Critiquing Palin

I'm glad McCain has a woman on his ticket, and I'm happy to see a young working mom succeeding in a political game that is still largely an old (white) boys' club eighty-eight years after women won the right to vote in America. I don't know much about Sarah Palin, and I only just today read her speech from last week's convention, but I have two issues with her right off the bat.

Palin dismissed Obama's community organizing experience in Chicago with this jab:
"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except
that you have actual responsibilities."

Community organizers' responsibilities include helping disenfranchised and often neglected, poor, and exploited people and communities to find their voice to stand up to power and enact positive community change. Organizing is grassroots, in-the-trenches work that identifies and develops indigenous leaders within communities to ensure that all people in a community, not only the most powerful, wealthy, or connected, are represented when decisions are made. Tenant organizers, like my sister Bethany in Brooklyn, strive to hold landlords to account for their slum-like properties. Environmental justice organizers, like my friend Julie in DC, help neighborhoods protect their health and fight when the powers-that-be want to build trash transfer stations and hazardous waste dumps in their backyards.

Organizers can be a thorn in the side of government and businesses who profit from a status quo that marginalizes low-income people, but one would think that Palin, who claims to be a reform-minded friend to the working class, would respect and not demean organizers and the very people they work to empower and democratically represent.

My second issue with Palin is her support for abstinence-only education. My heart goes out to her and her family as they grapple with their teen daughter's pregnancy under such a big, intrusive spotlight, and I would never question her parenting. Children, and teens especially, make their own decisions, but I do think their family situation highlights what is wrong with abstinence-only education, a policy Palin supports.

As a Christian, do I think the place for sex is within marriage? Of course. But I also think that schools are in the business of education, and that includes health education. Parents and churches absolutely should be vocal about teaching teens about sex and morality, and we are remiss if we allow the culture to do it for us. But the truth is that not all kids will wait for marriage to become sexually active, and without education about contraception and safer sex practices, unplanned pregnancies increase and sexually-transmitted diseases spread.

Of course, parents should always have the right to opt out of sex education classes if they disagree, but not teaching about safer sex practices in schools is a costly mistake. If we really want to decrease the incidences of abortion in this country, which is something I believe people from both side of aisle can agree on, comprehensive sex education in how best to prevent unplanned pregnancies (whether through abstinence or contraception) is what school districts need to implement.


carrhop said...

Well thought-out, well expressed post--and it shows a lot of courage when so many seem to be in total support of whichever candidate without also stating the challenges and areas they might find some chinks. Bravo!

Thanks for your prayers for us--we are fine, the house is secure, and the brunt of the storm has ended up further north of our area. We are praying for the folks in the Houston area who seem to be taking the toughest hit--

Kay Aker said...

Yah for community organizers! That was an uncalled for swipe on Palin's part.

Anonymous said...

Except for the fact that she has energized McCain's moribund campaign, Sarah Palin is a poor choice to succeed him as president. (I am confident, however, that she will be very capable to preside over the Senate.) It seems as though "American idol" has now entered politics at the highest level. Her pleasant persona and good looks trump her lack of experience and qualifications for the nation's highest office. P.T. Barnum surely had it right. Dad

suzannah | the smitten word said...

when mccain's strongest criticism of obama was his lack of experience, it's baffling that he would pick someone so green.

while it is good to have a women on the ticker, there's something a little insulting in his pick; the choice suggests that ovaries trump resume, and beauty trumps experience. either he passed over better-qualified women, or he thinks this newcomer to state and national politics is the best the female gender has to offer in terms of presidential leadership.

that doesn't feel quite like a step forward for women's equality.

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