Why would Sarah Palin - or anyone, for that matter - write a book about themselves and call it "Going Rogue"? Granted, she's not exactly going to write it, but that begs the question: Why that name? Consider the Free Dictionary's definitions of the word "rogue":
1. An unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal.
2. One who is playfully mischievous; a scamp.
3. A wandering beggar; a vagrant.
4. A vicious and solitary animal, especially an elephant that has separated itself from its herd.
5. An organism, especially a plant, that shows an undesirable variation from a standard.
None of those seem too attractive, but those are the noun definitions. What if she's using it as an adjective? In that case it means:
1. Vicious and solitary. Used of an animal, especially an elephant.
2. Large, destructive, and anomalous or unpredictable: a rogue wave; a rogue tornado.
3. Operating outside normal or desirable controls: "How could a single rogue trader bring down an otherwise profitable and well-regarded institution?"
1. To defraud.
2. To remove (diseased or abnormal specimens) from a group of plants of the same variety.
To remove diseased or abnormal plants.
Is the former Governor advertising herself as "playfully mischievous," the least derogatory of these terms? Or as "operating outside normal or desirable controls" - the second least objectionable? The decision is still baffling. (And yes, folks, we know that phrase popped up in an SNL sketch, and that it got into SNL because McCain's advisors said she was "going rogue." But what fascinates me is: How did it become a compliment in her mind?)
Vicious. Solitary. Large. Destructive. An undesirable variation from the standard. But we're not here today to dish out snark against Sarah Palin, or play what she would call a "gotcha" game. We've posed a question, and it has an answer. This, I believe, is the genuine reason she's given her book this name:
She thinks she's living in a 1980's action movie.
That's right. Not only Sarah Palin, but most of the American Right thinks they're living in a 1980s adventure flick. Here's a theory: Most people, especially people in public life, subconsciously write a 'script' for their lives and then behave accordingly.
This isn't a phenomenon of the Right alone. I suspect Barack Obama has a script, although his seems based on a Presidential biography called something like The Conciliator or The Man Who Bridged The Divide. Ms. Palin and her cohort, on the other hand, are strictly eighties action/adventure. It's Red Dawn and Rambo sequels all the way. In fact, "Going Rogue" sounds like a Rambo sequel, doesn't it?
"Rogue": Edgy, independent, with just an hint of danger and a little bit of that Rush Hour vibe. Remember Rush Hour? "Two cops who don't play by the rules." That's our Sarah, as seen in her resignation speech: Not a politician who took on great responsibility, then left the job before it was done. No. "A politician who doesn't play by the rules."
In other words, "rogue" is right-wing code for "freedom fighter." And it's too bad if the distinction between "freedom" and "unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable" occasionally gets blurred.
Anyone who saw Penn Gillette's appearance on Glenn Beck's show last March will understand. Viewers were treated to the sight of two clearly sedentary individuals romanticizing themselves by writing themselves into "rebel" roles, even as they mocked a report that examined the risk of right-wing terrorism.
"... (A)s I read (Tom Paine's Common Sense)," said Beck, " I thought, my gosh, you write something like this today, you're immediately arrested." (Beck, a successful author and broadcaster, has never been arrested for political speech.) A little while later Jillette observes: "It's the bumper stickers they're afraid of, not the guns." (No, Penn -- it's the guns.) They spent the rest of the show interrogating each other to determine whether they were "domestic terrorists" or not.
Ha-ha. Edgy. "Rogue," even.
It's easy to picture either Penn Jillette and Glenn Beck writing a book called Going Rogue. Because standing up for your own economic self-interest is, you know, daring and brave. Just ask Sarah.
A great many tea-party types love the rhetoric of rebellion because it makes them think they're heroes in a movie, too - heroes just like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and Penn Jillette. That's why so many of them bring their guns to town hall meetings. That's why I don't hate these protesters the way so many other people do: They seem like slaves to their own fantasies. But the problem with movies like that is that they turn violent.
I can't feel too morally superior, though. Most of us have some sort of script in our heads, influencing us more than we realize. It takes serious mental discipline and self-reflection to turn those scripts off and see things as they really are.
Even so, most of us wouldn't name our story Going Rogue. On the other hand, elephants go "rogue," and everybody knows elephants are Republican. The problem comes when our two movie heroes meet, like "Freddy vs. Jason" or "Alien vs. Predator."
"Rogue vs. Conciliator"? I don't want to see how that one turns out.
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