.

But seriously, out of all the alleys and all the mechanics in all the cities and towns on this planet, it turns out that the guy in my alley is from...Wasilla, Alaska. 

Small world, huh? So someone who grew up in Wasilla and knows the Palins and considers them a “very nice family,” is now oh so close to my pin on Google Maps. How about that?

I’m not sure the significance of this. There is none, really. Still, I cannot help but think that the Universe is trying to tell me something.

Jaelithe, the Librarian @ Home


  1. Gotta love those google ads that managed to place a Sarah Palin ad on your page so we could compare for ourselves how much you do or don't look like her - haha! And for the record, while I can see how people might see a slight resemblance, I don't think you look that much like her :)

  2. Yes, thanks to Google AdSense and Sarah PAC, I now have an image of Palin to juxtapose with mine. Now everyone can see just how unstriking this resemblance is!

  3. Whaaaat? I... Wow. Yanno I have to admit, when I think of you, I most assuredly do not think of Sarah Palin. At all. *laughs

    Like you, I'm also a bit concerned by candidates people are comfortable kickin' back and hangin' out with. While I like thinking our political leaders can relax and unwind, I don't want to be on the same mental level they're on. While the sarcastic side of me feels that we're probably a mental step above many politicians out there, I seriously hope to have intelligent and wise individuals in the government.

    Ideally, I think our representatives should be politically savvy, quick witted, mensa style intelligence, and I think they should be political/financial/historical/current event gurus. To top it off, I want them to be experienced, have a great personality - but I prefer someone with strong enough convictions to avoid excessive political waffling. (I'm not asking for too much, am I??? *winks)

    What I don't want, is to be able to say, "Oy, Pres! Can I buy ya a beer?!?" without feeling like I committed a ginormous faux pas!

  4. Well, it has happened again. Last night The Husband emailed some pix of The Bear in her halloween costume and I was in one of the pix and my in-laws wrote back with a comment like "Our grandchild is trick-or-treating with Sarah Palin!" Later on the phone I was all: "'ve been reading my blog..." And they were all: "What? Oh no, we haven't read your blog in weeks. We just really thought you looked like Sarah Palin!"

    And I'm pretty sure I was like Jaime above and said "Whaaaat?"

    Jaime, I like all you ask for in a Pres. It is a tall order that is impossible to fill. Public libraries are always saying they're expected to be all things to all people. And, well, they just can't be that and it's not worth losing your mind over trying. But good public libraries make up for this by having a clear vision of their institutional goals that is guided by community values and expectations as well as (in the case of government ran libraries) the opinions of mayors and city council members (who are elected by the people). Maybe the Office of the POTUS could learn from public libraries?

    Asking the Pres out for a beer seems wrong to me, too. Surely he has more important things to do. Perhaps we have a respect for the office that leads us to see this as wrong, but totally acceptable to contemplate during the campaign season (especially when the candidates are not incumbents and have yet to fill the shoes). However, Obama might have disproved my thesis above when he held the Beer Summit with Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley last summer...