Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hunting and Soccer

I've been reading blogs all week talking about Palin as VP. Some of them have been favourable, some of them have been terrified. Some of them have been mocking. Personally I don't understand why McCain chose her. There seem to be more qualified, stronger, experienced conservative women to chose from. I don't follow American politics enough to know whether she's going to be a liability to him or an asset. But I do find elements of the liberal attack on her disturbing. There is a mocking tone of dismissal in many of the comments because she likes to hunt and she's a soccer mom and I find that really irritating. I also think that it confirms for some people, who might be critical of much of her economic policies, that they can not trust the values of those who criticize her.

An example of this is comments left on the blog What I Saw in America. John writes:

I have real problems with some of the reasons that McCain nominated Palin (her inexperience, the loose ends that she has in Alaska, her lifelong membership in the NRA), but when those who identified themselves as liberal commentators mocked her family size, her pro-life stance, her faith, and her small-town origins, it touched a nerve. So much so that I will probably be voting for John McCain in the fall, despite the fact that I share most of Patrick's concerns about the McCain/Palin ticket.

He is echoing comments by Eric who raises concerns that Palin represents small-town values he holds and yet Republican economic policies undermine those very small-town economies:

The specific policies mentioned here (restrictive zoning, gas taxes, public transportation) are all Democratic territory, are they not? I work for local government and, at least at that level, they are. When we try to restrict land use to encourage infill development and prevent suburban sprawl, it's the republican land rights absolutists that are against us. When we try to move the county farmers' market to local, sustainable produce, our supporters are democrats. When we try to force the local Wal-Mart to stay in its existing building, rather than move two miles further out and leave another deserted strip mall behind, the local Chamber of Commerce republicans wear us out. When we complete a public transportation center to get people to work, the disgruntled residents are republican tax hawks. And so on, on things from afterschool mentoring to sidewalks to green space in low-income neighborhoods. The point is that whenever we take action to create a uniquely local, self-sustaining, pedestrian accessible community, it's Palin's party that obstructs us. And I didn't hear anything in her speech to make me think she is different.

Here are good reasons for criticizing McCain, Palin and the Republican party. So why not stop there instead of going on to mock her for being part of a culture that hunts and cheers kids on at soccer games. My sister is a soccer mom. Some of my best friends are soccer moms, or hockey dads, or judo parents, or dance moms. In other words, my friends and members of my family love and value their children and make an effort to support them in activities that encourage them to be physically and emotionally healthy. And what about hunting. Unless the people making the snide comments are vegetarians they have no business attacking people who hunt. Some of my family and many of my friends hunt and fish. And they eat what they shoot or catch. In my neck of the woods having a freezer full of moose and venison is common and I know that those animals usually died cleaner better deaths than a lot of the cattle whose carcasses fill our freezers.

Years ago I was at a chaplains conference where a number of the chaplains made snide comments about 'conservatives' much like those being made about Palin. I finally got fed up with cracks about 'red neck' culture and started talking about what it was like working at a college where there was a gun locker in residence so that students could keep their rifles safely and still have access to them if they wanted to go out hunting after class. (I don't know if we still have the locker but it makes sense in a college where one of the big programmes is fish and wildlife). I got irritated at the assumption that right thinking on a host of social and theological issues also involved rejecting anything that smacked of 'traditional' values.

It is frustrating that this also plays into the Republican hands. McCain and his team can pursue policies which undermine small towns, families, and the hunting and fishing grounds of Alaska all they want if they can continue to represent themselves as the icon of traditional values. And the more liberals attack those values instead of attacking those economic and social policies the more successful they will be.


Kevin said...

My problem with the Palin narrative is that it assumes that because she's a "hockey mom" with "small town roots" she has the qualifications to the VP (and given McCain's age and health history) the keys to the presidential bathroom.

Margaret Wente had to good column last week which she called McCain's choice of Palin an "insult to women...if her name were Stan instead of Sarah, she would not have been given the nod."

I think she's right. Palin offers little substance to the ticket.

Tim Chesterton said...

Right on, Erin (spoken as a guy who has shot his share of caribou and muskox!).

Erin said...

I agree Kevin - I think she was chosen because of what she represents and that is what worries me. Did I betray my Canadian roots by saying soccer mom instead of hockey mom??

Tim, I can picture it! and did they taste good? I confess I don't like the flavour of wild meat but I certainly don't condemn my friends for liking it - especially when I eat chickens and don't ask how they were raised.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Erin. Spoken as a Mom who spends half her life chauffeuring and half the winter in frigid community arenas!

Palin is a pain because of her economic and environmental platforms, not because of her maternal one!


Malcolm+ said...

During the perverse orgy of emotion after the deeath of Diana Spencer, The Scotsman published an excellent article by a prominent Scots republican. (Republican as in advocates abolishing the monarchy, that is.)

In the article, the republican author defended the Windsors' conduct. (What reaction does one reasonably expect when your son's ex-wife dies? Anyone who tells you they expect an orgy of breast-beating grief is probably fibbing.)

He closed by observing that there were many valid reasons to abolish the monarchy - and that this was not one of them.

The criticism of Palin as a hockey mom, as a hunter, as a small town northerner have been utterly stupid, and Obama has been quite right to distance himself from them. Those who have offered up these half-baked, secist, classist diatribes have got to be utterly stuipid if they believe that their trash talking has helped their candidate.

paul said...

My brother-in-law is a gamekeeper on an estate in Northumberland, UK. His daily round consists time with nature red in tooth and claw - utter, raw beauty and natural vistas to take your breath away, cheek-by-jowl with the intimate realities of working with large dogs, reared pheasants, guns and (from time to time) the high-paying clients who descend from the cities to hunt and shoot.
This 'managed'-culture has much to commend it - whilst I have experienced very little of it, really, I can see the appeal of these traditions and activities....and my Xmas/New Year present from my brother-in-law is always a couple of brace of pheasant or a small montjac deer, for which he tutors me in the required skinning and butchering...

His 'values' seem to me, though, to be more related to his experience of living in a near-feudal social construct than to that of living 'close to nature', per se. He lives in a tied-cottage - rather like us parish priests! - but on a pittance of pay, working with little job security for the 'lord of the manor' and his clients.
It is this environment which informs his political outlook - fairly narrow, as well as 'traditional' - rather than the activity itself.

With Palin, I would similarly want to mark out the difference between how she has been formed by the 'nature-stuff' and how she has been formed by small town life and its norms of socialisation of difference. Whilst there is much wisdom there, it is also fair to say, I think, that it is not great training for the demands of 'big picture' leadership required of a Vice-Presidential office.

Beyond these observations, though, Erin, I must say that I am wholly with you and Tim in my sense of disgrace that some have sought to caricaturise Sarah Palin for her family-size or other lifestyle-choices. In some of the circles I used to move in - as an academic in liberal arts colleges - such metropolitan disdain for the 'provincial' was commonplace, and I found it increasingly distasteful and disingenuous as the years went on.

I hope that, as the next two months roll on, wiser voices will be better able to separate out the issues of competence, policy and experience from the commonplaces of abuse of different groups in our complex societies.