Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I'll See Your Black Man and Raise You a Palin

Last Friday morning I received a rare instant message from my husband.

Him: “Palin.”

Me: “Yes. I heard.”

Him, never having heard of her before that morning (he doesn’t listen to NPR): “Thoughts?”

Hmmm … So much to say via an instant message. I need some time to really mull this over.

Me: “Their base will go wild. I’m disturbed by the implications.”

Okay … after twenty years of marriage he knows to leave it alone if I’m “disturbed” by anything the Republicans do. Over the last eight years, he has learned this lesson all too well.

Him, ducking for cover: “Bye.”

And so began my examination of Sarah Palin and my complicated feelings about her being chosen for the number two spot on the Republican ticket. First, I looked at our similarities. Sarah is a Hockey Mom and I’m a Soccer Mom. Sarah is forty-four and I’m forty-one. Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree in communications while I hold one in business management. Sarah married her high school sweetheart and I married my college sweetheart. Both husbands, in their forties, have goatees. Sarah is the mother of five children and I am the mother of three children. Sarah and I are working mothers. I should love her, right? Hold, please.

Now, let’s examine our differences. Sarah is a Pro-Life Evangelical Christian whose current occupation is Governor of Alaska. I’m a Pro-Choice United Methodist who readily confesses I have more questions than answers regarding everything from the existence of a personified devil to how exactly God got Jesus into Mary’s virgin womb.

I’m currently employed as a legal assistant and although I’m no Governor, I do follow politics very closely. Sarah is a Republican and I’m a Democrat. When Sarah became pregnant for the fifth time, she was made aware through prenatal testing that her son would have Down Syndrome. She gave birth in April at the age of forty-four. I became pregnant for the first time at twenty-seven years of age and through prenatal testing became aware that my son would have Down Syndrome. I chose not to deliver my son. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I chose to deliver him at twenty-one weeks and he was stillborn. Sarah will now raise a child with Down Syndrome along with her four other healthy children. I’m now raising two healthy children against the backdrop of the choice I made for my first son thirteen years ago.

John McCain apparently believes Sarah is qualified to be the Commander-In-Chief should he die while in office. John McCain has never heard of Kristi Stevens. Sarah says she can mother and be second in command to the most powerful man on the planet. I’m just hoping I can make it to soccer practice by six, pick up milk on the way home, and get both kids in bed by 8:30 p.m. so that I can watch Sarah’s nationally televised speech.

So now you know the lens through which I view Sarah Palin. Admittedly, it is a skeptical one. I have many more questions about her than I have answers. I have no idea why John McCain chose her other than what I believe to be obvious: she is extremely conservative which appeals to the Republican base, she is a Washington outsider apparently untainted by the current President, and she is a woman which McCain must think balances out the diversity of the Democratic ticket.

I have no idea how she dealt with the news that her fifth child would have Down Syndrome. Did she, like me, grieve for the life that might have been? Did she weep for the struggles that she knew would come? Did she wrestle with knowing she was choosing to bring a child into the world with a disability? I have to believe that she did... that any mother would. I have to believe that the process she went through upon hearing the news was much like my own. She came to a different conclusion for her family and for her son than I. And for that, you will never hear any judgment from me. I’ve walked those shoes. For four agonizing days I read, absorbed, was counseled, and I prayed. I looked and re-looked at a level two-sonogram tape of my son’s heart, stomach, and kidneys. Then I made my choice for my family and for my son. And I’ve lived every single day for the last thirteen years with that choice coloring my life. I would not change it and I’m at peace with it. It is not the road I would have chosen, but one that I awoke to find myself walking. And one step at time I’ve walked it ever since. Would I receive judgment from Sarah Palin if she knew my story? I don’t know the answer to that yet. I do believe I am about to find out.

I’ll be voting for Barack Obama and Joe Biden in November. I’ll be doing so because I believe in a middle class that isn’t overly burdened by taxes and has a fair shot at getting a job that pays a living wage. I’ll be voting for the right to health care for all our citizens. I’ll be voting for a woman’s right to choose. I’ll be voting in the hope that the country I love will soon not be at war. I will be voting in the hope that neither of my children will ever see war firsthand.

Between now and then I will watch the campaign closely. I will watch Sarah Palin very closely. If she becomes our next Vice President, my prayer for her is that she will learn well the tough lessons, which she is now being taught. I pray she will be able to mother and govern. I pray her youngest will do well and thrive. I pray her oldest daughter delivers a healthy baby and has a long, happy marriage. I pray her oldest son comes home safely from Iraq. And I will particularly pray that Sarah Palin will understand that her religious beliefs are not necessarily those of the people she governs … that freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.

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