Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 26, 2008
By: Hilzoy


Most of Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric just made me alternately laugh and wince. One bit, however, really bothered me:

"I'm not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate from college. Their parents get them a passport and give them a backpack and say, "go off and travel the world." No, I've worked all my life. In fact I've had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture."

I didn't write about it, largely because I wanted to stick up for the people I know who are from small towns, but I thought my own background might interfere. (I was a part of, I guess, that culture.) Luckily, Charles Brown at Undiplomatic did, and better than I would have. He starts by going over his own background:

"I'm not that different from Sarah Palin. Except for one small thing. I was curious about the world. I really really wanted to see it. I was dying to learn what it had to offer. But even after I started working, I remained too poor to travel. That didn't stop me from dreaming. (...)

So I don't object to the fact that Sarah Palin didn't have a passport until last year. Maybe, as she said, she didn't have the money. She was a mother of four (Trig was not yet born), and had a family to raise. What bothers me about her answer is that she thinks only rich people want to travel, that only elites are interested in the rest of the world.

I'm reminded of that scene in Breaking Away where Dave (the main character) has seen his dreams shattered when a visiting Italian cycling team sabotages his bike. His mother, while consoling him, goes to her purse and pulls out a passport. Dave, surprised, asks why she has it. And his mother says something like, well, I always wanted to see the world, and who knows -- I might. Every once in a while, when they ask me for i.d. when I write a check at the grocery store, I pull it out and remind myself of my dream. It's a lovely moment, one that captures the dreams of many folks.

But apparently not those of Sarah Palin. She never talks about wanting to see the Pyramids, or the Taj Mahal, or the Great Wall of China, or the Wailing Wall, or the Sydney Opera House, or Big Ben, or Rio de Janiero, or the Eiffel Tower, or even the parts of Russia she can see from her house. Such desires aren't a sign of elitism, but rather curiosity. (...)

Remember "Wherethehellis" Matt, the guy who had himself filmed dancing all around the world and then put it online? He never went to college. Before he found a corporate sponsor (which occurred only after his first online video was a hit), he paid his own way, doing odd jobs.

Is he an elitist? What about all the fine young men and women in the Peace Corps? Mormon (and other) missionaries? Doctors and nurses who travel to help in crises and operate on children with cleft palates? Volunteers for MercyCorps, Christian Children's Fund, Catholic Charities, Lutheran World Relief, American Jewish World Service and other faith-based charities? Little old ladies who go on group tours to Europe?

To paraphrase John McCain, I guess we're all elitists now.

I'm no saint. I don't claim to be one. But I know I have one quality that Sarah Palin never will: curiosity about what exists beyond my corner of the planet.

And I know that when it comes to the rest of the world, Sarah Palin is one thing I'll never be: a snob."

Read the rest: it's worth it.

What I mind about Sarah Palin is not, and has never been, her small town. It's her small and incurious mind.

Hilzoy 6:06 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (72)

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Dude, I like your comments but the formatting erros are really starting to wear thin.

Posted by: thorin-1 on September 26, 2008 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

that closing line is perfect, and sums up my feelings perfectly. Thank you.

Posted by: Scu on September 26, 2008 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

thorin-1: sorry. I usually try to clean them up before posting, but I never get them all, so I go back over it and correct once it's up. It is clean now, I think.

Posted by: hilzoy on September 26, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Great final line.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 26, 2008 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

I want to see the world, but I always wanted to see the small towns, the little crags and hiking paths; mountains, beaches and oceans of varying hues...

Although, I would point out that Sarah Palin did go to school in four places, a thousand miles apart from each other. That's a fair chunk of travel, even if the people spoke English in all corners of her triangle.

Posted by: Crissa on September 26, 2008 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Good points all. I found out, during my 9 years as a college dropout, that it doesn't take money to travel around the world, just determination. You have to want it. I've traveled over most of the world, traveling on buses and hitching most of the time, when possible, for lack of funds. I've lived in mud huts with dirt floors, no plumbing and forget electricity. I traveled because I had a need to see for myself how other people lived.

