I despise Sarah Palin. I have a bumper sticker on my fridge with her picture that reads “WTF?’ When I see her on the cover of the magazine in the supermarket line, my lip automatically curls into a sneer and I give a patronizing shake of the head. And my voice rises ten decibels whenever she enters any conversation.
This puzzles me. I am not really a hater. Sure, I am loud and opinionated, but I don’t really mean much of it. And anyway, when you hlate anything or anyone as much as I hate Sarah, it must say something not just about the hatee, but the hater.
Of course, she is a self-serving hypocrite with odious politics, airond based on her Tweets to Dr. Laura, a low-grade racist. But as self-serving odious right wing hypocrites go, she’s not particularly stinky.
Her lies and misstatements are merely fibs compared to the whoppers told by Beck, Hannity, and O’Reilly, all of whom are competing to see who make Joseph Goebbels look like Walter Cronkite.
She’s hypocritical, but she hasn’t scolded a President for adultery while having an affair herself, like Newt, or wished Jerry Garcia death because of his drug addiction and at the same time been so oxy’d up he was drooling on his microphone like Rush, or bashed gay rights from a comfortable love seat in his closet, like Mehlman and Haggard. (Come to think of it, who in the conservative movement is not on that last list?)
Sure she took the money and ran from Alaska, which is self-serving, but any of us would probably have done the same, really. In fact, there’s even some evidence that she has principles—real ones. Bringing a Downs Syndrome baby into the world because you oppose abortion takes some courage and fortitude.
I mean, she’s bad, but there’s no evidence she’s genuinely evil, like Dick Cheney or Rupert Murdoch or the Koch brothers.
My wife says it’s misogyny on my part. There may be some truth in this. As I have argued before, I think we’re all racists. It’s just a matter of degree and self-awareness. Along the same lines, I think most of us are sexists, at least to the extent we tend to explain the capabilities and behavior of individuals as a function of their sex, e.g., when I tease a young female colleague of mine about her shoe shopping and she jibes me about sports. My wife says I am overly critical of opinionated females. Maybe, but I have successful stayed married to one opinionated female for 32 years come Thanksgiving. I also have a daughter on whom I dote who is certainly not shy and withdrawn. And I don’t have the same hatred for Ann Coulter or Liz Cheney that I do for Sarah.
My friend says it’s a class thing. I am of the same trailer park trash heritage as Sarah, having grown up in the projects in Waycross, Georgia. And it took some considerable effort on my part to leave all that behind. He says she reminds me of something I am trying to bury in myself. Thank you, Phil Freud. Of course, it could be true. I am a little embarrassed by the South and my Southern roots. Whenever the news channels need someone to say something really foolish, they head for the on-ramp to I-95S and look for someone with a drawl. However, this explanation seems a little deep to me. I mean really, I look in the mirror every morning and see Sarah? That’s creepy.
I think the real reason is something more basic. I think our modern world divides into two groups, not black and white, Islamists and Christians, Democrats and Republicans or religious and secular, but rather thinkers and believers.
I am a thinker.
Now, I am not a great thinker. From time to time, I’ve been in the room with great thinkers and seen what a 700 horsepower mind looks like, and I am not that. I am a good enough thinker that it paid my way out of Waycross, Georgia.
But less important than my qualities as a thinker is that I fundamentally trust the thought process. (And the scientific process, and knowledge and phd’s.) I use it all the time. When I read something about a petition signed by every scientist on the planet supporting the climate warming hypothesis, I click on the icon and go to the graph and scour the data. I trust my ability to process the information more than I trust a group of experts, even though I acknowledge their expertise. I consider passion and emotion to be states created my chemicals in my brain, and like all drugs, they should be used in measured amounts and only to good purpose—to enhance reality rather than to escape it.
Sarah is a believer. Like all evangelicals (and all religious people, actually,) she believes in things because she believes in them. She believes there is a rule book somewhere written by someone and that book is to be followed. They call it faith, but it doesn’t matter what they call it. It is a willingness to accept and commit to a path of action based on an emotional buy-in to something someone else has said is true.
Most people are believers. They believe in religion or politics or food supplements or sustainability or runs of luck at the slot machine. People in my yoga class believe in mysterious currents of energy that flow through the body and get blocked by stress, and that there is an ancient system of exercises that will unblock them. My friends who do Ironmen carry around well worn copies of Colin Friels and talk about the benefits of periodization. My deeply left-wing friends more or less believe in Marx, although they don’t think of it that way, and my right-wing friends in a strangely misinterpreted version of Adam Smith. All these folks are believers, who chose their belief system first and now select their answer to any question based on how well it lines up with the principles of that system.
I try as hard as I can not to do that.
I despise Sarah for the same reason that rabbits despise snakes, because we are completely different species, both competing for scarce resources and trying to pass our genes along. At some deep visceral level, we know that we are not on the same side and will never be, even if we happen to agree from time to time.
I realize that I am drawing the line overly fine here. No one can or should use thinking to guide every decision. Doing so would be slow, stupid and exhausting. I mostly listen to my doctor and always to my auto mechanic. Even believers do try to think their way through some things, although as George Will has proved, there’s not much evidence they’re any good at it.
Sadly, of course, we are not in good times for thinkers. That’s fair, in a way. These things cycle. During some historical periods thinkers have been ascendant and in others the believers have held sway. The twentieth century, for the most part, was a century of thinkers. Maybe we’ve had our turn, and it’s time for those who use the back section of their brain to drive the historical bus for awhile. If you believe in progress, then we will get our turn again.
At least, that how I think about it.