Sunday, September 28, 2008

For Mom

In the spirit of ma-na-ma-nah.

Love you, Mom.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wherein my optimism gets beaten down by my own journalistic rigour

Oh, dear. Oh, oh dear. The bloom is off the rose.

For the three people who read my blog regularly (hi, Mom, Hubby and Megan!) you'll know I posted some thoughts on American VP nominee Sarah Palin awhile back. About how I could never vote for her, due to her positions regarding oil and drilling, but I did have great admiration for what she's achieved both personally and professionally (I am an old-school feminist in one respect only: the personal is political to me, all the time.)

Through all the news and scandals and dissections, I stuck to that opinion. I didn't think she was ready to be VP, but I still found her ambitious and smart, a woman who could "breed and lead."

Then the feature interviews with Gibson and Couric happened.

Gibson was criticized for being mean and nasty and unfair. I didn't think so; he was a little brusque, but he treated her the way he treats any politician, and that's the way it should be.

Couric: Oh, dear. Couric was too gentle. And Palin.... look, she sucked. She couldn't seem to form a coherent sentence. Her prep for the interview was obviously poor, and the message tracking scripted for her was AWFUL (look, I write this stuff every day, writing messaging is my job, and I can spot one a million miles away.) She needs new PR staff. I keep joking she needs Megan and me.

Anyone who knew me as a reporter, who was ever on the other end of the mic, will tell you I was a polite interviewer, but I was relentless. The minister responsible for welfare in the NWT swore for years I pushed him into a heart attack, smiling sweetly all the while. I would have eaten Sarah Palin alive, then cracked her bones for the marrow.

You might ask why her performance on a TV interview is even important. I'll tell you why, and it isn't the entertainment factor. When someone runs for public office, she (or he) accepts the duty and obligation to answer pretty much any question lobbed at her about her professional life, and I would argue aspects of her personal life that affect her political positions (the personal is political. Rinse and repeat.) If she can't answer them calmly, succinctly and in a way that makes sense, then she is failing her primary responsibility as a candidate for public office.

What happens when something serious happens while in office, something sudden, and you can't rise to the occasion? Mass panic and confusion, for one. (Examples: Bush after Hurricane Katrina, Bush after 9/11. Remember how his inability to answer even the most simple questions in a clear and truthful manner threw people into a panic and a rage?)

Both interviews made an intelligent woman look stupid. And it was her own fault.

In the end, good communications advice would have fixed a lot of this. When it came to all the foreign policy stuff, all she had to say is this:

"When I became governor of Alaska, I had a lot to learn about running a state as opposed to a town. But the lessons I learned as mayor were often applicable to life as governor. What I didn't know, I learned, and quickly.

"The same applies to this new role and challenge. A lot of what I have learned as governor will help with being VP. (List one small but powerful example here.) The rest, I am learning, and quickly. That's why I went to the UN this week. That's why I was so grateful to the myriad heads of state and ambassadors who sat down with me and allowed me to learn from them.

"I will continue to learn and observe. I know how to govern, I excel in that role. I know how to use diplomacy in state-to-state relations. In a country such as the United States, diplomacy is part of being governor. Now I will learn from those on the larger world stage, and apply what I already know. I have no doubt I can handle that, with Senator McCain as my guide."

Any 10-second clip from that statement would have saved her derriere. Bragging she can see Russia from her house did not.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kids and self-absorption

In many ways, I am very self-absorbed, and I always was. Ask my parents or brother or husband. It's true, although many people seem to think I'm not.

I was the kind of kid who was always very focused on my own goals and needs. This kind of focus is very much encouraged nowadays. We tell kids to reach for the stars, achieve their dreams, do their very best. Most of the time, there's nothing wrong with that. However, I know the effect on me (and on lots of other people I knew) was to think personal achievement was the most important aspect of life. In other words, self-absorption is necessary if I didn't want to waste my potential.

A good upbringing kept me from thinking I was the centre of the universe. I think having my kids young helped me get over most of the rest of my self-absorption.

A lot of my extended family was horrified when I chose to marry "young" (I was 23) and have my first child soon afterwards. The family was proud of my academic and professional achievements. They fully expected me to be the next Peter Mansbridge. And I was also confident I would achieve great things in journalism.

But after I married the Hubby, I wanted other things. Most of all, I wanted little smiling faces that looked like him.

Those little ones needed me. They didn't need me to file stories to the National. They didn't need me to be famous or successful. They needed me to be around. They needed my love and attention and cooking and cleaning. They needed me to read them books and put them to bed and nurse them.

They still need many of those things. For them to have what they need, I have to give up a lot of what I want.

Here's the hard part: I still rail against giving them what they need over what I want.

