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Sarah Palin: Darling We Don’t Need You [With apologies to John Cale]

Posted in journalism by YTAH on September 17, 2008
Tags: , , , ,

Every four years or so, anyone who’s depressed by the state of South African politics – and who isn’t, really? – can take solace in the election antics of the elephants and asses from the Land of the Free™ and Home of the Brave© across the Atlantic. And this time around it’s no different.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

More of the same.

Lipstick on a pig: More of the same.

This year, the American presidential race involves two historic stand-offs. The first, which has already passed, was the standoff between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic Party nomination. (Sorry if you missed the furore, as I did. By the time I wanted to make the “Hillary: I’m really a black lesbian” joke, even she had given up trying to win the nomination and was no longer in the market for last-ditch efforts, no matter how desperate or humorous.)

However, the clock is still running on the second stand-off: that between the two people who may respectively become either the first Black president or the first female vice-president: Obama vs. Sarah Palin. The time for that particular showdown reads 11.30, which means high noon’s still a-comin’. It also means that all eyes are now on Palin, the 44-year-old governor from Alaska.

Before John McCain announced his choice of second-in-command, the election seemed a foregone conclusion, with the momentum clearly on Obama’s side. Since the announcement, though, he seems to have recaptured the moment. Some commentators – okay, only McCain himself, so far – go as far as to suggest that they’ve even wrested the banner of ‘Change’ from their opponents. If you consider that McCain has pretty much “voted in lock-step with President George Bush” these last few years, that’s rather like saying that George Jr. “won” the election against Al Gore: true in the strictest, most pragmatic sense, but verifiably false in every other way. (As for Palin, her ideological distance from Dubya is expressed forcefully enough by an incident during her campaign for mayor in the city of Wasilla, Alaska, when she lambasted her opponent for his poor church attendance.)

Most commentators – okay, everyone except McCain himself – admit that this enthusiasm may dim as the electorate get to know this new player better, and hear about some of the usual underhanded shenanigans that all goddamn politicians get up to. So let’s spend some time getting more familiar with the woman who, from here on in, I’d like to dub Georgina Bush.

“Rattlesnakes and Strychnine and Prayer”

Here’s a short list of what Palin supports, and what she doesn’t.

Drilling for oil along the Alaskan coast, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Absolutely fine. Never mind that whole schpiel about some “God-given responsibility” to care for the world, mentioned in Genesis (you know, from that Bible novel the Christians all claim to believe in). By contrast, she vetoed a bill expanding Alaskan wind farm projects. Logic? Who needs logic when you’ve got Jesus.

Hunting polar bears for sport: Also not a problem, even though everyone else reckons they’re an endangered species. (What with the erosion of the ice floes – attributed to global warming – contributing to the increase in the number of drowning deaths of polar bears, a phenomenon previously unheard of.)

Allowing red-blooded, gun-loving hunting-and-fishing Alaskans a referendum to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision to grant health benefits to government employees’ same-sex partners: Certainly.
Allowing those same Alaskans to overturn a law allowing the aerial hunting of wolves: What? Are you kidding? That’s just un-fucking-American.

Abortion: Definitely a no-no. Even if attackers break into your home and force you at gunpoint to have sex with your daughter, Palin reckons that if the girl gets pregnant, she shouldn’t be allowed to terminate the pregnancy, even if failing to do so could cause her physical harm. Charming, really. (And if you think that’s a hyperbolic scenario, you haven’t been reading the newspapers.)
Capital punishment: Totally fine. So the government has every right to kill the aforementioned rapist, but you can’t do the same thing to a benevolent tumour called “a foetus”. Go figure.

Censorship, corruption, and creationism: Watch this space.

Meet me at the book-burning.

Meet me at the book-burning.

The McCain-Palin campaign is still trying to downplay the significance of the so-called Book Burning incident. (Okay, no-one else is calling it that. But see how this works?) Apparently, back when Palin was still mayor of an Alaskan city, she asked the town librarian how parents could go about having books banned from the library. A few weeks later, she asked for the librarian’s resignation, once that diabolical book-lover had proved less than amenable to the suggestion. (The rest of the town told Palin to fuck off, thank god, at which point she had to back the hell off, and the librarian kept her job.)

