Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Palin Factor

I was out for drinks with my soccer team on Sunday after our game. Several of the players from the opposing team joined us, some friends, and some who I only met that day. One of the gals I had just met started on a rant about Americans and how they don’t know their own history. After all, she explained, when she was in Boston, she asked a Bostonian when they celebrate the Boston Tea Party, and apparently the Bostonian responded with a confused look and an “I don’t know.”

“I think that we [Canadians] know more about American history than they do!” she confidently declared.

These types of comments grate on my nerves. She knew I was American, yet she still made this comment, which I took as a personal insult. I could have defended my countrymen by explaining that there isn’t a formal holiday celebrating the Boston Tea Party. I could have explained that perhaps the Bostonian thought she was referring to the newly-formed right-wing political party, The Tea Party, which is essentially an arm of the Republican Party and thus didn’t know how to respond. Instead I just clenched my jaw in silence and waited for Sarah or one of my friends to defend me. Sarah changed the subject.

That evening after I was home, I was still feeling quite irritated by the comment, and I wasn’t sure if I was more irritated with the Canadian who said it, irritated with myself for not responding, or irritated with my friends and spouse for not calling her on her baseless generalization. I should have set the record straight—most Americans are quite educated and aware of their history. In fact, all the Americans with whom I regularly associate are brilliant and knowledgeable people.

Then I turned on my computer and went to Facebook.

Several of my American friends had posted a YouTube clip of the infamous Alaskan village idiot and Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin retelling the story of Paul Revere in her own twisted version, obviously geared towards National Rifle Association members. Her facts were wrong—Paul Revere’s intention was not to warn “the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free,” as she so very eloquently explained.

Revere was alerting the American militia to be ready for a British attack. Everyone knows this—or so I thought.

I don’t know how I can continue to defend the American intellect when widely-supported American political figures such as Palin boldly spout out such garbage. I doubt my new Canadian acquaintance who finds Americans ignorant about their own history had seen the Palin clip when she made her unequivocal statement about Americans’ knowledge, or she would have probably mentioned it as evidence. But if I had gone six rounds with her, defending Americans and their awareness of their own history, I would have looked even more foolish when this Canadian discovered this Palin clip online later.

I guess, for now, I just have to find solace in the fact that my friends back in the US are as appalled by the Palin debacle as I am, and the reason they are so appalled is because they know enough history to know that Palin is wrong.

Then again, Palin’s supporters are now actively claiming that her version of history is correct and are even trying to re-write history to match her version. If the woman does get elected as President of the United States, I might just have no choice but to start denying that I have any association with that country. God willing, I will be a Canadian citizen before the 2012 election.


Beth said...

MJB, My take-away from the Palin and Hunting Factor posts is that it is just impossible and downright silly to lump a nation into one category (be it "uninformed" or "violent", etc.). Leno did the Man on the Street interviews and surely only broadcasted the goofy answers. Likewise, a one-person survey should not inform one's opinion of a nation as a whole. There are brainiacs and goofballs, peaceniks and warmongers in each nation, state, city, even family. So what do you do when someone spouts off a ridiculous generalization based on a solitary observation? It's likely you both could volley anecdotal evidence all night long, so that won't get you anywhere. You cannot use logic to reason with her any more effectively than you could a foreign language. You could try lecturing on the evils of stereotyping. You could try pointing out that her research is flawed. Or, perhaps more successfully, resorting to "yo mama" jokes. Or, in the end, perhaps your conflict-adverse spouse had a decent response after all.

MJB said...

Well said, Beth! :)