Passports

Passports

Most of Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric just made me alternately laugh and wince. One bit, however, really bothered me:

“I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate from college. Their parents get them a passport and give them a backpack and say, “go off and travel the world.” No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact I’ve had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture.”

I didn’t write about it, largely because I wanted to stick up for the people I know who are from small towns, but I thought my own background might interfere. (I was a part of, I guess, that culture.) Luckily, Charles Brown at Undiplomatic did, and better than I would have. He starts by going over his own background:

“I’m not that different from Sarah Palin. Except for one small thing. I was curious about the world. I really really wanted to see it. I was dying to learn what it had to offer. But even after I started working, I remained too poor to travel. That didn’t stop me from dreaming. (…)

So I don’t object to the fact that Sarah Palin didn’t have a passport until last year. Maybe, as she said, she didn’t have the money. She was a mother of four (Trig was not yet born), and had a family to raise. What bothers me about her answer is that she thinks only rich people want to travel, that only elites are interested in the rest of the world.

I’m reminded of that scene in Breaking Away where Dave (the main character) has seen his dreams shattered when a visiting Italian cycling team sabotages his bike. His mother, while consoling him, goes to her purse and pulls out a passport. Dave, surprised, asks why she has it. And his mother says something like, well, I always wanted to see the world, and who knows — I might. Every once in a while, when they ask me for i.d. when I write a check at the grocery store, I pull it out and remind myself of my dream. It’s a lovely moment, one that captures the dreams of many folks.

But apparently not those of Sarah Palin. She never talks about wanting to see the Pyramids, or the Taj Mahal, or the Great Wall of China, or the Wailing Wall, or the Sydney Opera House, or Big Ben, or Rio de Janiero, or the Eiffel Tower, or even the parts of Russia she can see from her house. Such desires aren’t a sign of elitism, but rather curiosity. (…)

Remember “Wherethehellis” Matt, the guy who had himself filmed dancing all around the world and then put it online? He never went to college. Before he found a corporate sponsor (which occurred only after his first online video was a hit), he paid his own way, doing odd jobs.

Is he an elitist? What about all the fine young men and women in the Peace Corps? Mormon (and other) missionaries? Doctors and nurses who travel to help in crises and operate on children with cleft palates? Volunteers for MercyCorps, Christian Children’s Fund, Catholic Charities, Lutheran World Relief, American Jewish World Service and other faith-based charities? Little old ladies who go on group tours to Europe?

To paraphrase John McCain, I guess we’re all elitists now.

I’m no saint. I don’t claim to be one. But I know I have one quality that Sarah Palin never will: curiosity about what exists beyond my corner of the planet.

And I know that when it comes to the rest of the world, Sarah Palin is one thing I’ll never be: a snob.”

Read the rest: it’s worth it.

What I mind about Sarah Palin is not, and has never been, her small town. It’s her small and incurious mind.