The celebrity gossip website TMZ has published an immature tirade/flame war involving two of Sarah Palin’s daughters, Willow and Bristol. In it, both Palin daughters frequently exchange profanities with other posters and Willow, aged 14, uses a homophobic slur. This exchange, carried on over Facebook, was in response to a poster’s criticism of their mother’s new TLC show. The whole story would be little more than the softest of soft news, unless their mother had not set herself up to be the eventual leader of the party which claims sole rights over morality. There is a certain gotcha, gutter journalism quality to this story, in keeping with many Palin revelations, but it also fits well within the canon of what we already know about their mother.
Before I go any further, let me say that criticizing a person’s children to attack a parent is always a dicey proposition. There were times in my life, about that age, when I would not have been a particularly good reflection upon my mother and father. Still, I am fairly certain that even then I wasn’t quite that crass or that willing to engage in such a profane, petty argument. Though I was raised in a house with two skeptical believers as parents, my mother in particular would have been horrified had she discovered that I had participated in such a thing. There was family honor to uphold and a good name to keep clean. Much shame was on those who besmirched them, regardless of the reason or the context. Had I transgressed, I can well imagine the kind of intense, high volume lecture I would have received as well as the punishment.
What is particularly revealing about this whole thing is that it further contradicts swaths of the Palin spin. Mama Palin has portrayed herself as a God-fearing Christian, but the behavior of her children has contradicted it once again. We all sin against God and other people, but there’s something also present called contrition that goes along with repentance, which is the act of being truly sorry for making mistakes while seeking to correct them. I have not seen this within the Palin brood. In this specific circumstance, it may be possible to make an argument that takes into account the Palin children without resorting to unfair character attacks. Children rebel, as I and my own sisters certainly did. Still, I do believe that parents ought to teach their children basic morality, and if they are church-going sorts, have the church of their choice reinforce this and hold them to it. Integrity and civil discourse may not be in vogue these days, but that doesn’t mean we have to heave them upon the proverbial scrap heap or play a particularly self-serving part without so much as a shred of conviction.
Where I grew up in Alabama, Southern Baptist, Conservative Presbyterian, and non-denominational Evangelicals were in great supply. The very conservative religious kids I knew would have been too scared of divine punishment (if not an eternity spent in Hell) to utter even the mildest of profanity or to be this hateful. At times, I have to say, they resembled robots more than people, since they were trying to be completely perfect in every way. Salvation by works was, to them, often more influential a compass than salvation through grace. God provided a de facto list of do’s and don’ts and in keeping with their particular belief, they followed it to the letter. None of this is a criticism so much as it is an explanation.
To show you how far we have shifted towards a Post-Christian society, Tea Party factions have tended to focus more on conservative ideas of governance and much less on traditional social conservatism. Recent articles in the media have focused on these two potentially massive ideological fissures within the movement. Religion, even among self-professed Republicans, is increasingly less and less important to the debate. Democrats, more secular in general, have long made awkward overtures towards religious voters and today’s GOP has acted in kind. Sarah Palin’s faith may then be a marriage of convenience, as it is for so many politicians. Charges of hypocrisy, however, tend to stick more to Republicans than Democrats. The politician discovered to have an affair is more heavily scrutinized if he or she leans to the Right. This is also true for the one with the potty mouthed middle schooler.
What I am convinced of, having read several in-depth profiles of the former Alaska governor, is that she has long been promoting her own star rather than focusing attention on her children. I am not about to make any kind of sweeping pronouncement here, or to make unfounded criticisms without knowledge of the facts, except to note that her children have often come across as just as mean-spirited and cruel as their mother. Not always, but often, our progeny reflect who we are. Many a behavior problem child is a reflection of an unstable home life, for example. Knowing as we do how crucial parental guidance and teaching is, I’m not very surprised that an Eighth grader has dropped homophobic smears and swears in a very public forums.
If anyone believes the Palin spin, they do so at their own peril. The tragedy in all of this is how desperate certain people are to have a champion, so much so that they are quite willing to overlook cognitive dissonance. A long standing persecution complex is out in force here, along with a fortress mentality. Some Christians believe that they are soon going to be as feared and hated just as Jesus himself was, so they live their lives preparing for the final assault. It is this attitude which leads people to lift up figures like Sarah Palin, excusing almost every untruth and blemish along the way. Irrational it may be, but when people feel genuinely under assault, they do not always make rational decisions.
One thing is for certain. She will be around for a while. A figure like Sarah Palin serves a need for both her followers and her detractors. Much as Voltaire famously said about God, if Sarah Palin did not exist, it would be necessary for someone to invent her. Her narcissism may not provide the ability for her to perceive the parasitic relationship she holds with many people, but she can certainly recognize that she is media catnip. Expect subsequent tawdry revelations about her family, but for God’s sake, don’t pity her. She wouldn’t know what to do with it.