Stop Acting Surprised.


So it’s 2009, and this clip, where the former Governor of Alaska and Republican nominee for Vice President "confuses" Iraq and Iran, then never notices or corrects her flub, is making its bloggy rounds. As a "gotcha" moment, it barely stands out. We could post every video of every interview she’s tried to give. Or of the debate. For which I hope Joe Biden got mercifully drunk. 

But we need to stop pretending that Palin is unique. She is not a left-field choice for this generation’s Republican party. She exactly meets their criteria for leadership, for decision making, and for being a good American. Her refusal to think about things she does not think about is central to this.

Most people think about Policy exactly as much as they think about theocidy or barometric medicine or metallurgy. Life is complicated however you live, and though I believe most people geek out about something, only some will about this. Which is a central challenge to any nation of citizens. Because citizenship demands participation, for better or for worse.

There are a lot of ways to participate, without being a wonk. Basic civics in primary education, and good outreach by local issue advocates and politicians, are some that I like. Reducing all debate to messianic warfare, and all voting into veneration … that’s much more popular.

This has taken on special intensity since complicated foreign policy started to kill regular people. 2001 brought new trust and a new mandate to the feet of a mediocre Administration, narrowly elected on name recognition, folksiness, and resentment of his shifty, wonkish predecessor. And now that Administration had to fight a world war, against an enemy with no capital.

It’s torture to watch Sarah Palin try to answer questions she just can’t. Try to show herself capable of a job the details of which escape her, of engaging a world in which she has no interest.

But remember how many people want her there. As bewildered as they are. As resentful of the geeks as they are. As scared as they are and as willing to double down on the proposition that the rightness of belief and the virtues of wholesome motherhood are all we need to battle the world. That we don’t need to be afraid, or exhausted. Because anyone can do it.

Anyone can do it! 

December 2001. I am back from college, busing and prepping at a chicken wing bar in Buffalo. If you had asked, I would have identified as right of center, a UN skeptic, and a Christian.

Still. Every time I was in the prep room, this new hit song would come on the radio. And every time, I would flip out. I would be physically angry. Close to throwing raw chicken at everything in sight, like a monkey that just rested its balls on a live wire. And was surrounded by chicken.

I got that they were serious. I got that this was double platinum. Looming, like a brown hair bun first appearing over the horizon, was this war we’d have to fight with ourselves. Over faith. Over certainty. And the limits of both.

So stop acting surprised.


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