The right wing curmudgeon of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jim Wooten, practically slobbered over himself praising the virtues of Gov. Palin in a recent column. I especially became nauseated at the following passage:
Palin’s story is our story. Her life is our life.
She and McCain will carry the South because her values and his are ours.
She is not of Washington.
She is of us.
The question arises, who fits the definition of "us"? Does one have to attend a rigid, far right evangelical, perhaps penecostal, church? Do you need to eschew birth control and other forms of family planning? Do you need to viciously attack people who cross you, aiming to destroy their lives? Do you need to a white, heterosexual family living in a rural, or maybe ex-urban, area? Do you need to have come out of the womb with a shotgun? Do you need to mock people when you sense they are better than you...or at least as Christian, even if they don't agree with you on issues? Do you need to support prayer as a way to convert LGBT Americans from their "sin"? Do you need to brow-beat any Jews you know to accept Jesus or face eternal hellfire and damnation? Do you need to eschew science, and advocate patently false teachings that the earth is 6000 years old and that early man frolicked with the dinosaurs (or "Jesus horses" as our beloved Superindent of Education here in GA once called them)?
If so, then I am certainly not of the "us" that Wooten refers to. Her story is NOT my story. Her life is NOT my life. Her values are CERTAINLY NOT my values. We're both not "of Washington", so I suppose we have that in common. Since I obviously don't fit in to the definition of "us", I'm not lumped in that category with Gov. Palin.
What I am is a white, gay, southern male who is progressive, Christian, and concerned for the future of my country. This brings to me another part of Wooten's column that touches on something that annoys me.
People in the small towns where she grew up, “love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America.” It’s not conditional love. It’s not love based on whether we behave and believe as others wish. It’s lasting and unconditional.
Just like I grew tired of being told that I couldn't possibly be a Christian because I was a gay Democrat, I am SICK TO DEATH of hearing the GOP mantra that to challenge your country in any way is somehow "hating America" and near-treasonous. For the record, I love my country in good times and bad. But like my parents always said to me growing up, "We will always love you, no matter what. We may not like what you do sometimes, but that will never mean we love you any less." If I had turned out to be a mass murderer, my mother (since Dad's dead) would still love me with all her heart. She certainly wouldn't be PROUD of my actions as a serial killer though, and the horror I had done would break her heart. But she would love me to her dying day. THAT is unconditional love.
I may not have a child, but I do unconditionally love my country. That does NOT translate into unconditional approval of actions my country may take. I love America, but I am ashamed that we fell for the trap of George W. Bush, especially in 2004 when we should have known better. It was clear the man had manipulated intelligence to get us into a war we should not have been in. It was clear that he was ready to divide the country by attacking gay people in order to win votes. Yet, we voted him back into office. My country is better than that, and I am ashamed of what we did on election day, 2004. I am ashamed that my country has countenanced torture against sometimes innocent people, and disregarded the human rights upon which our government is founded. We should be better than that. I still love my country though, even when it became clear how badly we'd gone astray at Abu Garib prison and at Guantanimo Bay. I found it embarassing that we impeached a president over a sexual infidelity, but I still loved my country. I can, and have, deeply loved my country without always being proud of it. And where I am not proud of my country, I am proud of the spirit that allows me to work to make it better. I love my country as it is, but I want it to be better... just as any parent would want his/her child to do better when you know that child is capable of so much more. It is that criticism and the attempt to make it better that shows how much I do LOVE my country. If my love was conditional, I would simply give up on America, on the ideals that make up the American spirit. I would drop out, stop engaging, and cease to care one way or another.
In an AP article by Sara Kugler, the response to Palin has included such statements as: "She's every mom," said Lindsey Denny, a mother of 7, including a set of quintuplets, two of whom have special needs like Palin's infant son with Down syndrome.
Every mom? Really? I don't think so.
My mother had one child, and even that was a struggle. She stayed at home with me, and instilled a love of learning and curiousity that has served me well. She prayed that I would be smart and do well in school, remembering well how her own mother had belittled and mocked her because my mom struggled in classes, especially math and science. She loved me unconditionally, but her discipline was firm. When I came out of the closet, she struggled, but never once did I think she would disown me. She left a church that she had attended for years because of the way that church drove me from its membership, and the membership of any church, for seven years. Today, she bristles when people trash LGBT Americans. She has even taken to speaking up on our behalf with friends, although she still struggles with whether to reveal that her only son is gay. My mother believes that women deserve equal pay for equal work. She believes that health care is a right, and that we all deserve basic coverage, no matter our station in life or what job(s) we have. My mother believes in science, and reveres the Bible without worshipping it blindly. My mother has a strong faith in God, but she does not believe she is called for force everyone to believe as she does, nor does she think the power of government should be used to coerce her opinions on others. My mother is pro-choice, believing that the decision to carry a pregnancy to term is intensely personal, between a woman, God, and her doctor. She would never presume to impose her choice on someone else. My mother does not belittle others, no matter what their circumstance. More often than not, she seeks to help people in any way she can, over-empathizing in their plight. My mother is terrified of guns, having had a rifle pointed at her head at age seven by her own father. She cannot face a dead animal. She is rarely sarcastic and never mean.
In other words, my mother is everything that Sarah Palin is not. The only thing they have in common is anatomy and a deep belief in God. Even that belief takes them to very different places. My mother is a southern girl from Tennessee who worries about paying her bills, having health insurance, and making ends meet. I thank God that Sarah Palin is not MY mother.... and I will work my butt off to make sure she doesn't become my Vice President.