I woke up with Sarah Palin this morning. No, I can't tell you what she looks like sans make-up and have no lurid stories for those who do their thinking below their belts. And no, I can't tell what she takes in her coffee, whether she likes her bacon crisp or extra crunchy, her eggs runny or boiled tight. I don't know what color her panties are or just what, exactly, is hidden beneath all those sequins and detachable American flags, much as my more prurient side might want to have a peek. But I woke up with her this morning... and I think I'm going to be sick all day.
Sarah's been with me for months now, no matter how I try to shake her. Hell, she's inescapable; tweeting here, Facebooking there, gosh-golly-geeing everywhere. She greets us from the Alaskan wilderness in her Outdoor Outfitters chic as the TLC cameras roll, pontificating in her oh-so-folksy fashion about life, liberty and the pursuit of an America that never was and never will be. But it doesn't matter. Sarah Palin is busily living out our unrequited dreams.
Used to be this country was a place where one could rise from nothing to reach infinity -- or at least that's what they told us. The copywriters called it "The American Dream", and largely it was. But there was a percentage, infinitesimal though it may have been, who achieved the illusion. It was hard, but not impossible, to squirm your way into the elite. If you wanted it badly enough, there was a always a chance it could be.
Well good luck now, suckers. The whole country's basically gone to Hell in a hand basket. A tiny over-fed few own the place and treat the rest us as imminently disposable, our paychecks shrinking as well-heeled academics suggest we need accept still less for the wheels of industry to turn as in days of yore. We live in a society where, if we're not out trying to kill ourselves on our highways, we're at home killing ourselves with enough corporate approved fats and carbohydrates to give Godzilla a couple of dozen coronaries as our brains drip from our ears, the television loud and somehow ominous -- the soundtrack of our own destruction...
Then along comes Sarah. Up and out from absolutely nowhere. She's staring at Russia from her kitchen window one minute, a duplicitous old man's running mate for the highest office in the land the next. It seems like a fairy tale. And guess what, kids --
And therein lies the dilemma. As usual Frank Rich has it by the collar ("Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha", New York Times -- 11/20/10):
"... logic doesn't apply to Palin. What might bring down other politicians only seems to make her stronger; the malapropism and gaffes, the cut-and-run half-term governorship, family scandals, shameless lying and rapacious self-merchandizing. In an angry time when America's experts and elites all seem to have failed, her amateurism and liabilities are badges of honor. She has turned fallibility into a formula for success."
Now while this might not play most venues, in the heartland the lily white American breadbasket, the guts of the republic -- it tugs at heartstrings and revives the mythical dreams, the improbable if-she-can-I-can-ism that still propels us from our beds in the morning and out into the world beyond. She validates our own naivete', our happily willful, uniquely American ignorance not only "of" but "about" near everything -- all your jerk-off neighbor's genuinely offensive sociopolitical ramblings now gospel, your jerk-off neighbor himself now a celebrity, dare I say a sage, in the bargain.
As T.W. Farnum wrote in last Sunday's Washington Post ("Political divide between coasts and midwest deepening, midterm election analysis shows" -- 11/21/10) --
"Results from November's midterm elections have exposed a deepening divide between cities on the coasts and less dense areas in the middle of the country.
The Republicans' big gains in the House came largely from districts that were older, less diverse and less educated than the nation as a whole."
And that could be the answer to the query posed by Palin's popularity. I mean, why would anyone in their right mind buy this crap. But we're not talking functioning brains here -- we're talking predominantly white, middle-aged Americans... and in Wasilla's Mama Grizzly, these Americans seem to see themselves.
If nothing else, Sarah Palin represents the classic Caucasian American everyman (woman), a symbol of what we thought we were, everything we want to be -- rogues, proud and free (with bendable drinking straws no less), her Americanism our Americanism and that's the idea. Palin becomes of us not so much as a product of the times but as a by-product of the resulting melieu, not a phenomenon but an inevitability given our drift since the riotous Sixties.
She's all of us -- the politely overweight and agonizingly single forty-something with George Strait pictures plastered all over her work cubicle's dull white walls, the "Christ-centered" plumber white-lying you into replacing when just re-adjusting would do, the vaguely irritated supervisor who insists she'll get your money back, the decidedly irritable manager who insists you take a credit instead, the cynical backroom stocker who doesn't really give a good goddamn what any of you do. Like it or not, it's us. And it gets worse.
While Palin might seem stupid, she's hardly dumb. Neither are her handlers. We're not just rising up from the firmament by ourselves here after all. No, there's backing -- probably lots of it. For people like the wildly malevolent Koch brothers she's pure gold; no pesky Karl Roves playing you for fools or pollsters juggling figures and graphs. No, this time it's your game, if only for your out-sized riches your shot to call. You need only the right vehicle to... "wait, excuse me, not to pry, but who's that woman over there?" Right place, right time? Lately it's beginning to look downright ordained.