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Obama, Palin, and the Meaning of ‘Change’

In this election season, the definitions of words are being mangled like never before.

by
Elizabeth Scalia

Bio

September 22, 2008 - 12:00 am
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By contrast, the sophisticates criticizing Palin from their exclusive and tidy enclaves, where like-minded people congregate, educate, recreate, and manage — even in their vast, first-class sojourns — to remain safely insulated from the commoners, have exposed themselves as suffering from small-town mindsets, every bit as judgmental, untraveled, narrow, and closed as any stereotypical tribalist. The exterior may say “uptown,” but the suddenly exposed interiors of these people screamed “provincial” and “keep away!”

Likewise, the word “woman has undergone an abrupt reconfiguration. Formerly defined as a human of specific gender, organs, and bodily functions, we have been treated to several essays by angry women declaring that Gov. Sarah Palin, with her babies and her kicky red-buckled heels that are to die for, is not a woman. She is actually a man. Sen. Joseph Biden, her counterpart on the Democrat ticket, however, manifestly a man, is something like a woman. The logistics of this are less mysterious than they would seem and are tied into the politics of abortion rights. Presumably, until Palin renounces her pro-life positions and admits that she is confusing real women by choosing not to abort her infant son, Trig, who has Down syndrome, she is to be symbolized with the O and arrow of masculinity. Give Palin an O and arrow and she’ll probably use them to kill something and feed her family, which is horrifying for the dainty feminists to contemplate.

“Experience,” which used to be an important word, but for the past year or so has been a markedly unimportant word, has suddenly become important again, but the meaning has changed drastically. In the past, ten years of executive experience, two of them dealing with ten-billion-dollar budgets and serious economic and energy policies, would have been considered somewhat superior to eight years in a state legislature and less than 150 days working in the Senate. Try to keep up.

Let’s not even get into what has happened to the definitions of “feminism” and “Nazi.” Suffice to say one reads these countless, relentlessly shrill screeds — even the men are shrill — and feels a little like the mercenary swordsman Inigo Montoya, who, in the film The Princess Bride, counsels an insufferably conceited blowhard, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Shortly after that, Montoya changes … into a hero.

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Elizabeth Scalia is a contributing writer to First Things Magazine and the blogger known as The Anchoress.
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