How Palin and I could be related
Give Me A Break/Kate Holmquist: EVER SINCE I expressed the view that Sarah Palin is a savvy politician who is pioneering a new way of leadership, some of my colleagues have been worried about my judgment. They want me to repent. Some big-name columnist on Salon.com was humble enough to write an apology, so why can't I?
They're like the Spanish Inquisition. "Did you see Tina Fey on YouTube? Did you see the debate? Did you hear she's forcing her daughter's boyfriend to marry her? Did you see the interview with Katie Couric? Did you hear her say she could see Russia from Alaska? Will we send you the links?"
They watch while I follow up the links and look at amusing satires of Sarah Palin, which is a bit like being tortured into confession through laughter. You have to understand that I share very close desk space with a couple of the wittiest columnists on this newspaper, so the suggestion that I might die laughing is not an empty threat.
But I'm not giving in.
A colleague (male) pulled his trump card by suggesting that having recently given birth to a Down syndrome baby, Palin is not doing motherhood's cause any good by continuing to work. They won't be happy until I'm sporting an "Obama Mama" badge.
I got my own back, though, when I announced that there is a very good chance that Sarah Palin and I are related. You should have seen their faces. It takes a lot to make a cynical journalist's jaw dislocate.
Michael Sheiran, born 1820 in Roscommon, shares a name with my mother-in-law's Roscommon clan. He took the boat to the US where he settled in Rutland, Vermont, where - it so happens - I was born.
Coincidentally, previous generations of Palin's family settled in Chatham, Massachusetts, where my family have roots and still own property. In fact, there are relatives of Sarah Palin - Eldredges - buried within metres of my own mother. Some of her ancestors settled in Sandwich, Massachusetts, home of my grandmother. Palin also has antecedents in Baltimore, Maryland, where I spent a large part of my childhood.
When my colleagues heard all this, they breathed a sigh of relief. Well, that explained it. My "irrational" admiration of Palin had genetic, or at least geographic, roots - my defence of her might even be explained by some ancestral collective unconscious. I was tapping into some sort of instinctive connection, like a turtle that returns to the same beach to lay its eggs.
Whoa, hang on there, Joe. Hold on to your horses, Hockey Mom. Sarah Palin's family can be traced back to the Mayflower and to the Irish Diaspora but so can a lot of people's.
I take my Palin connection with a rock of salt. I found it out from a newspaper report and a brief internet search and haven't pursued it - and why should I? My family are already related to Abraham Lincoln, through Mary Todd on my mother's side. And so what? My defence of Sarah Palin is based on events in the present. The scurrilous satirisation of her has been irrational and cruel.
Former beauty queens aren't supposed to be smart. To be pro-life, then practise your beliefs by supporting your daughter and the father of her child to live with the consequences of their passion, get married and make it work, is also unfashionable. In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries you were nearly a spinster at 19;the US was built on women who bravely had babies, tilled fields, travelled northwest (as far as Alaska) and got on with life without worrying about politics.
Today we live in a society where sexuality in teenagers is supposed to be suppressed because smart people - the Democrat intelligentsia - have always told women to use birth control and, in a pinch, abortion. To acknowledge your daughter's biology is akin to admitting that you're white trash.
Palin doubtlessly knew she was carrying a Down syndrome baby, so what was she supposed to do, sacrifice her career to become a saint? Or have an abortion and pretend nothing happened? I admire her for doing neither. I admire her for supporting her daughter. I admire her political instincts and her way with people.
A lot of the internet satire accuses Palin of making no sense. but Palin knows how to make sense - for example, when she refused to side with either the banks or Joe Sixpack and said that by supporting the banks, you supported ordinary people by protecting their mortgages and their jobs. I don't care if she can't recite a list of Supreme Court decisions and if she winks at the camera to tell viewers that she's with them, televised debates stage-managed by a liberal media are a load of boring codswallop. She's right. They are.
Palin will be true to herself, even if it means occasionally embarrassing John McCain, and it's a long time since we had a politician like that - male or female. She taps into the common sense of the pioneer spirit many Americans identify with. It doesn't mean I'm going to vote for her, but can't I admire her?