I want to read for hours in peace and go to yoga and write freelance articles. I want to be admired for my writing. I want to have lots of money.

My kids are often the only people who can save me from my own selfish self-absorption, in all their clingy, whiny glory.

I know lots of childless people who are giving and generous and selfless. I don't think I would have been one of them. think I would have been a miserable person.

And in the end, when I need it to be all about me, I can always blog. Let's be honest, what else is this blog but a showplace for my thoughts?

Monday, September 15, 2008

OK, enough about the States!

That's enough politics around here. Back to crowing about my children.

Toddler N. told me yesterday I'm "boo-ti-ful." Thanks, baby girl!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

SOGC worried Trig Palin will prevent abortions

First read this, and note the response of the vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada:

Then read this.

There is something wrong with an obstetrician who wishes more parents would abort babies they might actually want, who is lamenting a role model that belies the scare tactics many geneticists use when counselling the parents of unborn babies with Down Syndrome. And there is something wrong with the SOGC for allowing a V-P to say this in public.

Let me say this: I have no desire to ever be pregnant again because of how ill I get, but if God told me tomorrow He was giving me the blessing of a child with Down Syndrome, I'd sign up for my PICC line the next morning. Different and challenged is NOT wrong or evil or unwanted or unneeded. I think the world needs people with Down Syndrome in it. They are teachers.

Full disclosure: I won a reporting award from the SOGC in 2004.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Couldn't have said it better myself

I wish I'd written this calm and logical rebuttal to those people who treat me like one of Satan's minions for having kids.

HT to Pansy.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Finally, my thoughts on Palin

I've been chewing over Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska's vice-presidential nomination on the Republican ticket for days and days. While I'm not obsessed with American politics, I do follow them during presidential races, since the American president affects the world entire (and it's like a reality soap sometimes.)

I know Palin's selection has more to do with cynical pollster politics than anything else, really. McCain was desperate to liven up his campaign, to steal some of Obama's excitement and wonder. He's succeeded for the time being.

But I still find Palin a fascinating person and a role model.

A mother of five children who ends up as a mayor and then the governor of a state with some of the dirtiest politics in the country. An unapologetic career woman married to a normal dude -- he belongs to a union, has worked in oil at the bottom of the industry and loves to snowmobile, but also actively helps with the kids. A woman who can shoot a gun, who loves to hunt, who is sporty.

A woman who has walked her talk, who chose life for Trig when most babies like him are now aborted simply because they have Down syndrome. A woman who is trying to become the vice-president while raising a child who will need her ongoing care for the rest of his life.

A woman who supports her teenaged daughter after a bad decision to have sex and the resulting unplanned pregnancy, rather than kicking her out, shipping her off to a home for unwed mothers or pressuring her into an abortion because the pregnancy will embarrass Mom.

This is impressive to me. This speaks to me. This is the kind of woman I try to be every day: a pro-life feminist. A woman who believes we can run the world while having kids. A woman who believes, truly believes, taking care of a large family should never be the end of a woman's potential.

We can breed. We can also lead.

However, I would never vote for Palin.

She supports drilling the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is the calving grounds of the porcupine caribou herd. That herd isn't just a bunch of pretty animals. It is the food source and cultural anchoring point for many people in the North, especially the Gwich'in. If those animals go, the Gwich'in culture and language, in all its complicated beauty, will die.

Food is culture.

I can't support someone who thinks the life blood of the Gwich'in is unimportant, especially when she is a hunter. She should know better.

Finally, I think she needs some more time as governor -- at least a complete term -- before she should be trying to help run the U.S. Experience is not everything, but a little bit more would help her.

So that's what I think. I also think the press has been apologetically sexist and two-faced about Palin in a way it was not for Clinton. And that makes me sick. I thought journalists aimed for balance. I always did (and hopefully will again.) This "bring down the Republican MILF" thing is garbage. And don't tell me the GOP started it and deserves it. They're politicians. They play dirty. Journalists should never act like politicos.

Finally, the coverage shows me how completely out of touch reporters are with normal people. Get this through your head, former colleagues: there are lots of pro-life people in the States who want medicare and a living wage and a social safety net. Most people are not red or blue -- they're each a different shade of purple. Until journalism learns this lesson, reporters will never understand Sarah Palin's appeal.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I will blog about Palin, I promise

I will eventually post some of my thoughts about Sarah Palin's nomination as the VP candidate for the Republicans. I'm still sorting through how I feel about it. I've been commenting over on Megan's blog, but I need to think about it without anyone else's opinions getting in the way for awhile.

I'm feeling very conflicted.

I will say the woman's personal life impresses me mightily. And I still believe the personal is political.