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...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Sarah Palin Is Ruining My Life"

A very telling ask-and-respond email sent to Salon's Cary Tennis, by a PDS sufferer.

Dear Cary,

I am a Democrat, a mother of three, and a full-time attorney. During the primaries, I was torn between Hillary Clinton, who I believed had the experience to be president (and really, really, really wanted it), and Barack Obama, who I believed was not only highly capable (albeit less experienced), but also the more sincere of the two and who inspired me on an emotional level that Clinton did not. In addition, as my kind friends pointed out to me, Clinton was carrying a lot of baggage in terms of her own scandals, not to mention Bill's little problems. So, in the end, I did what my heart really wanted me to do all along and voted for Obama. And then I totally checked out of the election. I've always disliked the pettiness of politics, the lies, the mudslinging, the arguments over meaningless minutiae, the parsing of personalities ad infinitum, etc. My perspective was, short of Obama being caught on video strangling his children with his own two hands, he had my vote, and thus I had no need to pay attention to all the nonsense that would occur in both campaigns prior to the election.

And then came Sarah. My reaction to her, and the way the Republican Party threw her in our faces, and the pandering and hypocrisy that was behind their decision to do so, was immediate, visceral, and indeed, vicious. I have crossed every line I believed should never be crossed in public discourse -- I have criticized not only her policies and her record, but her hair, her personal style, her accent, her abilities as a mother, etc. I've also begun to suffer personally and professionally. I bore my friends with my constant tirades against her, and am constantly distracted from my work by my need to continually update myself on the latest criticism, and indeed, ridicule, of her. In my hatred for her, I have begun to hate myself.

I don't want this woman ruining my life before she even gets a chance to ruin our country. How do I stop? Is there a self-help group for this?

A "Hater"*

*As Sarah Palin calls all those who disagree with her (New York Times, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008)

Dear "Hater,"

I think what disturbs us about Sarah Palin is that she reminds us of the authoritarian personality. My guess is that she is also an ESFJ, or Extroverted Sensing Feeling Judging type, with a strong preference for sensing. Such a person prefers to acquire her knowledge from concrete objects and places instead of from abstract ideas. This would explain why she thinks being geographically close to Russia is a form of foreign policy expertise.

As an authoritarian type, she strikes us as a person who prefers power to reason. The people running John McCain's campaign seem to instinctively understand the uses to which such an impression can be put. Perhaps they know better than we do how deeply the American people long to be done with the problem of democracy, to yield to a powerful father-mother pair of authoritarians.

The very thing that appalls us about Sarah Palin -- her discomfort in the realm of reason -- is her main selling point. This is so mind-boggling that you have to take a minute to let it in. Take a deep breath. Read that sentence again. Face it: Sarah Palin represents what many people want: a retreat from reason; a regression to childhood.

Inarticulateness is the weapon of the authoritarian in this way: To speak clearly is to risk being understood and thus disagreed with. To speak clearly is to invite debate. To obfuscate and muddle is to avoid disagreement and debate and force the issue to one of power. The refusal to speak clearly is an invitation for issues to be resolved by power alone: I don't have to speak clearly because you have no choice in this anyway. I'm going to do what I'm going to do.

It can also be a trait, I think, of the sensing type who has not developed her weaker side. She has not learned to imagine how profoundly ludicrous it seems to the rest of us that physical proximityintellectual understanding. would constitute

Why does she get away with exercising her particular magic? Moms exercise power without explanation. We trust them because they are moms. We are children. So we trust them.

As we become adults, study the law and history and begin to run our own affairs, we become accustomed to sharing power by reasoning with each other.

Our intellectual disciplines allow us to agree or disagree about realities separate from ourselves. You are a lawyer. You are trained in the law. The law is built of ideas that we can agree about in a general way. We can agree what most laws mean. We can talk about them. One reason you are so appalled by Sarah Palin may be that every time she opens her mouth she repudiates this tradition.

When a person will not articulate her positions well or clearly, she is asserting a kind of power; it is not possible to predict what she is going to do. She does not allow us to know her. We generally do not let such persons make decisions for us. We do not like to give power to them.

