Reading Rogue: The eye of the hurricane is just a moment of calm before the crap starts flying again...

>> Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh, come on, bear with me--it's a strain to phrase that metaphor in the post title, but anyone who's been through a hurricane knows what I mean: there's rain and wind and crap everywhere, then the eye passes over and everything is quiet for a spell, and then you get the other half of the storm passing over. Which is how I feel at the end of chapter three of Going Rogue, "Drill, Baby, Drill," at page 209 of the 405 pages before Dewey Whetsell's afterword--i.e. basically halfway through the book. It's a marker and a moment of calm, but there's more to go.

I could be wrong, but I'm more convinced than ever that Going Rogue was, in fact written by two people, with the first two chapters written mostly by Mrs. Palin and chapter three either written by Lynn Vincent or with Mrs. Vincent's extensive revisions. Unlike the first two chapters, the language in chapter three tends to be much more precise, the thoughts more organized and coherent, dates are set out more specifically, and there's some overall sense of organization even when the text jumps back forth in time (while chapter three is not always chronologically organized, chronological breaks are thematically linked--e.g. Mrs. Palin jumps ahead and then back when talking about visiting Kuwait in 2007 and Track Palin's enlistment, but the overarching theme of that section is a typically conservative-styled cheerleading of American soldiers and the nobility of their sacrifice and feelings of patriotism they elicit in Mrs. Palin, etc.).

As I wrote yesterday, this has been the section of the book I expected when I took the task, and the text here is inoffensive in a literary sense; don't misunderstand me--politically, Mrs. Palin's politics are 180° from my own, and from a political standpoint I find much of what she has to say in chapter three to be shallow, hypocritical, and amoral if not immoral. I merely mean that the literary offenses Mrs. Palin commits in the first chapter are largely absent, unless I've simply become desensitized to them, which I don't believe to be the case. What I'm reading now is tripe, but it's at least barely articulate tripe, and if it won't win any literary prizes, it also wouldn't get a "D-" in a college freshman English course.

As for the truth of what she has to say, I'm barely in a position to judge much of it, frankly. I just don't know enough about Alaskan politics nor do I have the inclination to go and sift through every odd or suspicious statement, much less every passable or seemingly-credible passage. There is, however, an outright lie about (prepare to be surprised) healthcare on pages 168-169, where Mrs. Palin, writing about a time she was summoned to the hospital after a teenage Track Palin was injured in a hockey game, says:

Apologetically, the nurse explained that they couldn't even let him walk down the hall to the drinking fountain because if he needed surgery his stomach should be empty, and they couldn't treat him without me. Of course I understood, but I still fumed inside. I even wondered out loud about why this big, strapping, nearly grown man who was overcome with pain couldn't even get a drink of water without parental consent, yet a thirteen-year-old girl could undergo a painful, invasive, and scary abortion and no parent even had to be notified. The nurse seemed to agree with me, and on the spot I mentally renewed my commitment to help change Alaska's parental notification law so that our daughters would have the same support and protections we give to our children in other medical situations. [emphasis in original]

This passage caught my eye, of course, because Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) specifically upheld parental notice requirements for abortion procedures as being Constitutional and not an undue burden under Roe v. Wade; indeed, that's a part of the controversy over Casey--where anti-choicers were furious about Casey's explicit affirmation of Roe, pro-choicers have been critical of the Supreme Court's holding that states can require the parents of minors seeking abortions to be notified. So what the hell is Mrs. Pain on about?

It turns out that her misstatement of the law is a reference to an Alaska Supreme Court decision in 2007 that overturned a parental consent requirement in Alaska's abortion regulations, something then-Governor Palin surely understood, or perhaps she shouldn't have commented for the Associated Press article in the previous link. What makes Mrs. Palin's statement blatantly dishonest is that Alaska's Supreme Court, in line with Casey, specifically ruled against Planned Parenthood Of Alaska on the issue of parental notification.

