23 October 2008

Grandmas Love Their Granddaughters

A few weeks ago, my friend's great-grandmother passed away. She lived with her, and with her grandmother (great grandma's daughter) and though it wasn't entirely surprising, it's still been a sensitive time for the family. As it is for any family that experiences a loss.

My friend E has been doing a lot with her own life lately as well, trying to balance her pending move to California to be with her husband, who is stationed there, and managing to send all of her things from Texas to the beautiful Sunshine State. And her family seems to be taking her move, and the passing of the family matriarch, in stride. Of course, it helps that the city clean-up is this weekend, and they want to get all of the great-grandmother's things out of the house in hopes of selling.

So E has inherited a nice little pile of things that formerly belonged to her great-grandmother. She told me, "So I have scarves, old books that I wanted, a purse she had when she was younger, et cetera.

"And a bottle of 500mg Naproxen pills that expired in November of last year."

We shared a nice little laugh when she said that somebody ought to tell Jeff Foxworthy about this, and then began discussing possible ways of getting rid of them. I suggested returning them to the doctor or pharmacy. E wanted to flush them, since they have a septic system.

Or, she said, she could sell them.

I don't think E understands that she's just become a deeper part of her own joke than she realizes.

22 October 2008


It was one week ago today that I realized the extent of my stupidity. And let me tell you, it's staggering.

The place: Slider's Bar & Grill, across the street from Camden Yards in Baltimore.
The time: Middle of the last presidential debates, approx. 9:45 p.m., Oct. 15.
The company: My good friend M and several of her law school friends.

I worked very hard with people of various ages and political persuasions in order to come up with this election year's Drinking Game for the debates. The rules were as follows:

Every time McCain touts to veterans or troops, you drink.
Every time Obama says “When I am President,” you drink.
Every time McCain refers to the Cold War, you drink.
Every time Obama says “change,” you drink.
Every time McCain sounds like a puppet of Bush (a la “We Both Reached For The Gun” from Chicago), you drink.
Every time Obama says “tax cut(s),” you drink.
Every time McCain says “maverick,” you drink.
Every time Obama says “John is right” or concedes a point to McCain, you drink.
Every time McCain talks about Gen. Petraeus, you drink.
Every time Obama starts a sentence with “Listen, …” you drink.

And in return for my gracious generosity in making an even number of rules for both McCain and Obama, here are the rules for the VP debates:
Every time Palin opens her mouth, you drink.

Naturally, like any good drinking game, the rules are subject to change as circumstances change. Obama's "tax cut(s)" and "Listen" rules went out the door in favor of things like mentioning his humbled background, or any mention of the now-infamous Joe the Plumber. And the rule about McCain mentioning the Cold War was nixed in order to make room for him talking about how great Sarah Palin is less than a week after a legislative committee determined that she abused her power in her well-publicized efforts to get her ex-brother-in-law fired.

Must be nice to get an ego boost like that. Globally broadcasted to boot.

About ten of us were watching the debates and enjoying our drinking game quite well when McCain started to talk about how wonderful Sarah Palin is and how proud he is of her. And then he said something that everyone else drank to, but that I couldn't make a joke out of.

McCain said, "She [Palin] also understands special-needs families. She understands that autism is on the rise, that we've got to find out what's causing it, and we've got to reach out to these families, and help them, and give them the help they need as they raise these very special needs children."

Some of my companions thought it was okay to drink at any mention of the remote possibility of Palin having a characteristic that might vaguely resemble a virtue. But as someone who grew up with, as McCain called her, a "special needs" friend, I cannot laugh at this. But something made me stop and think about my friend's family and Palin's. Is Sarah Palin like my friend's mother? Are the two of them comparable?

The only answer I could come up with was an unequivocal. They're not similar at all. They are both mothers of "special needs" children, but that is the end of their similarity. My friend's mother is the embodiment of unconditional maternal love. I'm not related to her by blood, and even I have felt that love from her over the years. Every member of my family has. It's impossible not to notice the enormous heart that she has, and the incredible combination that comes of having a sharp mind to go with it. And she loves her children, all of them. Unconditionally. Her daughter's "special needs" status has nothing to do with whether or not she loves her. She loves her kids because they're her kids. And never once have I seen her hold up her child as if to say to the world, "Look at what a great mother I am for loving this child, even though she's a special needs kid."

And that's when I realized what it was that bothered me so much about Sarah Palin. I always knew that her politics were about 100 years old and that her only concern for the environment was how much money she and other Alaskans could get for the systematic destruction of the earth for the sake of oil drilling. And that she was blissful in her ignorance of the world, suffering from the delusion that America exists in a vacuum. And that she paraded her oldest daughter's boyfriend around like a trophy - because every parent just hopes and prays that their teen will get pregnant or make another teen pregnant.

But I finally understood that what bothered me about Palin - what truly bothered me about her - was that she paraded her oldest daughter Bristol (the afore-referred to 17-year-old, now about to enter her seventh month of pregnancy) and youngest son (Trig, who has Down's Syndrome) around as if to reassure herself and show off to the nation what a good mother she was for loving her children in spite of their mistakes and handicaps. She makes a self-congratulatory show out of it, and you can almost see the sneer she sends to every other woman out there. "Don't you wish you were as good and humble as me?" she seems to say. And it's this condescension and blatant manipulation of her family, her back-handed "love" before the cameras, that bothers me so deeply. And I cannot believe it took me so long to figure it out.

The daughter of a U.S. state governor has plenty of options open to her. Such a ticket would be equivalent to carte blanche access to any college in the country, and possibly in the world. Bristol's future will have another path now, one that won't include a lot of the traditional experiences that many of her peers will have. What it will include is being turned into a pawn to further her mother's right-wing image and agenda. Palin will become the poster mother for the conservative side of any debate about abortion. And she'll hold her kids right up there with her, whether they want to be there or not. And that's why I doubt she'll ever be on any list of World's Greatest Moms. At least not one that I ever write up.

07 October 2008

McCain - A Born Politician

Don't you just love how McCain never, ever actually answers a question during these debates?