The 17-year-old daughter of Alaska governor Sarah Palin is pregnant. If not for the fact that Senator John McCain has chosen Palin to be his running mate, would we care? I doubt it.
Until last week, few people in the “lower 48” could even identify Palin. Since then, though, there has been an awful lot of discussion on blogs and even some mainstream news sites about Palin and sex. Now we learn that Bristol Palin is pregnant, that she’ll keep the baby, and that she and the father will marry.
Predictably, sadly so, partisans on both sides are showing their worst instincts. The sexual hypocrisy is so thick you can’t see through the fog.
Some social conservatives who would use this sort of information to crucify a Democrat whose child became pregnant without benefit of marriage are defending the Palins for “doing the right thing.” Bristol is not getting an abortion, they say. She is getting married. She is living the family credo.
Some social liberals are downright gleeful, arguing that this incident “proves” Sarah Palin can’t control her own family, or that her own conservative sexual beliefs are bankrupt, or most scurrilous of all, that she was covering for an earlier Bristol pregnancy by claiming her new-born son as her own.
In reaction to the story, many comments on Newsvine were so vile I won’t repeat them here.
War in Iraq, economy imploding, energy transformation finally on America’s agenda, income disparity threatening the social order, cynicism infecting every corner of American life, a tectonic shift to a multi-polar world, a collapsing educational system, and you want to make the pregnancy of a 17-year-old a political issue?
Stop it. Unmarried 17-year-old girls get pregnant every day in this country — too many of them — and they come from strong, healthy families, and broken, dysfunctional families, and conservative families and liberal families. Bristol’s pregnancy says nothing about Sarah Palin’s suitability to be the next vice-president just as Obama’s youthful cocaine use, or his middle name, says nothing about his suitability to be the next president.
But this country is stuck in junior high when it comes to sex. We either want to condemn it and say it shouldn’t be discussed in any realistic way, or we want to drench ourselves in it.
So we hear all about Palin’s hotness quotient or her local beauty queen victory, all of which is about as relevant as the fact that she has hunted moose. (I’ve spent some time in Alaska, fell in love with my wife in Alaska, and hung out with a lot of Alaskans and can tell you that hunting moose is to Alaskans what lunching at Barney’s wine bar is to New Yorkers. No big deal.)
If we want to talk about sex and politics, how about talking about whether or not the candidates defend comprehensive sex education, or favor abstinence-only sex education? Data has debunked the abstinence-only approach as wishful thinking. Texas, for example, which strongly endorses abstinence-only, and demands parental consent before teenagers can get contraception, leads the nation in its rate of teen pregnancies, dropping only by 19 percent from 1991 to 2004 while the rest of country dropped by over 30 percent.
Meanwhile in California, where comprehensive sex-education is mandatory in public schools, the teen pregnancy rate dropped by 47 percent.
That’s what matters. It is none of my business that Bristol Palin is pregnant or what sexual prescriptions Sarah Palin chooses in her own household. It is my business what prescriptions McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden want to give me.
We have to stop this juvenile sexual innuendo. Bill Clinton has 1,000 mistresses. McCain is a serial babe stalker.
I don’t care. I don’t think any of us should care how a politician lives his or her private sexual life as long as that life is consensual and legal. Otherwise, we’re just asking for continued hypocrisy, continued degradation of the civic discussion in this country, continued show-trials-by-media of people who engage in the very same acts many of us engage in every day.
Recent history has proven that if we don’t stop, we will wind up with exactly the leaders we deserve.