I thought I could be a fan. The day was August 30, 2008 and I was on my way home from speaking at a workshop when NPR announced the news that Senator John McCain had picked a running mate and changed the dynamic of the election. Her name was Sarah Palin and at a glance, it seemed we had a great deal in common. She was conservative, I consider myself conservative; she was once part of a union, as a nurse working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I am part of a union. She has 5 kids, I have 5 kids; She was homecoming queen, I was carnival queen; She can see Russia from her doorstep, I could see Pakistan
from mine… (oops, I really could, I grew up in Pakistan);
She made involvement and influence from the unknown seem possible, and I am unknown.
But Sarah and I parted ways as I realized that we are as different as the geography of where we were each raised. Her voice is louder and more influential, her bank account is larger, but my sense is that her view and opinion of the world is far smaller. Her voice drowns out one like mine, a less persuasive, but equally faith-driven and knowledgeable about the Evangelical world voice, and a voice convicted and convinced that the world is big and critical to our understanding of life. A voice that looks to find words to recognize the importance of a larger and infinitely complex world, where cross-cultural competency and negotiation deeply matter, where America is understood separate from exceptionalism. It is her louder and more authoritative voice and audience that assumes her words are fact that convinced me to blog.
I want to have a voice. I stand as pro-Life, but want to be able to dialogue and negotiate with those on the other side; my faith is paramount to my worldview – but I want that faith to challenge and inform, not dictate and demand. Red – Blue; Beck – Maddow; Right- Left; they are all boxes and stereotypes that divide and prevent dialogue. And Sarah? Well, she’s climbed into a box and shut the lid.
The ‘parting of ways’ widened as my oldest daughter went to study Refugee and Migration studies at the American University in Cairo and her oldest daughter went to ‘study’ Dancing with the Stars. It became a chasm when I realized that it was 2005 before she obtained a passport, and I realized that my tepid defense of her with strong, smart feminist co-workers was waning. But the Grand Canyon emerged when Pakistan was overcome by floods, and Egypt experienced mass protests. When asked about the situation in Egypt, at a time when the world, the nation, and the blogosphere all had something to say, Sarah was unable to give a single substantive word to her many constituents, many who would benefit from more information and could have supported both the protests from their pulpits and Pakistan from their pocketbooks. Her Facebook page was equally silent, with no mention of either of those events through a medium that has given her well over 2 million fans.
Such a big audience… but so little said.
If I sat down with her for coffee we would most likely agree on some things. But over coffee I would have the opportunity to challenge her that a nation and politics are small when they ignore the larger world, and assume a false stature. That faith has to convict and inform, constantly drawing us to those who have less and need so much more. Most of all, that faith can be winsome and winning, not angry and disenchanting.
As for me? It was time to take my frustration and put it to action. A time to get on to my computer, find a blog platform, and move the words and voices in my head to the screen in front of me. Time to find my voice and use it. Time to thank Sarah for convincing me to blog.