Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Do They Hate Her?

Here I go again. Back with a topic that no one wants to hear about. The Manolo-clad governor of Alaska.

Normally, people feel constrained by decorum and civility. They control their emotional outbursts, express respect for their friends and neighbors, and try to contribute to social harmony.

When it comes to Sarah Palin, thee constraints have been tossed aside. It is as though the true emotion of raw hatred was so strong that it burst through these civilizing constraints. Heaping abuse on Sarah Palin has become a positive value.

Obviously, there is no saving virtue here. Democratic government and civil society requires active respect for one's fellow citizens. the preternatural frenzy of hatred that has been thrown at Palin has clearly set back this cause.

Of course, Sarah Palin can take it. The larger problem is that when rhetorical excess becomes acceptable in political debate, then it becomes acceptable in other areas too. If it's acceptable to call Sarah Palin a dumb @$#%, then it would be equally acceptable for the guy next door to abuse his wife verbally.

Why do they hate her? Is it because she is not qualified? If so, that would surely have been a good discussion to have. Is it because she is wrong on the issues? Again, that would have been well within the bounds of civil debate.

Clearly, these are not the problem. Sarah Palin is being vilified because she is an affront to everything that certain people hold to be sacred. She is being treated like a witch, and the only way of dealing with witches is to destroy them before they destroy you.

Just be careful you do not destroy yourself in the process. Witch hunts do no honor to inquisitors.

As it happens, Palinophobia is not limited to the political left. Many conservatives have been trying to keep pace by attacking their party's vice presidential candidate. It is almost as though the pundits are competing with each other to see who can be the most vitriolic.

As though the strength of one's hatred was a badge of honor, a proof of one's own rightness. And, as though the best way to demonstrate superior intelligence were to become completely irrational.

Many writers seem to have channeled the spirit of that master of political and social invective, Jeremiah Wright. They have called Sarah Palin: "a fatal cancer to the Republican party," a "dope," a "blow-up doll," "Caribou Barbie," an "idiot," and a "national disgrace."

Vile epithets do not advance deliberative democracy. They do not show that you are strong, only that you are fanatical. They announce to the world that you are impervious to reason.

Winning the race to the bottom of a moral sewer will never do you or anyone else any good.

Besides, this full frontal assault on Palin is setting an awful example for young people.

First, it is sexist. As Kirsten Powers wrote yesterday, Joe Biden is not held to the same standards as Sarah Palin. Not by a long shot. Link here.

Second, it is misogynist. To hate a woman for being a woman, to show her no respect, to treat her as a subhuman force that must be annihilated... that puts us well within the bounds of misogyny.

Third, it is abusive. Now we know that if a person stands in the way of your will to power you have the right to heap abuse on that person. It is naive to think that people will not be trying this at home.

Whence this sexism, misogyny, and abuse? In my view it is not an accident that Sarah Palin is one of the first women on the national political scene to flaunt her sexuality. Clearly, this has made her a hero to Camille Paglia, but many other women have been horrified and affronted.

Their motto has been: gender, yes; sexuality, no.

Palinophobia is not merely political rhetoric. It sends a message to young women. Actually, it is more a threat than a simple caution.

Palinophobia tells young women that if they have a full life, a life that is happy in public and private, they are a fraud. They are denying the truth of the myth that says that they are oppressed victims. And for that they will be punished.

Hating Sarah Palin tells women that if they want to be powerful in the world, they need to put their sexuality on ice and dress in pants suits and sensible pumps.

Once they strap on the Manolos, once they try to make themselves attractive to men, they must stay out of the board room.

How many women, watching the attacks on Sarah Palin, will get the message that they have to choose between between being feminine and being politically successful? How many of them will simply decide that entering public life is simply not worth suffering the abuse.

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