What are values anyway? Aren’t they beliefs that we hold as principles which guide our lives? Like equal justice and fair play? Like freedom to make individual choices under law? Like the right to privacy?
I think Barak Obama is right when he says that we should look at the politics of the McCain /Palin ticket not their personal lives. And yet I have these nagging thoughts that keep circling around my head. Sarah Palin does not seem to believe either in abortion or birth control which is her right, but everyone can’t afford to support a 17 year old daughter and her 18 year old husband to be. And she also doesn’t believe in housing for pregnant teens since she vetoed state funding for the Covenant Transitional House in Alaska. So, Sarah, what exactly is a poor young woman whose family either cannot or will not support her supposed to do? Is being a teen mother for the privileged? And all the Republicans who seem to excuse Bristol (who obviously did not follow the rule of abstinence) by saying, “well these things happen” only excusing young women who are white and middle class? Sarah Palin would also condemn the young woman who made the difficult choice to have an abortion.
I can’t help wondering what would happen if if the situation were reversed – if the Obamas’ had a teenaged daughter who was pregnant by some kid who was only interested in basketball or hanging out on a street corner in Chicago. Wouldn’t the Republicans be all over him, condemming this example of black irresponsibility and lack of morals? It seems to me that the so-called family values of the Republicans and Christian right are flexible when it comes to one of theirs, but not so flexible when it comes to people outside the group.
Ellen Goodman has some interesting thoughts about all this in her column in the Boston Globe today.
I shifted into high dudgeon over the Sexism in the Media, Part II, the blogcreeps and cablescum sneering at her beauty queen bio and her working-mom credentials. Then came the news that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. Immediately, the “family values” folks who have fashioned a political wedge out of moral judgments began insisting that anyone who remarked on this baby bump was an insensitive invader of privacy.
What did James Dobson of Focus on the Family say? This teen pregnancy showed that “she and her family are human.” Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council praised Bristol for “choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation.”
Meanwhile Obama himself, the son of an 18-year-old mother, said strongly that “People’s families are off-limits and people’s children are especially off-limits.” Well, OK. But let’s not forget that it’s the right wing that made social issues into a political issue. The right wing decided that pregnancy was not a matter of private decision-making but a harsh and unrelenting political battle
The bottom line: I think what Sarah and Todd Palin do with their daughter – which to me looks like exploiting her – is up to them. But they need to learn to respect those who might make a different choice and to support those families and young women (and men) also. The two people I feel the most sorry for in this entire business are Bristol Palin and Levi Johnson.