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Dear Sarah Palin

Posted Nov 03 2008 9:00pm
Dear Sarah Palin,

It's funny, but you remind me of someone I know. She, too, is a hockey mom with five children. Her oldest child is a seventeen-year-old girl, just like yours. Also like you, she is smart and pretty, and enormously (not to say preternaturally) sensible and capable. She has a full-time job, a loving husband, a great head for numbers and a terrific sense of humor. (I could picture her delivering the pit bull/lipstick joke with as much enjoyment as it seemed to give you.)

Perhaps you share similar feelings about bringing children into the world. When, during the first trimester of one of her pregnancies, things began going seriously awry (became "eventful," was how she put it), she listened respectfully to the medical professionals who pronounced the likelihood of the baby's being severely disabled, if she even managed to carry to term, and then she turned down their advice that the best thing for everyone might be to terminate the pregnancy. I don't think her decision even required much soul-searching; simply, she knew she was willing to become the mother of any child her body would bear. As it happened, the pregnancy stabilized and she gave birth six months later to a healthy baby.

Another thing you might say you have in common is that you could call her a small-town person. She teaches math in the same school she once attended, and her husband runs a local restaurant where the whole family pitches in. Her mother-in-law even served as mayor of this town a while back - another thing that reminds me of you.

Also like you, Sarah, she is something of a social conservative. At least, compared to me she is. When we were younger, and I used to go around wearing my Question Authority button all the time, it caused her no end of embarrassment. She wasn't exactly crazy about my going to Nicaragua and hanging out with Sandinistas, nor was she enthusiastic when I went through a childhood phase of wanting to become a union organizer. She never came along on any of the political marches our father and I would go on in Washington, D.C. But although many of her beliefs have long differed from mine, she has never derided me for having and acting on them.

Here is where the similarities between you and my sister end, Sarah. She simply isn't a rigid and limited thinker like you. She would never mock those who care enough about other people to work at organizing communities for growth. She's a deep-down egalitarian. She wouldn't judge another woman for making a choice about pregnancy different than her own. She wouldn't presume to force her own beliefs on others. She's not that elitist, that arrogant. Nor would she use her connections to pressure someone into firing a person against whom she held a grudge. She's not that cynical or unethical. And I think I can say with confidence that she would not feel warmly about the idea of shooting wolves from helicopters for sport. Above all, she wouldn't misrepresent herself, her history, her record, or her qualifications - and she would never, ever dream of exploiting her children for political means.

I don't mean to sound like I loathe you. I don't want to loathe you. I think our best hope lies in actively, purposefully not loathing one another, even when that's our first impulse. I think our hope lies, instead, in trying with all our might to comprehend one another. I don't comprehend you or your ilk, but I think it's my job, in a way, to try. And I admit, I haven't always put much energy into trying. So I make you this promise: I will try, I'll try harder, and I'll bring as much openness and compassion to it as I can.

I sincerely, fervently, emphatically, very, very badly hope you lose the election. But at the same time, Sarah, I wish you well. No matter what happens, I'll wish you well, or at least that part of you that's a real, complicated, flawed, growing human being.

Would you do me the same.


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