That 9 year interlude meant that I didn't finish my schooling till well into my thirties and didn't really settle down into a real career till 40, so now, seeing some of my peers who are already retired and having their grandchildren come along, I am sort of envious as I still have 8 years of work ahead of me and 6 of those years will be on top of putting the last of my kids through college, but...different strokes for different folks I sez.

I can't trash Palin for her parochial views, she's entitled to them...but I have to wonder why she is running for office if she is really that incurious about the world around her.

Posted by: majun on September 26, 2008 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

We worked really hard for me to be able to travel when I was young, in spite of the fact that I was raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to put food on the table. First, it was to Belize for a mission trip. A church-funded scholarship helped pay for my flight. It also helped that I had worked in the church nursery starting at the age of 13. Then I went to Paris with my French class. We had a garage sale, bake sales at school, and I voluntarily offered to give up other things--like new clothes--to help out with expenses. As an adult, I have made travel a priority, and as a result, I go to the movies less often, rarely buy new clothes, and hunt for travel bargains. My most recent trip abroad included a visit to a rural school in Cambodia where wide-eyed children graciously thanked me for providing breakfast--a meal that they would have not eaten that day if I hadn't raised money to feed them--before I taught them to sing a couple of songs in English. That evening, I went back to my guest house, where I didn't even have air conditioning in my room (not as bad as it sounds). I want to experience the world because, with every trip, I grow in my understanding of other people as well as myself. I'm not unusual. There are plenty of other people like me. But we are no Sarah Palin.

Posted by: Cindy McCant on September 26, 2008 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

I don't necessarily think that there's anything wrong with wanting to stay close to where you grew up. The problem is when you then decide that staying in your small town and being incurious about the outside world qualifies you to make decisions that affect 350 million citizens and millions of others around the globe.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on September 26, 2008 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

What about her son Track? There's more than one way to see the world, even if you're not a part of "that culture".

Posted by: Bill in Chicago on September 26, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

But she was a POW!

Posted by: Brian on September 26, 2008 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

"I want to see the world, but I always wanted to see the small towns, the little crags and hiking paths; mountains, beaches and oceans of varying hues..."

You know, people always wonder about the random places I travel to. I have many times been in towns that don't show up on maps and whose names I don't know. And whose languages I can't possibly understand. The Taj Mahal is great, but those little towns really offer a great look into cultures you never really thought existed. So follow your dreams, you won't regret it.

Posted by: fostert on September 26, 2008 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

people like Palin all over our otherwise-awesome country, people who mask their lack of intellectual curiosity as a source of pride. "why go anywhere new? why get to know anybody new? Why do anything new? Nothing's better than right here right now...I@'ll bet." Not that far away from bigotry... xenophobia... intolerance ...just what we need to represent us in the highest levels of national office, don'tcha think?

Posted by: slappy magoo on September 26, 2008 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

I actually thought this was by far the most effective thing she said in this interview. Not because it doesn't reflect a sadly incurious and insular mind--it does--but because it will so perfectly play into the prejudices and defensiveness of her xenophobic, inexperience- and ignorance-worshipping base and their belief that they're the "real" Americans. Really, this one's for the resentful rubes, and it'll work.

Posted by: shortstop on September 26, 2008 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Crunchy Con Rod Dreher (one of the Cons worth reading) wrote about this too:

Posted by: mattt on September 26, 2008 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Never mind seeing the world. What about seeing America? You don't need a passport to do that.

In the Couric interview, with its Manhattan setting, she had the look of someone who was intensely disoriented. If I had to be charitable, I would call it homesickness for Alaska.

Or it could just be that her arctic brain was melting under the blaze of an early fall New York sun.

Posted by: lampwick on September 26, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

She basically called anyone who has traveled an elitist. What a putz.

