Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In Search of Common Ground

I am currently in the midst of (about half-way through) reading Sarah Palin's book "Going Rogue" at the moment.

I'm reading it because I can't quite get a 'read' (pardon the pun) on Ms. Palin. I don't usually watch Oprah but I did watch the day she interviewed Palin. Interesting enough but I still don't really know what to think of her.

She definitely ain't stupid, I can tell you that much. But she definitely does seem different in some way I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps it's something in her way of speaking, I'm not sure.

I do know that a lot of people (including most of the media) seem to have ganged up on her and I don't get exactly what that's all about. I think it is true that a lot of people are scared of her but once again I am stuck as to the why.

I posed this question to the nice young guy who works behind the counter at our local Fair Trade coffee shop last week. He never sees me without a book and commented on what I was reading.

Knowing, just knowing, how far to the left of the political spectrum he is, I couldn't help but engage the conversation. I must say that he was more level-headed than many I hear (than again, I think most Canadians are); I think he actually paid her a compliment at one point. But when I mused about people being scared of her, he not only agreed but admitted he was.

When I asked why, he said it was because of her values. Ignoring the amusing point that values are generally considered positive attributes and not something that should create fear, I pointed out that we all disagree with different people on different things but that doesn't usually engender the reaction Palin gets.

Anyway, I am reading the book precisely because I can't get a read on her. The fact that I have made it half-way through speaks for itself in a way - despite the fact that I am an avid reader, I don't can't seem to read non-fiction. Perhaps I get enough "reality" in my work, I don't know, but for the most part I seem unable to force myself through any book that isn't fiction. This one is taking some time but I am making it through. I think maybe because it is told in a rather 'folksy' (for lack of a better word) style, a story told rather like a story, if you will.

And so it occurs to me that if I ran the world, it would be screwed up in totally different ways I would like to make the book mandatory reading for many.

Although my gut is telling me that I will still have that uneasy feeling of being unable to get a 'read' on Ms. Palin after I finish the book, I do appreciate hearing her side of the story on some of the slams things that were brought up during the campaign (such as the alleged book burning, creationism v. evolution in the schools and the infamous 'Trooopergate') and I think it's only fair that people give her a chance to have her voice heard. And then make up their minds.

I know the book (as does the author) tends to engender extreme reactions on both sides (you either love it or you hate it) but for those in the middle and those tempted to quickly write her off if any way possible, might I suggest you read the book first. Then vilify away, if you must.

Reading earlier tonight about Sarah's pregnancy with Trig brought tears to my eyes (an easy enough thing to do on a topic close to my heart). I have posted before about how moved I was by the video Palin made for Special Olympics (which, by the way, I found another copy!) and some of what she speaks of in the video is repeated in the book.

But I was also reminded of a newspaper piece written by Rick Lavoie during the US Presidential election with his thoughts on Governor Palin's promise to be a champion for "special needs families" because she "knows what they are going through".

He shared that response at a Learning Disabilities Conference I attended last year. It too touched my heart. Yeah, yeah, I know; I have a very touchable heart. But you have to give the man credit. He did hit the nail right on the head.
As an advocate for families of handicapped children for over three decades, I have taken a special interest in the role that Trig Palin is playing in the Presidential campaign. Trig, now six months old, is nominee Sarah Palin’s son. He has Down Syndrome. Governor Palin often tells her audience that she will be a champion for “special needs families” because “she knows what you’re are going through.

With great respect and empathy, I must say, “Sorry, Governor, but you don’t.” You will…someday. But not now. Not yet.

Trig is – and always will be – a blessing in your family’s life. But, Governor, your journey has just begun. You will understand…someday. But between that day and today, there will be a lot of other “somedays.”

Someday…you and your family will spend stressful hours in a hospital waiting room while Trig undergoes corrective surgery. The doctors will call it “routine” … but that characterization will seem foreign and insensitive to you.

Someday…a relative or “close friend” will suggest that Trig not be brought to a holiday function because “it may be too much for him to handle.” Your relationship with that person will never be exactly the same again.

Someday…all the students in his class will be invited to a birthday party…except Trig.

Someday…some stranger in a store will stare at him and ask an insensitive and intrusive question. Startled, you will give a bland response. But for several days after the incident, you will generate great and clever retorts that you “should have said." (By the way, you won’t be able to recall these “clever retorts” the next time this occurs).

Someday…your adorable daughter who stroked Trig’s hair during the GOP convention will grow into adolescence. Trig will embarrass her in front of her friends and she will tell you, “I hate him! I hate him! I hate him!” (…she will feel guilt-ridden after her rant and will cry herself to sleep that night).
You can read the rest of it here. And might I suggest that you do.

Meanwhile, I will get back to that book. And I will let you know what I think when I finally get through it.

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