Sarah Palin doesn't speak for me

An evangelical soccer mom parts ways with the GOP star

November 20, 2009|By Jeannette Duerr

This week, as Sarah Palin's book arrives in stores and she makes the rounds of media outlets, I am listening to the talk radio chatter about her and whether she might be a viable presidential candidate in a few years. I've heard from some acquaintances who find Ms. Palin invigorating, others who find her appalling, but few who are neutral.

I've been a soccer, basketball, football, and dance mom, though never a hockey mom like Ms. Palin. Mostly, I was a swim mom. Ms. Palin described herself as a pit bull in lipstick. Swim moms were kind of like Labrador retrievers in lipstick - friendly, eager to help, playful, peacemaking. The common wisdom on pit bulls is that they are dangerously aggressive, stubborn, and, once they clamp down with their jaws, they don't let go.

If Sarah Palin is a pit bull in lipstick, then she doesn't speak for me.

I am an evangelical Christian. That is, when asked about "the hope that is in me," I am not afraid to give an accounting of my faith, which is a profound aspect of who I am. I have also been taught to respect other faiths. My hope is that if I live a life of kindness, forgiveness and good humor, that others will be drawn to seek the source of my happiness, and I will be given the opportunity to share it with them. I have not found it useful to belittle other faiths or treat their adherents with suspicion or hatred. I think that God has a plan for redeeming each of us, and it may not be apparent to me.

When Sarah Palin exhibits a smug piety that would legislate her own religious beliefs into the lives of others, when she seeks to create fear of people who are not Christians, she does not speak for me.

For generations, the men of my family have served in the military, and I grew up in a military family. When we give a member of an American family to military service, we must be able to believe that their sacrifice is made on behalf of a just cause. My son, a career Army officer, survived an awful year on the front lines in Afghanistan and is now deployed to Iraq for the second time.

Despite his intense personal danger, I wholeheartedly supported our action in Afghanistan. His deployment to Iraq holds not even that small comfort for me. Our troops were sent there by an administration that seemed incapable of any reflection on the seriousness of sending our military personnel into harm's way. I have had the unspeakable pain of contemplating my son's funeral arrangements prior to his deployment.

I appreciate the sacrifice that the Palin family is making with her son's deployment. But, when Sarah Palin says that our troops in Iraq are on a mission from God, she does not speak for me.

I began my career in health care in the late 1960s at a free clinic. I met hundreds of young women who were desperate for reproductive information. Most sought contraceptive information and resources or treatment of venereal diseases. Others, because they were denied that information, were in more desperate straits.

Some had been raped or molested. On more than one occasion, in their desperation, they sought help from unlicensed and unqualified abortion providers and suffered terribly because safe care was not available to them. Most health care professionals from that era well remember the climate of fear and shame that surrounded information about reproduction. Few of us would want to return to that era.

I deeply respect the right that Governor Palin's family has to make its own very private decisions about what is right for them. But when Sarah Palin refuses to extend that same respect and would deny that very personal and private choice to other families, she does not speak for me.

During my years in a military family in the 1950s and 1960s, I had the privilege of spending much of my childhood in Japan and Germany. Both nations had recently been our adversaries. Still, my parents made certain that I developed respect for other cultures and religions and that I understood the context of the conflicts between our nations. My mother encouraged us to be curious and questioning and see the individuals behind stereotypes. Throughout all of our travels, we never took for granted what it means to have the advantages of being an American citizen.

When Sarah Palin tries to invoke our ugliest nationalistic tendencies, when she defines patriotism in the most simplistic terms, she does not speak for me.

In my lifetime, I can't think of any national elected official who has not had flaws. It is not passionate advocacy that bothers me. It is extremism from either side. I am deeply troubled that Sen. John McCain, whom I considered honorable, allowed his vice presidential nominee and campaign managers to incite dangerous and despicable emotions at their rallies. We are better people than this. Like most Americans, I want to elect leaders who are reasonable and thoughtful.

My mother gave me my social conscience. Both of us would be pleased if my daughters and granddaughters could look to the White House and see a president who looks like them. But Sarah Palin is not that woman. In fact, she winks and nods at the boys in the audience to remind them that she's not one of those women.

And, that's the point - she isn't. Sarah Palin doesn't speak for me.

Jeannette Duerr, a communications consultant, lives in Ellicott City. Her e-mail is duerrcomm@aol.com.

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