Sarah Palin is ruining my life

I rant about her; I can't stop thinking about her; I cannot stand to look at her; I'm possessed by her!

Published September 29, 2008 10:25AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am a Democrat, a mother of three, and a full-time attorney. During the primaries, I was torn between Hillary Clinton, who I believed had the experience to be president (and really, really, really wanted it), and Barack Obama, who I believed was not only highly capable (albeit less experienced), but also the more sincere of the two and who inspired me on an emotional level that Clinton did not. In addition, as my kind friends pointed out to me, Clinton was carrying a lot of baggage in terms of her own scandals, not to mention Bill's little problems. So, in the end, I did what my heart really wanted me to do all along and voted for Obama. And then I totally checked out of the election. I've always disliked the pettiness of politics, the lies, the mudslinging, the arguments over meaningless minutiae, the parsing of personalities ad infinitum, etc. My perspective was, short of Obama being caught on video strangling his children with his own two hands, he had my vote, and thus I had no need to pay attention to all the nonsense that would occur in both campaigns prior to the election.

And then came Sarah. My reaction to her, and the way the Republican Party threw her in our faces, and the pandering and hypocrisy that was behind their decision to do so, was immediate, visceral, and indeed, vicious. I have crossed every line I believed should never be crossed in public discourse -- I have criticized not only her policies and her record, but her hair, her personal style, her accent, her abilities as a mother, etc. I've also begun to suffer personally and professionally. I bore my friends with my constant tirades against her, and am constantly distracted from my work by my need to continually update myself on the latest criticism, and indeed, ridicule, of her. In my hatred for her, I have begun to hate myself.

I don't want this woman ruining my life before she even gets a chance to ruin our country. How do I stop? Is there a self-help group for this?

A "Hater"*

*As Sarah Palin calls all those who disagree with her (New York Times, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008)

Dear "Hater,"

I think what disturbs us about Sarah Palin is that she reminds us of the authoritarian personality. My guess is that she is also an ESFJ, or Extroverted Sensing Feeling Judging type, with a strong preference for sensing. Such a person prefers to acquire her knowledge from concrete objects and places instead of from abstract ideas. This would explain why she thinks being geographically close to Russia is a form of foreign policy expertise.

As an authoritarian type, she strikes us as a person who prefers power to reason. The people running John McCain's campaign seem to instinctively understand the uses to which such an impression can be put. Perhaps they know better than we do how deeply the American people long to be done with the problem of democracy, to yield to a powerful father-mother pair of authoritarians.

The very thing that appalls us about Sarah Palin -- her discomfort in the realm of reason -- is her main selling point. This is so mind-boggling that you have to take a minute to let it in. Take a deep breath. Read that sentence again. Face it: Sarah Palin represents what many people want: a retreat from reason; a regression to childhood.

Inarticulateness is the weapon of the authoritarian in this way: To speak clearly is to risk being understood and thus disagreed with. To speak clearly is to invite debate. To obfuscate and muddle is to avoid disagreement and debate and force the issue to one of power. The refusal to speak clearly is an invitation for issues to be resolved by power alone: I don't have to speak clearly because you have no choice in this anyway. I'm going to do what I'm going to do.

It can also be a trait, I think, of the sensing type who has not developed her weaker side. She has not learned to imagine how profoundly ludicrous it seems to the rest of us that physical proximity would constitute intellectual understanding.

Why does she get away with exercising her particular magic? Moms exercise power without explanation. We trust them because they are moms. We are children. So we trust them.

As we become adults, study the law and history and begin to run our own affairs, we become accustomed to sharing power by reasoning with each other.

Our intellectual disciplines allow us to agree or disagree about realities separate from ourselves. You are a lawyer. You are trained in the law. The law is built of ideas that we can agree about in a general way. We can agree what most laws mean. We can talk about them. One reason you are so appalled by Sarah Palin may be that every time she opens her mouth she repudiates this tradition.

When a person will not articulate her positions well or clearly, she is asserting a kind of power; it is not possible to predict what she is going to do. She does not allow us to know her. We generally do not let such persons make decisions for us. We do not like to give power to them.

But for some, they do appeal to a dark side, to something in us that desires to give up on reason, to have someone take over, to regress.

The shape this authoritarian has taken is the shape of the mother. We want to give Sarah Palin her due because she is a woman and a mother. A cynical trick has been played on us. She is a Trojan Horse.

Her refusal or inability to speak clearly also seems to devalue our own desire to speak clearly; if one does not speak clearly to you, then you cannot communicate with them; you are held off from them; you are excluded from their world. The only way to enter their world, therefore, is to follow them. There's no time for talk! Follow me! It's time to chase Putin out of our airspace! It's time to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.

This is what frightens and angers us: The refusal to follow the rules of discourse, of language, even, implies that there is nothing to talk about. There is only action. There is only faith. There is only taking that hill.

This is my admittedly impressionistic take. Glenn Greenwald can talk about it much better than I can.

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