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So, Mrs. Palin, how does it feel to be a Problem?

W.E.B. DuBois has said, “being a problem is a strange experience…a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity…”

Problems change, but race is still a problem. And so, apparently, are women. Here is Richard Harwood, posting on his blog, Redeeming Hope, on Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s choice for Vice Presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin:

I have heard people state with great assuredness that Palin should never have returned to work so soon after the birth of her four-month old child; that parents of a special needs child should be at home full-time, because that is what is required; that Palin cannot work with five kids and still be a good mom.

In these conversations, I remained silent at first, wondering to myself how people can be so sure of themselves. They imposed a set of values they are convinced are the right ones — indeed, the only ones — and that no alternatives exist. I sat there and asked myself how many people like Sarah Palin do they know? I wish they would come with me into the homes of people I have met and worked with all across the nation, people who live their lives with goodness, decency, and sincerity, but in ways different than their own.

In each conversation, I found myself saying that many people work because they have to — they have no choice. Moreover, I have said that I know two families with specials needs kids where both parents work, and where there is so much love and affection that I would be more than willing to have my own two kids join those families. Further, I have wondered aloud why stay-at-home dads who were once professionals are okay, but not Palin’s husband.

My questions and thoughts were dismissed out of hand. There’s more, too. For instance, the reflexive disdain I’ve heard against evangelicals is as bad as any discrimination I have seen…the unwillingness to even understand what proponents are trying to say is unfortunate…

Let me be clear: I am not defending Sarah Palin. To me, there is some virtue in her selection, but also the rolling of dice. But how we talk about this choice is just as important as our final judgment. Why? Because so many of us want a different kind of politics in America, a politics that is more reflective of reality, more thoughtful, and more hopeful. We want a politics that transcends Red States and Blue States. We want a politics that encourages honest and tough debate, but not unnecessary discord and divisiveness. Now is our chance.

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