Still to be decided in the court of public opinion is her habit of giving personal friends top jobs in her administration. According to an investigative report in the New York Times, “Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance.” The sources for this article? Public records, plus interviews with 60 legislators and local officials, which included local Republican colleagues. Whereas Palin demanded that other non-government employees with 20 years’ experience resign from their positions, one Palin pal got a $95 000-a-year job in the agricultural sector based on “her childhood love of cows”. And I’m not even going to mention the whole “Troopergate” saga.

The jury’s still out on Palin’s opinions about creationism, or how big a role she thinks creationism should play in school curricula. Fortunately South African law doesn’t involve juries, so we can pretty much predict that this is just a nice little bit of pre-election molly-coddling before the knives come out. What she says is that “intelligent design” should be discussed in schools even if it’s not part of the official curriculum. But since she’s already shown that she’s more than comfortable with the idea of censorship, it shouldn’t be too long before she moots the desirability of discussing both as “equally valid approaches”.

Twisting the truth (i.e. flat-out lying) to get elected: Hell yeah! The McCain-Palin campaign has based their claim to be mavericks bringing change on Palin’s supposed reputation for shooting down pork-barrel projects. In response, the whole of Alaska – Democrats and Republicans alike – all went, “Oi! Fuck off!” Not surprising, really, since she’d happily supported an infamous construction project, which involved building a bridge to a nearby island (population 50), at the bargain price of $442 million. (That’s $8.84 million per person.)

According to an interview she gave to Time magazine, Palin explained that she’s a Republican because “individual freedom and independence is extremely important to me.” She reckons the Republican Party is right for America because of its “respect for equality and respect for life”. So, independence and freedom, respect for equality and life… unless you’re homosexual, or a non-believer, or on anybody’s endangered list.

Scared yet?

Now you may ask what exactly we’re gloating about. After all, our own political scene is defined by a bunch of alarmist, reactionary crypto-fascists opposing the sad remnants of the people who unassailably held the moral high ground a mere 14 years ago – the “previously ethically advantaged”, if you will. So why does every Tom, Dick and Vusi feel the need to criticize the American electoral process and the people involved in one of the biggest political events in the world?

The fact is that, like it or not, the Americans still exert a lot of influence globally. And whoever gets elected is going to make their stamp felt everywhere in one way or another. As Jonathan Freedland put it while commenting on Obama’s popularity abroad: “If Americans reject Obama, they will be sending the clearest possible message to the rest of us – and, make no mistake, we shall hear it.”

What makes all this scary is that Palin’s opinions probably reflect those of a greater number of gun-totin’ Conservative Christian Americans than Obama’s do. And we’re talking about the same people who got Dubya re-elected. The aforementioned M&G article mentions that “it was partly [McCain’s] disdain for the grip that TV preachers came to hold over the Republicans that earned him a reputation as a maverick”. Well fuck that one; as could have been predicted by the most politically naïve DA voter, the candidate’s principles took a backseat to the politically pragmatic decision to choose a running mate on the basis of popular appeal.

Call me a cynic, but I reckon the people who elected and then re-elected first Richard Nixon, then Ronald Reagan, and then did the same for George Jr., will be much more likely to vote for an older white guy with a woman in tow, than for an “articulate” black dude with an older white guy in tow. And that sinking feeling isn’t helped any by Obama’s seeming naivety, expressed in statements like “You can’t just make stuff up, you can’t just reinvent yourself.” Um, yes you can, dear. (Let’s hope that was a rhetorical tactic rather than a glimpse into the contender’s mind, shall we.)

All of which, I’m afraid to say, amounts to a depressing thought: Welcome to another four years of hell.

If the lipstick fits... Palin' in comparison.

If the lipstick fits... Palin' in comparison.

Postscript: In case you distrust africans as a news source (although, really, why should you?), you can check out the more mainstream articles from the Mail & Guardian. Look forward to more shits and giggles in the weeks to come, with the shits coming more often and in bigger servings.

And if you’re bored enough to read the whole of this article and the M&G columns to boot, here’s a suggested playlist:

Randy Newman – Sail Away [From Sail Away]
John Cale – Darling I Need You [From Fragments of a Rainy Season]
REM – Exhuming McCarthy [From Document]
New Model Army – Lurhstaap [From Impurity]
The Beatles – Piggies [From The White Album]
Randy Newman – God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind) [From Sail Away]

[Originally posted on africans.co.za, Wednesday 17 September 2008.]

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