At a reception for a pro-family event in Hershey, Penn. last August, I was fortunate to speak with Gov. Sarah Palin briefly before guests were herded into dinner. I shook her hand, thanked her for showing “courage under fire,” and conveyed greetings from the Conservatives4Palin family. Several other C4Pers were also in attendance that night.
Upon hearing mention of C4P, the Governor steeled her jaw and said, “You guys are taking the hard shots every day. Thank you for your support.”
Yeah, it’s hard out here for us Palinas and Palinos. But with all due respect, it’s not as Governor Palin magnanimously believes. We’re not taking hard shots every day. We’re watching someone we admire take them on our behalf. And that’s the hard part.
At times during the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve tried to imagine what President Obama’s supporters would do if their hero were given the unfettered “Palin Treatment.”
Imagine, if you will, the following …
The day of Obama’s arrival on the national scene, network anchor Katie Couric is caught on mic mocking Malia and Sasha Obama. “Where the hell do they get these names?” she laughs derisively. Noting that Obama grew up in Indonesia running with the water buffalo, she adds, "You can’t make this stuff up." Her DNC report on the evening news then goes on to barely mention Barack Obama’s career in the state senate, the historic nature of his run, or even his dynamic speaking ability, focusing, instead, on the fact that he was a bench warmer on the Punahou Academy basketball team and that he has a penchant for eating greasy hamburgers and French Fries.
Photoshopped images of Barack Obama with an afro wearing a Chicago Bears Speedo and holding a Harlem Globetrotters’ basketball pop up all over the internet; MSBNC airs the trashy photo without explanation, passing it off as legitimate, and suggesting this diminishes Obama’s gravitas.
CNN anchor Campbell Brown becomes exasperated talking about Obama’s ambition for higher office, asking whether someone with young children, especially a child who struggles with her weight and her science tests, should be considering high office, and subjecting his vulnerable children to such a high-profile exposure of their shortcomings.
The New York Times runs three front-page articles on Malia’s weight problem, as announced by her father in 2008 – suggesting that it may have something to do with the hamburgers and French Fries favored by Obama, and "hypocritically" denounced by his wife.
The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn slams Obama’s run for higher office, demanding that he "rethink his priorities" given that he has two young girls at home who need a devoted father, the paternal support lacked by so many other black children. How could he have time to serve the country and attend to their abundant needs?
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd quickly dubs Obama “Honolulu Ken-ya Doll” and ridicules his speaking pattern, including his trademark phrase, "As I’ve always said." Saturday Night Live begins running hackneyed skits depicting Obama as an empty suit who does nothing all day but eat waffles and gaze lovingly into a mirror, muttering, "I can see Mt. Rushmore from here." Another skit mocks Obama’s Kenyan homeland with an actor portraying his indigent half-brother George in a grass hut, performing African tribal dances in stereotypical fashion while singing a catchy “Kenyan-Obama” rap.
David Letterman jokes that Obama’s teenage unwed mother was knocked up by Wilt Chamberlain at a Lakers game in the early 60s. Everyone far and wide laughs at Obama’s interviews and unscripted moments where he, among other things: confuses Afghanistan with Iraq, mistakenly refers to his “Muslim faith,” can’t distinguish between a nebulizer and a breathalyzer, botches the Golden Rule, and invents seven new American states. His taped interviews are heavily edited to portray him in the worst light possible.
Oscar-winner Matt Damon declares that Obama is a “bad Disney movie.”
Hard to fathom isn’t it? Nigh impossible. Yet that’s what Sarah Palin has been subjected to from the moment she set foot on the national stage — and then some. Magnification of errors. Diminution of achievements. A complete and thorough cultural smear.
I’ve long called Sarah Palin the Jackie Robinson of politics, not to trivialize the challenges African Americans faced and still endure in gaining respect and equality. The defamation of conservatives by media and pop culture in no way compares to our nation’s tragic history of racism and segregation at the hands of the Democrat party.
But the fact remains that Republican Jackie Robinson endured a version of the unfettered Palin Treatment from the moment he dared to step on a baseball field and challenge the white-only Major League order. Despite his obvious talent (.323 batting average, 91 RBIs per season) opposing players initially refused to shake his hand, fans spat on the young player and yelled slurs. He received constant death threats.
Governor Palin, for her part, has been hung in effigy, had her church firebombed, called the “c” word, had her private emails hacked, and has been told by her so-called betters to “leave the room.” Not to mention the death threats.
Some will remind us that President Obama broke the color barrier in his successful White House run.
True, but he never had to break the contempt barrier.
He was never treated as inferior. He immediately belonged to the elite club, even if his liberal ideas and paper-thin resume suggested he was in over his head.
If Palin had simply been a liberal, things might have been different. She might have been hailed far and wide for her hardscrabble youth and bootstrap career battling the good old boys – the Erin Brockovich of Alaska who took on a corrupt system.
After the Tucson shootings, I penned a column titled “Salt in a Wound” where I exhorted Palinistas to “forgive cruelty” and to “turn the other cheek” as we continued to support Governor Palin, even against a blood libel.
I was not suggesting that we stop fighting the smears or that we become timid in our support of Governor Palin or the Tea Party ideals of limited government. What I believed at the time and believe now, is that we cannot win this fight without the righteous determination born of longsuffering and much prayer.
If you look at the literal meaning of Christ’s admonition to turn the other cheek, it’s actually a call for defiance, an active response to an attack that forces the oppressor to violate his own principles and to recognize the attackee as an equal. I recently learned this. The Sadducees (Ruling Class of their day) slapped people of lower class with the backs of their right hands to humiliate them and put them in their place. These elitists were forbidden by strict law from using their left hands for this action.
If the lower-class person after having been slapped on the right cheek turned their head to show the left cheek, it was actually taunting the “elite” to either a) violate their code and slap the person’s left cheek using the back of their “unclean” left hand — or b) to force them to use the open palm of their right hand, which would have conferred equal status to the person they were slapping. Clever move, huh?
I’ve also got to think that turning the other cheek is a subtle statement that says: “That’s all you got? You can’t hurt me. Every time you strike me, you make me stronger, and weaken yourself.”
Indeed much of Christ’s teachings, far from being calls to passivity and retreat, are incitements to engagement. Love your enemies, pray for those who mistreat you. Nowhere does Christ suggest retreating from the public square and allowing evil to win. The call is to be actively engaged, actively proclaiming one’s beliefs regardless of scornful treatment, and while simultaneously praying for strength and deliverance.
By standing up to vilification, and refusing to be cowed into silence, Governor Palin gives us all a voice. She emboldens other mothers of young children to become involved in politics, and to shrug off the “slings and arrows” that come from challenging the liberal world order. She has shown us the way to equality by being tougher than her critics, and by exposing their hollow pretense of tolerance as just so much hot air.
I am proud to support Governor Palin, and to feel the sting of her opponents’ rebuke. Indeed, it’s a badge of honor to be counted as a Palinista.
At the end of the day, we can proudly say to detractors: “Is that all you got? Because we’re still here. Taking the hard shots.”