I was wondering what kind of mother, being an avowed evangelical and knowing that her underage daughter is pregnant out of wedlock, would choose to accept the vice presidential nomination and thus subject her daughter to a vicious and unrelenting spotlight for, potentially, the next eight years. And I was wondering what kind of mother would agree to take on the rigors of a presidential campaign and essentially put aside a four-month-old baby with special needs. Sarah Palin's convention speech answered that question: that kind of mother.
Palin was comfortable stepping in and lying through her teeth about her record and her opponent. She was at ease insulting people who selflessly try to give back to their communities--because it helped her politically. She had no qualms about parading her visibly uncomfortable family across a stage and passing her special needs baby down the aisle as a political prop.
The media, taken aback no doubt by Palin's ability to lie and smear with gusto as if it were second nature, mostly lauded the speech, leaving those of us who care about our families and our country--and not our ratings--to hope that the majority of American swing voters, at least, disagreed.
Maybe a night of such dramatically appalling pageantry could only be summed up in poetry, but I noticed that more than a few posts in the blogosphere that night included this excerpt from Macbeth's great soliloquy (later adopted by Faulkner): "it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." We can hope.
It's appropriate that I've been reading Yeats lately, whose life was haunted by a beautiful and fiercely political woman named Maude Gonne (any extension of the comparison would be offensive to Gonne's memory). "Why should I blame her," Yeats wrote in No Second Troy, "that she fills my days with misery." The poem is apropos, considering the culture war Palin is being used to ignite:
Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great...
That is not natural in an age like this...
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?
I've used excerpts here because Palin doesn't come close to living up to the rest of the poem. And while I wanted to include the final line, I apologize for implying that Palin's beauty might be enough to cause the burning of a capital. We may yet uncover a suspicious arson at the Wasilla Dairy Queen.
A more appropriate Yeats poem might be this excerpt from the lesser-known On a Political Prisoner, which, I would offer, Palin now is:
She that but little patience knew,
From childhood on, had now so much
A grey gull lost its fear and flew
Down to her cell and there alit,
And there endured her fingers' touch
And from her fingers ate its bit.
Did she in touching that lone wing
Recall the years before her mind
Became a bitter, an abstract thing,
Her thought some popular enmity:
Blind and leader of the blind
Drinking the foul ditch where they lie?
She that but little patience knew. We have evidence she was impatient, transferring five times in six years before finally managing to get a Bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Idaho. We don't know that she was ever innocent.
In his apocalyptic vision The Second Coming Yeats wrote, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity."
Thanks to Palin, the worst, as evidenced by the old, white, teeth-gnashing Republican convention crowd, now have that "passionate intensity."
Thankfully for us, so do the best this year.