Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Open Letter to Sarah Palin

Originally published in the BG News on Wednesday, November 17, 2010.

Courtesy of Flickr user geerlingguy under Creative Commons 3.0

Dear Sarah Palin,
I told myself I wasn’t going to watch your show.  I told myself it would only encourage you.  And as I made a conscious effort to boycott your folksy shenanigans, I hoped others would do the same.  But then I read Sunday’s premiere of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” broke TLC’s rating records.  And I gave in.
Blame it on curiosity, or voyeurism, but I tuned in for a late night rerun and gave you an hour of my life that I will never get back.  And I couldn’t help but make a few observations.
First, while you refer to yourself and your family as normal, I believe the word you’re looking for is predictable.  You’ve sold us an image and I applaud your dedication to upholding this northern fantasy.
Your reality program is 60 minutes of Tea Party rhetoric in a prop-ish outdoor setting.  And you’ve incorporated more extreme sports than the winter Olympics.  In a delicate balance of neoconservative politics and national parks, it felt like an episode of campaigning woman versus wild.
For instance, you took your family salmon fishing, and ironically encountered the iconic Mama Grizzly.  That same episode, you admitted lacking virtuous patience.  Understandable.  I too hate delaying gratification.  However, had you waited to showcase your beloved bear it may have been less transparent.   
Also, your children’s robotic responses to your leading questions do not constitute real dialogue.  Haven’t they been exploited enough?  Piper’s full of spunk.  Willow’s quite the tenacious teen.  Although you portray them as stereotypes, I’m almost positive they’re real girls with dynamic personalities who desperately want the “normal” life you keep insisting you live.   
It’s too late for Bristol, whose busy dancing with the stars.  And we’re promised she’ll make several appearances.  Funny how you accuse the tabloids of invading your privacy when just months ago you handed US Weekly an engagement exclusive on a silver platter.  And while we’re on the topic of antagonist baby daddies, I’m hoping Levi will stop by for an awkward demonstration of teen shared parenting; the disastrous result of abstinence only education. 
But honestly, the most convincing character thus far is your neighbor-- the author writing a book about your comings and goings.  You claim he will be “bored to death” and wonder who would want to watch your very "normal" family routine.  Good point.  But then why do you have a reality show?
In the middle of your ordinary day, you put on a power suit for a television appearance with Bill O’Reily from your home.  As soon as the broadcast ends you’re hopping in an RV and taking off for Denali for a little glacier climbing.  It’s as if every minute filmed inside must be compensated by two minutes of footage outside in the elements.  I see what you’re doing.  And so does everyone else.
I watched you suit up for your next stunt.  Then I watched you berate your elderly father because he won’t be able to scratch “climbing McKinley” off his bucket list.  And I wondered-- if it’s truly an Alaskan badge of honor, why did you wait until now to do it?  As I witnessed you dramatically straddle that crevasse, I couldn’t help but think falling in would be a wicked dose of instant karma.
Your poor dad.  I can’t tell what he regrets more; missing his opportunity to climb or agreeing to participate in this sham of a reality show.  And your poor kids.  They’ve made the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to help you attain your personal goals.  It’s not fair.  So please, stop putting your family through these wilderness adventures to uphold the false persona created by your campaign and perpetuated by the media. 
You promised viewers four wheelers, kayaks, chainsaws, rifles and dog sleds in the future.  I’m hoping for an early cancellation.  Otherwise, TLC owes your 2012 opponent a reality show under the equal time rule, because this is nothing more than an extensive political commercial, heavy on the hockey mom.
Finally, no matter how many times you claim to live an average, relatable life, please understand-- it’s just not.  The more you say, the more it’s not.  In fact, “every time Sarah Palin says normal” would make a hell of a drinking game.  And from now on, that’s how I’ll be watching.  You betcha.

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