*Note: This is a repost of a column I originally published after Sarah Palin’s speech at the RNC. I’ve tweaked it a little, updated it slightly, so here’s the “final draft.”
Sarah Palin, Bulletproof
These past few weeks have been nothing short of insane. The media has relentlessly called into question every iota of Sarah Palin’s character, and has spun her family into some sort of Jerry Springer nightmare. Rumors and allegations of every stripe have been slung towards her, out of the deepest mud from the deepest bowels of media Hades. Decency is no more.
The night of the RNC was the night to turn that all back around. To stem the tide of allegations, the storm of misconceptions, the onslaught of accusations. That was the night to tell the American people Sarah’s side of the story, to show to them that she is ready to serve them in one of the highest offices of public service in the land. That night, Sarah had to allow the entire country into the mind of Sarah Palin, to see her life, her ambitions, her plans for the future. And that night, Sarah showed us one quality of hers that stood above all others. She showed that she is absolutely bulletproof.
Bulletproof is a concept of contradiction: absolute strength through imperfection. It is idea that words and the people who speak them are imperfect, but together, exude an eternal quality that transcends conflicts and generations. I was inspired to visit the Lincoln Memorial this past winter. As I walked into the breathtaking colossus, I noticed the massive presence of Lincoln, staring fervently ahead, intimidating but welcoming. I was surprised to discover that on each side of him in the memorial, words were etched into the stone walls. On one side, the Gettysburg Address; on the other, his second inaugural address. I read each word slowly and comprehensively, trying to grasp some meaning from them, hoping that they would impart some sort of wise revelation. They were chiseled into marble for a reason. After parsing through each line, it dawned on me: these words weren’t delicately conceived at the end of a writer’s fountain pen, but were more beautiful than any author could have written. They held gravity, they held weight. They had the ability to resonate with every American. Lincoln was imperfect. His words were imperfect. But together, they were bulletproof.
This brings me back to Sarah. Her words resonated with the average (to paraphrase Senator Obama) bitter, gun-totin’, religion-clingin’ small-town folks: the real Americans. She spoke as an average American to her fellow average Americans, down-to-earth and sincere. She was neither magical nor flawless; she was straightforward and human. She looked towards the future while remembering the past. She criticized her opponents with grace. Such synergy has defined her life. She is a “hockey mom” looking out for her childrens’ future and a governor looking out for the Nation’s. She is a dynamic political outsider who has gotten more done in a few years than people who have spent decades festering in public office. Unlike politics-as-usual, she has delivered on her promises. It is rare for politics to attract good people who stay that way. She is a breath of fresh air in a smoke-filled room. Most importantly of all, she has finessed the art of being a true public servant. This was truly encapsulated in one particular line of her speech:
I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. But here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion – I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country.
She wants to serve her country from the perspective of the people that make her country great: hardworking, bread-and-butter Americans. She’s your child’s friend’s mom in the parent club, she’s the new neighbor who just moved in with her family down the street, she’s the friend you stop to chat with for a few minutes in the grocery store. She isn’t perfect, nor does she claim to be. And, as we saw these difficult past few weeks, her imperfection makes her absolutely bulletproof.