The Queen of the Resentful goes over the top this time

The ancients Greeks believed that tragedy could single out an individual for public destruction. It was usually irrelevant how that person got to the point; the only important thing was how he handled it once selected.

Maybe we aren’t that far from them. We don’t watch people endure tragedy. And they certainly don’t reveal human truths by means of poetry. But we select people for “celebrity” arbitrarily so we can watch what they do with it. We watch former child stars juggle money and fame and hound them into rehab. We put pregnant single teenage mothers on a TV series. We pretend that 15 year olds have singing talent then subscribe to all of their “tweets.” We select ordinary people for “reality shows” and then watch them disintegrate in the limelight because they don’t have any good reason for being famous.

In politics Sarah Palin has cornered the market on being famous for no good reason. Having been inexplicably chosen, she now remains famous for the very reason that there was no reason for her to be famous in the first place. Some people get a real charge out of justifying the “fame” of someone who should not be occupying the public stage. Palin has those people in her pocket. Much of Palin’s fan base is among those who believe that the “elite”–those people who are famous for a particular reason–are contemptible. They are not quite sure why or who exactly among the elite they should concentrate their hate on. For them Palin is a God-send. Palin is clearly not an elite, not someone who has thought about anything for any period of time or gained any experience in anything, so they can trust her to lead them in the right direction. How could someone who put on a road show with a person as demonstrably non-elite as Joe the Plumber steer them wrong?

But Palin has so few accomplishments, at any level, that the more we see of her, the less we see in her. She is given a special on the Learning Channel, which seems to have required her to act ordinary and showcase the scenery of the state, and yet she failed even at that. On top of everything else, we found out that she doesn’t know how to use a gun! What next? She really isn’t the nation’s leading expert on energy?

But no matter how many times she fails, Palin has the perfect response: the elites are out to get her. If you are resentful, you can identify with that. So all she has to do is draw from that great barrel of victims’ quotations and she will end up back on her feet smelling like moose grease. Plus all her fans will be chanting: “All those ‘elites’ hate her soooo much!” It’s a perfect formula.

This week, with the coincidental convergence of someone being placed in the cross-hairs of her Facebook map and that same person being shot in the head, Sarah seemed to have made a big misstep, however. Her spokesman answered the charge by saying that the Facebook picture didn’t show cross-hairs, rather they were surveyors targets. This, to me, seemed a perfectly reasonable explanation, and I can go one further with the same imagery: When Palin speaks of “lock and load,” she is really saying that it’s time to put the surveyor’s sextant back in the case and lock it up for transit. It’s a pretty common surveying metaphor.

Palin herself was evidently not satisfied with this defense, however, so she reached deep into the resentment barrel and pulled out a very serious complaint by victims: She called the charges against her violent language a “blood libel.” This phrase comes from the history of East European antisemitism, where false claims of ritualistic murder by Jews were made to justify pogroms. This time, the real right-wingers, the ones that didn’t mind Palin occupying the center stage as long as they could go about their business of pillaging the country, had to sit up and take notice. They saw it as a real problem for some pretty compelling reasons.

First, it seemed like she was in the clear. The preferred response wa working; namely, “How can you blame a person who uses violent political rhetoric, who celebrates guns and gun images and who demonizes her opponents as enemies and un-American for the actions of a violent lunatic who used a gun to eliminate one of her enemies?” The defense seemed airtight. But she decided to show up and respond. Usually you don’t do that, unless you are really concerned that the allegations would stick–like when Christine O’Donnell was forced to strongly respond to allegations that she had misused campaign funds in violation of federal criminal law. Did Palin have a guilty conscience?

Second, the metaphor was one you just don’t use except in special circumstances, such as trying to vilify people complaining of some war crime committed by, say, Israel. She was not accused of demolishing homes of innocent people in Gaza, was she? Neocons were aghast at the breach of protocol.

Finally, it just seemed so over the top. Hadn’t she availed herself of just about the biggest accusation you can make? It seems so self-aggrandizing. Could it be that she actually takes herself seriously? This doesn’t bode well for her future presidential run. When inevitably a much more serious claim is leveled at her, how is she going to respond? At this point, the only thing she has left is: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

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