In the latest manifestation of the long-running phenomenon known as Palin-hatred, several liberal and left sites have excoriated her for wearing what they assumed was a black memorial bracelet meant to commemorate a member of the military killed in action, but bearing the name of her very-much-alive son Track who has served in Iraq.
The venom unleashed was of the usual variety:
[Wearing such a bracelet] demonstrates a horrifying contempt for those who gave their last full measure of devotion or an almost unbelievable ignorance of the importance of symbols in American history.
But it turns out it was actually the Palin-haters who demonstrated the horrifying contempt and the almost unbelievable ignorance — or at the very least, a failure to use Google. In fact, Palin was wearing something known as a Deployed HeroBracelet, meant to honor the service of a loved one who is still living. Palin’s bracelet was not even black but bronze, and was given her as a gift by the makers, who also presented one to Joe Biden in his son’s name.
The author of the original piece about the bracelet, Eric Robinson, at least had the grace to apologize. But not before a torrent of contemptuous hatred had already been displayed in the comments sections of several left-wing blogs.
It is hardly surprising, however, that many of Palin’s detractors jumped at the chance to blast her for the bracelet without even bothering to confirm the basic facts. It was a case of assuming the worst, seeing what they expected to see. They considered the incident to be only one more piece of evidence confirming what they believed they already knew, and what they feel should be self-evident to any thinking person: Sarah Palin is a stupid, lying, child-exploiting, shameless, opportunistic right-wing nut. That there might be a more benign explanation for any of her behavior does not even occur to them, and therefore no further fact-checking would be needed.
This rush to judgment is not the exception but rather the rule when criticizing Sarah. Palin-hatred is as old — and as persistent — as her presence on the national scene (that’s “hatred,” as distinguished from mere disagreement on issues). There have been countless explanations for it. If anything, the phenomenon is over-determined, representing a toxic brew of class warfare, misogyny, envy (much of this coming from women), and elitism.
One of the many things that so infuriates Palin-haters is that she has not adopted the proper veneer of bland sameness that most people in public life affect, a smoothness that often serves to even out idiosyncrasies of accent and regionalism. Ms. Palin refuses to do this. She sports not only a bracelet that marks her as the proud mother of a son who has been in the military, but an accent that marks her as from the far north and simultaneously as “country.”
Many people read the latter as “uneducated,” and therefore “stupid.” The assumption is that Palin doesn’t change these things — she continues to drop her “g’s” at the end of “ing” words, for example — because she cannot do so, rather than because she chooses not to do so. But that assumption may be as incorrect as so many of the other assumptions about Palin.
It may have been Palin’s choice to keep her distinctive personal characteristics rather than bury them, including retaining her accent and even celebrating it. I believe it was a choice; a woman with a will as ferocious as hers could easily have altered her speech pattern with a little bit of effort. Just ask Henry Higgins.
Palin refuses to play the usual games in order to be in with the in-crowd. Her speech and mannerisms express her solidity with many of her constituents, the very people the current Democratic Party and its leaders have marginalized and ridiculed (and largely lost), the ones Obama was describing in his “bitter clinger” speech at a Democratic fundraiser in San Francisco, speaking to fellow Democrats when they thought they were talking amongst themselves. The particular demographic Obama was referring to are the people whom many liberal Democrats do not trust or respect — and they most definitely neither trust nor respect Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin is a college graduate and a woman of no small accomplishment. But she has stubbornly exemplified and even embraced rural working class values and patterns of speech. She wears it all with pride, just as she wore the bracelet: the hunting and fishing, the down-home phrases, the salt-of-the-earth values, the work ethic, the devotion to church and family, the playful wink. These things endear her to her supporters, but mark her as a knuckle-dragging Nascar-loving imbecile to her detractors, who remain smug in their superiority.
If one watches this YouTube video of some of the recent typically chortling mockery of Palin for writing notes on her hand, it appears evident that the most important function of all of this may be as a bonding exercise, a fail-safe device for those who exhibit it to recognize each other and congratulate themselves on their own excellent taste and judgment. In this way they are signaling that they are part of the cognoscenti, an elevated group with the sense to know — and the boldness to state — that Sarah Palin is beneath them, and beneath all thinking, cultured people.
In doing so, they only serve to show their own bigotry, and to further alienate an entire group of voters. But they are either unaware of that fact, or consider it a small price to pay for a chance to demonstrate their own superiority.