The Corpus Callosum

From the href="http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/02/debate.transcript/">vice-Presidential
debate.

“building our embassy, also, in Jerusalem”

“That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism.
And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so
beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are
unapologetic here.”

“freedom is always just one generation away from extinction”

All of these seemed just slightly out of place, as though part of a
subtext that could be woven — artfully, but not
quite seamlessly
— into the main text.  


Personally, I don’t care where the embassy is.  But some
people care a great deal.  Those who do
care will pick up on the comment.  Others are likely to not
even notice what she said.  

The Roadmap
for Peace
, in 2002, called for a series of negotiations to
end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  The status of Jerusalem
was left, deliberately, as a “final status” issue, to be taken up in
the third phase (at the end of the roadmap).  This is an href="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F01E3DF133AF93AA1575AC0A961958260">extraordinarily
href="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C03E7D7143BF931A1575AC0A961958260&n=Top/Opinion/Editorials%20and%20Op-Ed/Op-Ed/Columnists/Thomas%20L%20Friedman">contentious
href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0908/Palins_Jerusalem_promise.html">issue.
 Palin signaled which side she is taking. 

As for American exceptionalism, there is a long history to this.
 As explained by href="http://bostonreview.net/BR30.3/zinn.html" rel="tag">Howard
Zinn:

The
notion of American exceptionalism — that the United States alone has
the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring
civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by
violence if necessary—is not new. It started as early as 1630
in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when Governor John Winthrop uttered the
words that centuries later would be quoted by Ronald Reagan. Winthrop
called the Massachusetts Bay Colony a “city upon a
hill.” Reagan embellished a little, calling it a
“shining city on a hill.”

The idea
of a city on a hill is heartwarming. It suggests what George Bush has
spoken of: that the United States is a beacon of liberty and democracy.
People can look to us and learn from and emulate us.

In
reality, we have never been just a city on a
hill. A few years after Governor Winthrop uttered his famous words,
the people in the city on a hill moved out to massacre the Pequot
Indians…

…Expanding into another territory, occupying that territory, and
dealing harshly with people who resist occupation has been a persistent
fact of American history from the first settlements to the present day.
And this was often accompanied from very early on with a
particular form of American exceptionalism: the idea that American
expansion is divinely ordained
. [emphasis added]

Wikipedia has more about the concept of href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_exceptionalism">American
exceptionalism.  It is not always religious.
 Coming from Palin, though, it seems likely to be a reference
to the religious interpretation.  Her statement about being
“unapologetic” is odd.  If she are referring to being a
“beacon of hope,” why would she even think of being apologetic?
 

Taken literally, it makes no sense.  It makes sense only if the
phrase is an allusion to something else.  

If she really thinks that America has a divine
right to direct the affairs of other peoples, of other nations, then
she is a very dangerous person.

Just as the “beacon” comment was recycled from Reagan, so too was the
statement, “freedom is always just one generation away from
extinction.”  From href="http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ronald_Reagan#Pre-presidency">Wikiquote:

  • Freedom is never more than one generation away
    from extinction.

    We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It
    must be
    fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one
    day we will spend our sunset years telling our children what it was
    once like in the United States when men were free.

    • Address to the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of
      Commerce, ( title="1961">1961- href="http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/March_30" title="March 30">03-30).
    • Later variant : Freedom is a fragile
      thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.

      It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended
      constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.
      Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it
      again.

      • href="http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/govspeech/01051967a.htm"
        class="external text"
        title="http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/govspeech/01051967a.htm"
        rel="nofollow">California Gubernatorial Inauguration Speech
        (1967- href="http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/January_5" title="January 5">01-05).

It turns out that href="http://www.mikesoutherland.com/blog/2007/02/one-generation-away-from-extinction.html">Christian
religious groups have paraphrased this, saying “The Church is
one generation from extinction.”   Thus it is a
double entendre
, alluding both to Reagan, and to
Christianity.  It also is a call to battle, of sorts; it is an
an assertion that one’s way of life is under attack, at risk of being
irretrievably lost.  

On a literal level, this is nonsense.  The USA dropped two
nuclear bombs on Japan, then occupied the entire country.  The
Japanese were not free in 1946; now they are.  Poland was
taken over by Germany, then by the USSR, in and after World War II.
 They were not free, but now they are.  

I suspect that Palin’s handlers are styling her to be the next Great
Communicator.  I suspect that McCain likes her because he sees
her as a straight talker.  She thinks that of herself:

I’m going to talk straight to the American people and
let them know my track record also.

But I’m being as straight up with Americans as I can

Americans are craving that straight talk

Straight talk is not veiled references,
 code words, dog whistles, and double entendres.  

Comments

  1. #1 Owen
    October 3, 2008

    There was a section, and I can’t remember which, where she switched from talking like Sarah Palin to talking like John McCain for two or three sentences. It was pretty glaringly obvious. My wife and I looked at each other with a “Seriously? WTF?”

  2. #2 Jeb, FCD
    October 3, 2008

    But it is straight talk to them. It speaks directly to them.

  3. #3 Justin
    October 3, 2008

    She incorrectly attributed the “City on Hill” quote to Ronald Reagan. He may have said it also, but it goes back to John Winthrop and the Mass Bay Colony. The origninal speech “is well known for arguing that the wealthy had a holy duty to look after the poor.” Ironic considering that she busted on Joe Biden for calling on the wealthiest Americans to pay higher taxes.

  4. #4 Beverly
    October 3, 2008

    A callout to her brother’s grade-school class? This local-yocal is not mature enough to be our President; which she is likely to be, should she be elected VP.

    Besides, she’s a ninny, too. Nor does she talk straight, Also.

    Ugg

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    October 3, 2008

    The city upon the hill reference is originally from the New Testament, and was being used as such by Winthrop. Winthrop’s use of this phrase was probably made famous by its reference in A Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan (a book with much wider distribution than anything Winthrop would have written), but I’m not putting money on that last part.

    But none of this matters because it is all bullshit and we know Sarah is an illiterate dit.

  6. #6 stumpy
    October 3, 2008

    We’ve all been thinking about this more than we should.

  7. #7 bioephemera
    October 3, 2008

    When she credited Reagan with coining “city on a hill”, I started laughing (I read Winthrop in colonial American literature) and my boyfriend said incredulously, “hasn’t she read her Bible?”

    You’d think even if Palin never got around to taking colonial lit, she’d have at least seen the New Testament ref. Oh well.