By Nate Rieder
As Sarah Palin has become such a prominent figure in US politics and media, I felt that it was my duty as an informed citizen to check out some of the projects she’s been working on since her failed campaign for vice presidency in 2008. So, one night I mentally prepared myself for what would ensue, took some anti-nausea medication, and tuned in for an episode of her reality TV show Sarah Palin’s Alaska. I thought I had a fairly firm grasp on the extent of her narcissism, uninformed views, and general idiocy, but it turns out I had only hit the tip of the iceberg.
I entertained vague hopes that despite featuring Sarah Palin, the show might be a somewhat informative way to learn new things about our northernmost state. To say that this was not so would be a gross understatement. In the episode I saw, she was entertaining Kate Gosselin (of John and Kate Plus 8) and her children. Ok, fine. So she’s cavorting with a reality TV star who has exploited her ability to prolifically procreate for financial gain at the cost of making her life a public spectacle and possibly causing her children irreparable psychological damage. It could be worse, right? And then it got worse.
After showing the family around her palatial estate, she revealed that they were all preparing to go on a camping trip together. What better way to entertain toddlers than to take them into the subzero, bear-infested backwoods of Alaska? Unfortunately, that “bear-infested” bit was the impetus for the remainder of the episode. Fully aware of the possibility of encountering these mammalian behemoths, Palin had enrolled both families in a wilderness safety class. Apparently, in Alaska wilderness safety is shorthand for “how to effectively murder a bear”. Cut to Palin, holding the most menacing non military issued gun I’ve ever seen, giving a lecture on how owning and knowing how to use firearms is of vital importance for every Alaskan. Afterwards, a wide-eyed Palin expertly pumped round after round into a fake bear target that was rapidly approaching her. Gosselin chose to abstain. Unfortunately, this was about all I could take, and I was forced to change the channel before the actual camping trip took place, but I have a sneaking suspicion the remainder of the show wasn’t filled with erudite conversation or even anything less infuriating than what I’ve mentioned above. Oh, I forgot to note that the Palin’s have a rug in their entryway made from a bear that Sarah’s father shot, and that one of the childrens’ favorite pastimes is pulling the bears tongue out of its mouth. This is immaterial, but since I can never erase this fact from my mind, I figured I’d share it with the world (or at least the three people reading this column).
I almost don’t know what to say, as it is hard to do justice to the absurdity of this situation, but I’m not known for being left speechless and I don’t plan on starting now.
First thoughts: The American fascination with celebrity and reality TV in general seem to be indicative of the degenerative state of our collective national intelligence as it is, but the fact that politicians are now actively seeking out fame through this avenue is exponentially more frightening. One might idealistically assume that although many people enjoy mindless diversions, they are still surely able to tell the difference between entertainment and more serious issues such as politics. Well, this show does a great job of shattering the illusion of that belief. What’s really scary is the thought that this might even help Palin politically by making her seem more accessible and allowing people to attempt to relate to her in everyday life. But we shouldn’t want politicians who we can relate to – at least those of us who can relate to Sarah Palin. We should want politicians who strike us as smarter, more capable and better informed than ourselves. However, in this sad state of affairs where the race for the office of the most powerful figure in the free world is nothing more than a popularity contest, I guess all we can be thankful for is that people find a hip, young, half-black guy who is good at basketball to be “cooler” than an ailing septuagenarian war veteran and his chipper albeit dopey sidekick.
As I watched the program, I couldn’t help but continually beat myself over the head with the fact that she could be president. Plenty of people voted for her as vice president two years ago, and since Obama hasn’t miraculously turned the mess he was left with into a utopian society filled with ambrosia, unicorns, and piles of money, I’m seeing an increasing proliferation of Palin 2012 bumper stickers everywhere I go. They serve as an eerie, constant reminder of the state of affairs in this great nation, and though I feel that there are many free-thinking, intelligent citizens in America, every passing day (and show) makes me feel more and more like they are helplessly outnumbered by masses of dimwitted automatons just waiting to be instructed which poor decision to make next.
When I started this blog, I made reference to the film Idiocracy, a dystopic futuristic comedy in which, among other things, the heavyweight-wrestling champion of the world was elected President. I noted that this movie obviously wasn’t meant to be an accurate representation of the future, but with the rising prominence of figures such as Palin who can make fools of themselves on television on Sunday and start campaigning on Monday, it seems like we’re creeping ever closer to being a country run by celebrities rather than capable leaders. I guess all we can do for now is take a deep breath, cross our fingers, and hope that Bristol doesn’t pop up on the next season of MTV’s teen moms.