One can't help but be reminded of Mrs. Palin's infamous "death panels" lie, and I do believe we are talking about deliberate falsehoods, statements made not with a reckless disregard of the truth, but an intentional subordination of truth to a political agenda. Now, frankly, the lie in question here may in fact be attributable to Lynn Vincent--I rather suspect it is. But Ms. Vincent is writing on Mrs. Palin's behalf, and Mrs. Palin insists Ms. Vincent didn't write the book for her, so for the time being it is what it is: another lie about healthcare from former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin.

One or two more observations about that quoted paragraph while we're here. First, I'm slightly skeptical of the story altogether; while I fully believe that then-Governor Palin was summoned to the hospital after her active, athletic son was injured in an often-violent sport, I find the way the story is told and the details of it a bit muddled--I somehow doubt that the incident was a teachable moment about abortion or that Mrs. Palin gave a sermonette while she was there, and the business about the water seems iffy as a setup simply because Mrs. Palin's consent for her son's treatment doesn't have much bearing on the hospital wanting Track to have an empty stomach for anesthesia, unless it was a certain thing that surgery wasn't required or that Mrs. Palin was going to decline consent. The story reads like an actual incident that's been repurposed as a sort of parable and the facts molded where necessary for that purpose. Secondly, if you go back and compare the above paragraph to prior quotes and excerpts I've included (e.g. the one in this post) you may see why I think this passage was written or rewritten by somebody else.

It's getting late and I'd like this to post today, so I'll wrap things up and I may come back to one or two points later if it strikes me, but there is one more thing I'd like to touch on: what is perhaps most annoying in chapter three is the way Mrs. Palin depersonalizes and politicizes her personal life. This is significant in several ways, not the least of which is Mrs. Palin's feigned outrage whenever critics mention her family. Throughout chapter three, Mrs. Palin writes about family events and issues--Track Palin's injuries and military enlistment, Todd Palin's work and activities, her discovery that she was pregnant and that Trig Palin would be born with Down Syndrome, being a woman in a male-dominated and often sexist political culture, etc.--that ought to be interesting and compelling regardless of your politics, and that one ought to find sympathetic regardless of one's personal feelings for Sarah Palin. And if this book were, in fact, a memoir, these anecdotes and events would be the stuff of compelling autobiography. But Going Rogue isn't a real memoir and Mrs. Palin ends up being remarkably unsympathetic and less-than-compelling because she simply cannot resist turning every single thing into a talking point for her presumed 2012 campaign. Consider the excerpt above for a moment, again: if any of your friends with kids told you about coming into the hospital and seeing their child's arm dangling by their side, you'd be sympathetically horrified on their behalf, indignant over the child's inability to have water (however appropriate) and cheerful when everything turned out alright; but Mrs. Palin can't just tell you the story, no, it has to be an example of how she renewed her pro-life commitments. Similarly, she can't tell you about what it feels like to be a mother watching her son become a man who is going to war without going on a generic bender about troops and loving America and heroic sacrifice and all the "Yay, America!" rest of it. I hate to be rude about it, but Mrs. Palin makes it impossible not to be because there's not one serious, perhaps even tragic, thing that has happened to her family this decade that she can't cheapen with some bland, generic, made-for-the-campaign-trail pablum. I feel more worried about her boy right now than she appears to be in her fucking book--good grief, I hope the kid's alright, does anyone know if he's back from his deployment? It only makes it more perverse and grotesque that I have to suspect that Mrs. Palin, in point of fact, actually does and did have actual human feelings about these things, she even hints at them when talking about Trig--if she'd actually written about them, I might actually have more respect for her, instead of even less than I had before I started writing this blog entry.

And that's enough--this was started before midnight and should post as a November 30th entry, but it is now December 1st by the clock in the corner of the laptop screen, and I believe that's when you'll be seeing it unless you're west of Eastern Standard Time. Where I am, it's time for bed, and I need to follow the example of the cat sleeping next to me. Good night, good readers.


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