Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Palin's Unacceptable Decision

I don't like to discuss politics very often because a) it's really not the focus of this blog and b) I'm no political expert. But this is my diary, and when political events collide with one of my areas of expertise, then sometimes I feel compelled to comment. 

Barack Obama said that the candidates' families are off limits to the press. I agree almost completely. I say "almost," however, because I do believe that people who make foolish decisions regarding their home lives are likely to do the same at their place of work.

I think Sarah Palin's decision to run for the VP seat at this time in the life of her family was unacceptable. The Palins have two special-needs children: an infant with Down Syndrome and a pregnant teenage daughter. Neither of these children need or deserve any media attention, and that's where I agree with Obama. However, it is the action of the Palins themselves that is bringing on the media attention in the first place. The children need their parents' full attention at this time, and they also need some privacy from the rest of the world. How could any parent intentionally place their children's special needs into the spotlight of the media? How is that good parenting?

This was a poor, thoughtless decision that appears to be only for political gain. This decision alone trumps any other reason for why I would never consider Sarah Palin to be qualified for the VP role. 

While I'm no political expert, I've been a parent of a special-needs child far longer than the Palins. Reasonable parents, especially those with almost two decades of parenting under their belts (the Palins' oldest child is 19), should at least have a notion that parenting special kids involves entering an entirely different, uncharted world. Therefore, reasonable parents should be able to determine that no other major life-changing decisions are made till things at home become stable. Trust me, the Palins have several years ahead of them till the word 'stable' would be an appropriate descriptor for their home environment. That's just a comment on the situations life has handed to them. It's not even considering the hell they are inflicting upon their children for thrusting them into the media spotlight.

All parents of special kids make sacrifices which change their future plans. I normally don't like to speak in such absolute terms like "all," but based on my experiences and knowing numerous other families in similar situations, I believe I'm simply reporting the facts. All of the special-needs families I know have made major changes in their lives to accommodate their children. Some change their jobs, or they choose not to take a new job in order to keep their children's lives stable. Other families decide not to have additional children, thus severely changing the face of any family's future plans. But I simply don't hear about families ignoring their children's needs, let alone exploiting them, for their own personal gain. Normally the behavior is completely the opposite. 

If the Palins are unable to make these sorts of decisions in a reasonable way at home, then how can Governor Palin be trusted to make reasonable decisions as a VP? 

I'm already hearing supporters of the McCalin/Palin campaign saying that any comment against Palin is a comment against women. Bullshit. My argument has nothing to do with differences between the sexes. It has everything to do with being good parents and making reasonable decisions to support children. Period. 

Again, I'm no political expert, but I am a parent of a special-needs child. And I am also a voter. 


Anonymous said...

This is an amazing letter and you should consider sending it to your city newspaper...and the New York Times. I am so proud of you and the great work you are doing for your family. xoxo mom

Anonymous said...

When someone says to me, "Let me play Devil's advocate," I usually hear that as, "Let me be an unadulterated a-hole." With that having been said, let me play Devil's Advocate.

One of McCain's lines has been "I have military experience, and so, I'll be a good wartime president." If Palin had gotten up there and said, "I'm going to use my experience as the parent of a Down's child to make sure we eliminate Down's and other chromosomal anomalies by 2020," would that her decision to run for Vice President more laudable?

I know that you said this is not about the gender of the candidate, but would this even be an issue if Todd were the VP nominee? I think not.

If Obama's kids are "off limits", then why did I see them on the cover of People magazine, along with an extended article about their family life, about a month ago? If what Palin did was exploitive, then certainly what Obama did was as well.

Defining the Palins' pregnant daughter as "special needs" does a real disservice to those who have permanent, life-altering conditions such as Down's or autism. Pregnancy, even at 17, is not a syndrome.

Reading over this, I sound really angry, don't I. It's not meant that way, but that is the nature of printed, rather than spoken, text.

lemming said...

I do think that Palin's gender matters on both sides of the equation. These questions wouldn't come up had Todd been picked. Then again, Todd wouldn't have been picked - Palin's gender was a vital plus for her.

Am I the only one who vaguely recalls a tv show a while ago where Geena Davis played a VP who became president after the aging pres died?

Great post, Rob.

Rob said...

Hugh, I'm all about welcoming a good discussion. You a-hole. I'M KIDDING!

I am not considering her qualifications for VP (or lack thereof) or what she said or didn't say at her speech. I am only thinking about what she and her husband are doing to their children's lives by thrusting them into the public when I think they really just need some privacy and care. I shudder to think about what today's spotlight is doing to their futures.

Yes, I WOULD have raised this very issue if Sarah were Todd. Why not? Has anything in my post mentioned the word motherhood? Nope. Just parenthood. This is a parenting issue, not a mothering issue. That's why I referred to this as "their" decision as parents and not just "her" decision as a mother.

Regarding the article on the Obama family: look, everyone wants to get to know the families of the candidates, I understand that. I'm more concerned with the TIMING of the Palin candidacy. Her infant is only four months old. Hell, her daughter is only four months pregnant. Wouldn't it be better if she waited a few years before uprooting a family that has two children who could really benefit from stability right now?

A pregnant 17-year-old needs a different sort of care than a 17-year-old who isn't. That's all I was saying: it's different. Besides, I'd argue that bringing a child into the world IS a permanent life-altering experience! Would you, father of two?

Lemming, again, I'd bring up the questions regardless of the presence of a penis, or lack thereof, on any candidate. It's a parenting issue. I do not see where gender is fitting into any question I've raised here.

I do remember that show because Geena Davis's character had an affiliation with a small private university in the Southeast where Wife used to teach! Too funny.

Thanks to both for your comments!

Jason266 said...


Chris77 said...

Thanks for this post. Very insightful, and I completely agree with you.

I, too, think it's total bullshit that any comment about her family is sexist. Yes, it is absolutely a parenting decision, and not a mothering or fathering decision. If Todd was a stay-at-home dad, I would not take issue with this. But the reality is he runs his own company. And he doesn't quite appear to be the kind of guy who is giving that up. So if he isn't staying at home and she's on the campaign trail, just who the hell is taking care of all of these kids? Well, apparently no one. How's this for family values?

Joanne said...

I am commenting late to say that I think this is a very well written post and I appreciate your opinion. I have an autistic son and a newborn (well, baby, she is 8 months old) daughter and certainly, some days, I wish I hadn't taken on the very difficult job of SAHM to a newborn while I had a 'special needs' child. But three days after I had my daughter, I was 'back at work' parenting my 2.5 year old son. I consider stay at home parenting to be the hardest job that someone can do, and really, really important work. However, it would really bother me if someone had asked me if I had considered my special needs son when I had my daughter.

I don't know what I think of Sarah Palin politically, there are some things I agree with her on, and some I don't, and certainly she is an unknown entity in many ways. But I disagree that she shouldn't be doing her job, or undertaking a new one, just because she had a baby with Down's syndrome. I know from friends and relatives who have DS babies that if they are lucky enough to escape the attendant physical problems (heart, etc.), their infancy is not much different than a 'normal' baby. Maybe the Palins want to treat their family like they're 'normal' in the hope that they will be.