"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." --Rainer Maria Rilke (©julenisse/Fotolia)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Close Encounters of the Palin Kind

Sarah Palin is one of the most polarizing characters in modern history. (Just ask the polar bears.) Folks seem to either love her or loathe her. Honestly, I have tried to avoid discussing her with conservative friends because I realized about 24 hours into her candidacy that Palin—someone I admit I had scarcely heard of just days before—somehow had the power to injure valued friendships.

In three very brief encounters in the last few weeks, three female friends who aren’t voting for Obama responded in three different ways when the subject of Palin arose. The first is a college educated, NRA supporting wife and mother who lives in a rural area outside Kansas City. “I love her attitude,” my friend said of Palin. The second, a suburban working mom working on her second Master’s degree, angered quickly and attacked Obama when a third friend snickered over the Katie Couric interview. The third friend has a Master’s, two grown children, a recently retired husband, and is the kind of “do gooder” you’d think would be a Democrat. She, too, immediately attacked Obama as a “liar,” and subsequently admitted she will just keep her head in the sand during the remainder of the campaign.

I live in Johnson County, Kansas. I know it’s likely I have many other friends who either think Palin is the next great thing, or will vote for McCain Palin anyway because that is the Republican ticket and they vote Republican. Period. Democrats here are usually surprised to meet other like-minded folks. Just yesterday, I met a mom who was just thrilled to know she “wasn’t the only one.”

Nightmare on Main Street
I took my daughter and her friend—sophomores in high school—to a Palin Protest rally at Kansas City’s JC Nichols Fountain, a landmark on the Country Club Plaza, an upscale dining and shopping area. We saw firsthand that there are women out there who are really angry about Palin. Not all, but most of the angst centers around reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood was on hand with signs and petitions.

My daughter and her friend carried a straightforward sign that said “We cannot allow Sarah Palin to take away our right to choose!!” One woman handed out coat hangers to everyone in the crowd as a somber and symbolic reminder of the pre-Roe v. Wade system of abortion. A woman dressed as the grim reaper carried a sign that said: “Coat hanger Palin; Every woman’s nightmare.” Someone with a bullhorn and another with a sign implored drivers-by at this busy intersection to “Free Levi”—the father of Bristol Palin’s unborn child. (It’ll be interesting to see if Levi and Bristol really do marry if the McCain Palin bid fails, but that’s another story.)

A couple of really bizarre things happened at this rally. About half-way through, four young men (20-ish, I’d guess) came marching across the park. First, we just saw they were carrying McCain Palin signs (“borrowed from someone’s yard, perhaps?). As they got closer, we could see two of them were dressed like devils—red capes and horns. They were demonizing McCain Palin, not supporting them! That was creative and fun and provided some much needed comic relief, because by now, there were some “challengers” on the scene.

Hard to say if this was one family or not, but a couple of adults and a slew of kids approached. The presumptive patriarch said to one of his young girls, “These people think we should’ve aborted you.” First of all: Not true. Secondly, what a charming, loving thing to say to your daughter. This guy (I will not call him a gentleman) claimed, “You people just want free sex and free love and a return to the hippie days.” Huh?

I quickly realized after I, and others, tried to explain that’s not what “choice” is about that there was no arguing with this one. He was creepy and told us we were “the bottom of the gene pool.” In the meantime, a woman with him (wife?) was staggering around drinking beer out of a water bottle. The 18-year-old son tried to get into it with my daughter and her friend over guns and abortion and actually suggested that if women carried guns they wouldn’t be raped. I told you it was bizarre!

In the meantime, one of the young girls with these folks saw the McCain Palin signs our little demons were carrying and mistakenly ran up to hug them—making a deal with the devil? Eventually, this motley group left us alone and clambered into a white stretch limo. You can’t make up this stuff.

The right to choose is not the only issue these women—and not a small number of men—are rallying around. They are angry that anyone thinks they’d vote for Palin just because of her gender. They are angry about shooting wolves from airplanes. They are angry about her lack of foreign policy experience. They are angry about Palin’s reported belief that dinosaurs and humans co-existed as recently as 4,000 years ago. They are angry because they don’t think she’s very smart (“Stupidity is a threat to national security”). They are angry about her lack of support for the environment (one protestor was dressed as Mother Nature). Many are just plain angry and brandished mean-spirited angry signs to prove it, calling her an “animal killing baby making machine” and warning “don’t let this snake bite you in the ass.”

The most straightforward sign and probably the one that sums up the general consensus: “Palin does not speak for me.” Darn right. I don’t have to get back to ya on that one.


  1. Anonymous12:35 PM

    I love it! I was the woman who was handing out coat hangers. You did an awesome job of capturing the event.

    And that crazy family! The older boy kept talking about Jesus. When I heard the dad say that awful thing about us wanting him to kill his daughter, I looked at that little girl and she had tears in her eyes. I normally ignore these crazies when they come to our rallies, but I lost it and let that dad have it for scaring his little girl.

    When they left, did you notice they got in a limousine? Just a crazy story in many ways.

  2. Thanks, Anne. Like I said, you can't make this stuff up! Hope we can do this again...

  3. Anonymous12:00 PM

    I know I shouldn't react this way, but I can't help it: she sounds like such a bumpkin. The problem isn't that she sounds like a reved-up verson of Marge from Fargo, the problem is that she's astonishingly unqualified to be on a serious national ticket (if her running mate were Lyndon LaRouche, it'd be a different story). But every time I hear her talk I am overcome with incredulity.

    I wonder if there might be a reverse Nixon-on-TV-versus-radio effect: the story goes that most people who listened to the Kennedy-Nixon debate thought Nixon won; most people who watched it thought Kennedy won. I wonder how Palin would play if were heard her hyped up "yah der hey" folksiness but didn't know what she looked like...

  4. Hey there! What that father said to his daughter just blows one's mind. I guess what we've been hearing at the recent McCain rallies adds up when you think of that guy.

    The rally sounded awesome! Kristen

  5. Anonymous8:08 AM

    My Infantry Officers Candidate School class from 1968 has reunited annually for some years now, I believe the only class to do so from the Vietnam period. We found almost all of our 130-plus, one way or another, a mixed bag, in so many ways. I hosted one reunion recently here in Ireland. Despite our differences, our bond has remained strong, and we avoided political argument -- until Iraq.

    Little George didn't kill us, but we are wounded, and we will never be the same.

    (Ironically, one classmate was the top State Department guy in Baghdad and became Ambassador to Afghanistan.)

    I found a delightful old friend not so long ago, he retired to Buenos Aires, and emailed copiously. Then came the financial crisis and he sent me a study by an Arizona professor (my ex-mate was the editor of the university paper when we were there), alleging that the problem was down to predatory borrowers.

    I gave him hell. (I was angry.) He's since cut me off, cold.

    So it goes. I'm too old to tippy-toe around my principles, but I'd hope I'm old enough to stand up for them with humility and respect.


Would love to hear from you! Due to spam, comments are moderated before publishing.