Last May, I responded to Sarah Palin's "Christian Nation" and other controversial comments by suggesting that she take a bus tour to meet "real Americans," which would include stops at landmarks such as Antietam and end in Providence where Roger Williams established the first colony founded upon the principle of separation of church and state. (Sarah Palin's Christian Nation and the Road to Providence). Much to my surprise, the former half-term Governor of Alaska has announced a bus tour that includes Antietam and New England.
I suggested both Antietam and the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, Maine because of Ms. Palin's frequent claim to speak for "real Americans." Antietam's serene hills gave us the bloodiest day in American history (23,000 casualties in twelve hours) in a war over who was entitled to be considered an American. Republican Senator Smith, who was the first woman to be part of Senate leadership, is remembered for her Declaration of Conscience during the McCarthy era in which she complained that those "who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who... ignore [its] basic principles."
I ended the hypothetical tour in my home town of Providence because of Palin's "Christian Nation" comments; since Williams' commitment to separation of church and state not only made Rhode Island "the safest refuge of conscience" and home to the New World's first Baptist Church and synagogue but also planted the seed for the First Amendment.
Anyone who has traveled through this region knows there are two things that you cannot escape because they are everywhere you look -- Dunkin' Donuts and history (both of which are taken quite seriously by the locals). The tour will be risky for Palin since each stop likely will challenge her Us Magazine view of American History (and require knowledge of events prior to Ronald Reagan taking office).
If she is able to weave the narrative from each stop into her message, she may counter her image as an intellectual fly-weight. If, however, she uses the tour to create pretty pictures while she delivers the same pap as before, she will cement her status as a political munchkin. As I stated last year, such a tour provides "a made-for-TV opportunity for [her] to demonstrate whether [she] seeks to lead or divide; whether [she is] truly guided by providence or just naked ambition and ignorance and, ultimately, whether [she] belongs in Washington or nearby Salem."
I wish Ms. Palin good luck on her journey but do have one request. Please stay away from the new Boston Garden. The Bruins have a tough enough challenge facing the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals, the last thing they need is to be the third victim of what is known in the NHL as the "Palin curse". No doubt such an event is a PR goldmine for a "hockey mom", but if you think voters will have forgotten who won come 2012, remember that it only took them 18 years to forgive Bill Buckner.