But for some, they do appeal to a dark side, to something in us that desires to give up on reason, to have someone take over, to regress.

The shape this authoritarian has taken is the shape of the mother. We want to give Sarah Palin her due because she is a woman and a mother. A cynical trick has been played on us. She is a Trojan Horse.

Her refusal or inability to speak clearly also seems to devalue our own desire to speak clearly; if one does not speak clearly to you, then you cannot communicate with them; you are held off from them; you are excluded from their world. The only way to enter their world, therefore, is to follow them. There's no time for talk! Follow me! It's time to chase Putin out of our airspace! It's time to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.

This is what frightens and angers us: The refusal to follow the rules of discourse, of language, even, implies that there is nothing to talk about. There is only action. There is only faith. There is only taking that hill.

This is my admittedly impressionistic take. Glenn Greenwald can talk about it much better than I can.

I don't even know where to begin.

This is the kind of Liberal reading of a situation (she's dumb = people like dumb = people are dumb) that damns a person without any kind of further argument allowed. It's an opinion leveled as a statement of fact, which only the demented would argue with.

Consider this Hater's trauma: she is obsessed with Sarah Palin.

She doesn't exactly know why, if you read between the lines. It's really a gut feeling of hatred, and being a lawyer, she feels she has been trained to use logic instead of instincts as rationale -- the guilt about her obsession is thus eating her up.

So what is her logical next step? She seeks words of explanation (in reality, words of comfort) from a Salon agony aunt. Oh, sweet irony. That's like a drunk rushing to bar flies for explanation as to why he drinks so much.

I'll give her this though. She realises this hatred is a dangerous downturn in her life. It feels wrong. Of course, it doesn't occur to her that it IS wrong to hate someone at such a primordial level, especially given her OCD behaviour.

In her confusion, she doesn't understand that she has transferred her allegiance and hopes to Senator Obama from Hillary Clinton in a way that made her slightly uncomfortable. She betrayed Hillary when Hillary needed her most, in large part due to outside pressure from friends. This is doubly damning to her character, and in some corner of her psyche, she understands that.

Once she made the switch, though, she tuned out, and consequently absolved herself of any guilt. Senator Obama had her vote, and nothing short of attempted kindercide would change it.

Enter the Moose-Shootin' Mama from Alaska, and all those unresolved feelings of allegiance she had towards Hillary-Obama came pouring out from her in a gush of vitriol.

How dare Palin be foisted on the American public (read, on the Hater herself) so cynically (read, in such a clever move to motivate the Conservative base)?!

Why, didn't McCain realise that the only Party where a woman could have an integral role of leadership is the Party of Clinton and Ferraro?!

Obviously, she now found an "out" to her feelings of guilt.

By so hating Sarah Palin, and doing so in a bitchy way she previously never thought she was capable of, she has absolved herself of any guilt to poor Hillary, who probably will be voting for McCain/Palin when those curtains close behind her on November 4.

Instead of really supporting Senator Obama from the beginning, this Hater needed peace of mind that her choice wasn't a kind of half-hearted support which reeked of betrayal to her conscience.

Of course, there are many other elements at play here (including a very real political antipathy, I've no doubt), but the main one is that she realises she has a problem, but wants to be rewarded and not punished for the feelings of hatred she bears towards Palin. She writes to a person who not only abets her dysfunctional behaviour, but encourages it by making sense of that hatred with all kinds of shibboleths.

I think there is a word for people like this. I believe they are called Scientologists.

This is a very creepy article for a Palin supporter like me to read, but ultimately, a very helpful one. I thought until this year that Democrats operated at a more compassionate, and perhaps even intellectual level than Republicans.

In 2008, after what I saw done first to Hillary Clinton by her own co-ideologues, and now to Sarah Palin in a free-for-all of nastiness, I just don't think that anymore.

When it comes to being uncivil, paranoid, wishing destruction in the form of poisoned political apples, no one has held a candle to Democrats this year. It's like a really bad Disney movie.

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