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Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Definitive Sarah Palin Post

This particular piece has been in the works for nearly two weeks, but like the rest of the country, the selection of Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, as John McCain's running mate blew me away. It is fair to say that people on both the right and left were shocked. While I was shocked, I was also ecstatic. For the first time in my life, there may be someone a heartbeat away from the Presidency with whom I can identify. There has never been a truly viable national female conservative candidate in the United States (Lizzy Dole never had a chance). Period. I now have a political role model for the first time in my life.

While I claim that Sarah Palin is a role model in my eyes, let me be clear. I don't agree with her on everything, but I never expected to either. Take abortion, for example. I am not nearly as staunchly right to life as Palin (I believe that ultimately a woman - in fact, all people - should have control over her own body). However, I could never make the decision to have an abortion. In almost all cases, I believe that adoption is the best answer to unwanted pregnancies. That said, I've never had much of a stomach for some of the antics of the right to life movement.

Then came Sarah Palin, who is very much pro-life. How can you look at her baby Trig and not see the unconditional love created by his life? It is real. There are many, many people all across the United States who can identify with making the decision that Sarah Palin made to have Trig, despite the challenges of Down Syndrome.

Before I go further, I need to clarify something. You see, technically I'm a "special needs" person myself due to the fact that I have Turners Syndrome. Fortunately for me, I grew up in an era where such terms as "special needs" weren't used, and to look at me, you wouldn't suspect that I have a genetic disorder (I'm just shorter than average).

All of that aside, I attended national Turners Syndrome conferences in 1999 and 2000. I attended to meet up with an old friend of mine, Brenna, who also happens to have Turners Syndrome. Quite simply, my experiences at the conferences changed the way I view pregnancy, motherhood, adoption, and myself. Unfortunately, much of the conferences involved a lot of parental hand-holding. Parents of girls with Turners Syndrome want more information about their daughters' condition. It is all well-meaning, but it also can lead to a certain over-protection of women and girls with Turners Syndrome. In some cases, I almost wonder if Turners Syndrome isn't worse for the parents than it for the women and girls who actually have it.

It was against this backdrop that I happened to meet a couple who were expecting a little girl with Turners Syndrome. That's right; Turners Syndrome, along with genetic abnormalities such as Down Syndrome, can now be diagnosed in the womb through amniocentesis. I can only imagine what the couple was going through.

Imagine that you are a pregnant woman whose unborn child was just diagnosed in the womb with a serious genetic condition such as Turners Syndrome. The doctor may provide you with the worst case scenario (serious heart and kidney abnormalities), little or no information, or worst of all, outdated information. You read, hear, and expect the absolute worst. You realize that your child will face physical and emotional challenges. She will most assuredly be short and infertile. Outdated information will say that women and girls with Turners Syndrome show signs of mental retardation (this has been disproven and literally all of the older Turner Syndrome women I've met have at least a bachelors degree). In essence, a lot of rational, well-meaning people would understand if you decided to have an abortion. It has most certainly happened and will continue to happen.

In fact, I have to give the couples that I met at the conferences a lot of credit. They took the time to put a human face with the condition. They got to meet women and girls with Turners Syndrome, many of whom lead surprisingly ordinary lives. They got to see the achievements, the challenges, the adoptions, the successful outcomes of in vitro fertilization, etc. I will never forget the speech that one expectant mom of a little girl with Turners Syndrome gave before the entire conference. She simply stood up and thanked everyone. She had been considering abortion, but decided to learn more. She was overwhelmed by the experience of actually meeting those with the same condition that inflicted her unborn daughter.

It is quite simple. Sarah Palin's candidacy has brought that all back for me. She has lived with and through the life altering decisions faced by moms with "special needs" kids, especially those whose children are diagnosed in the womb. In a broad sense, these were my first impressions of her - an authentic human being who shares many of my values and who has been tested by life in a variety of ways. She has stuck by her convictions.

Then, almost as soon as the announcement was made, the attacks began. I've never witnessed anything so destructive in my entire life. The rumors regarding Trig, Bristol, and Sarah were largely put to rest after the announcement was made that Bristol is pregnant (the most vicious of rumors would have been biologically impossible). Bristol's pregnancy is a whole other topic in and of itself (it is very telling of how we view sex in the United States), and I do want to discuss it in another post. However, rumor after rumor came spewing from a dinosaur mainstream media that would never treat a women on the left the same way. As a woman who grew up in a small town and who shares many of the same values as Sarah Palin, I have no choice but to assume that the mainstream media would treat me with the same disdain and disrespect (in fact, contempt). In fact, there are probably people on the left who probably think that my life isn't worth living. I happen to know for a fact that some conservative men don't even get why women like me would feel this way (again, another post). It is brutally ugly and says a lot about our society.

You can bet that you will hear a lot more from me as election day draws near.


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