Friday, July 17, 2009

Palin Revisited

I realize that Sarah Palin is a pretty controversial political figure these days. It seems she is either loved or hated--less for her politics than for her her personal choices. I thought the following article was really interesting, and provided some interesting insights into how the strong emotions Palin evokes represent the cultural divide among Americans on two hot button issues: the right to life and disabilities.

Here is an excerpt:

Palin is controversial, in part, because America is divided over disability. We’ve established laws and institutions that protect people with disabilities. But we also do everything we can to make sure they don’t see the light of day.

Trig is a reminder of our fierce ambivalence over disability. Every mention of his name is a pinprick to our conscience. Every photo of mother and son is a reminder of concepts —vulnerability, dependency and suffering — our culture no longer tolerates, as well as virtues, such as humility, dignity and self-sacrifice, it no longer extols.

Trig is also a reminder of an inescapable truth: Disability is an inherent part of the human condition. At a time of deep cultural divisions, 1-year-old Trig Palin represents the deepest division of all, between a culture that increasingly sees genetic perfection as an entitlement and a culture still rooted in the belief that human beings are defined not by their capabilities but, instead, by the very fact of their humanity.

While I don't think the issues mentioned in this article are the only reasons Americans have such strong feelings about Palin, I do think the divide is a very large contributing factor. Obviously any politician will evoke feelings of discontent from those with opposing political opinions. When someone speaks of their hatred for George W. Bush, they roll off a litany of concrete political decisions with which they disagree. With Palin, however, the hatred (and often the praise), is primarily directed at her personal life choices. And this is where I think the article hits the nail on the head. To most Americans, Palin isn't just another politician, but a representation or a critique of one's own personal values and choices.