Posted by: pokeybob on September 26, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

After college, I worked 3 jobs, saved all my pennies, found a cheap ticket to Europe, and lived there fro 3 months on ten dollars per day. I did a few odd jobs along the way. My parents bought me a pair of hiking boots (which it turns out I didn't even need).

Posted by: Bush Lover on September 26, 2008 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

I am glad somebody posted on this. The same comment bothered me. My small town upbringing did not keep me from going off to college, where I worked my way through. I paid for it because I did not have parents who could afford it. I worked for two years after I graduated, saving money religiously, just so that I could travel abroad. I spent three months sleeping in train stations, on beaches, and where ever I could find a bed. I would not trade that experience for the world.

You're right, it is the incurious mind. I am proof that you don't need a parent funding a trip to realize that the world is a big place.

Posted by: r.johnson on September 26, 2008 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

She is a psychopathic liar.
I doubt she has worked all her life.
I doubt she had two jobs her whole life.
I doubt everything that comes out of her mouth...

Posted by: koreyel on September 26, 2008 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

And I'll bet she doesn't wear a mink coat either, just a good old Republican cloth coat.

Posted by: Ted Frier on September 26, 2008 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Sarah is Eliza Doolittle redux. It's Pygmalion (with a Pyg) all over again. The only thing they haven't done is have her practice "the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain." Perhaps because she can't see Spain from her home.

Who is her Henry Higgins?

Posted by: Cycledoc on September 26, 2008 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

My ex-girlfriend came from a small Canadian fishing village that is in some ways quite similar to Palin's Alaskan background (though much poorer and not, you know, evil). And yet she took a whole year to backpack around the world by herself, travelling all through Africa, India and China -- where she was for four months in remote villages and had to teach herself Chinese because, as she said "if I didn't speak Chinese, I didn't eat" -- and did it all on $10K for the whole year, and has separately also been to South America, Europe and Australia. So Palin's "shucks I'm jes' a poor small-town gal" routine cuts no ice with me either.

Posted by: Stefan on September 26, 2008 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

Never been to heaven,
Never been to Oklahoma...

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on September 26, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

My ex-girlfriend

The hell? What's this "ex" business? Well, I caught up with my old Icelandic roommate last weekend and she's apparently now available.

Posted by: shortstop on September 26, 2008 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

it is not that we are elitists; rather, it is that Sarah Palin is an isolationist of the most sordid variety, desiring to place blinders upon us all while handicapping the more capable among us while providing fast-track advancement to cronies of the least capable sort

She is, without any doubt whatsoever Harrison Bergeron's "Handicapper General" brought to life. This---coupled with her warlike Pentecostal philosophy, makes her a creature of the most evil sort---the type that you feel the need to hide your children from....

Posted by: Steve on September 26, 2008 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly -- it's about curiosity.

Palin was curious enough to figure out how earmarks worked in DC. At least nominally curious about how things worked within the state of Alaska.

In 2002, after losing her bid for lieutenant governor, she wanted new guv Frank Murkowski to appoint her to the Senate seat he had just vacated.

A reasonable person with an eye on national politics might start reading books and newspapers about national issues. (OK, a lot of people start tracking issues in their teens or 20s, but I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt here.)

But, there's no evidence that Palin paid any serious attention to the workings of international relations, social policy, budgeting, you name it, after 2002. She didn't grow her vocabulary. Even after becoming governor, when she had the opportunity to begin collaborating with and learning from folks on the national stage, she played know-it-all starlet.

Lack of curiosity -- isn't it obvious why the journalism degree didn't lead to a career?

Posted by: Bose on September 26, 2008 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

For Palin to say she wasn't part of "that culture," as if it's only rich kids who travel, is infuriating. Both my sons, with almost no money, hiked through Europe when they got out of college, staying at youth hostels and walking most of the way. I'd like to respond to the moron and tell her what kind of "culture" these guys exhibited: "the normal, natural 'culture' of intelligent inquiry, you blooming idiot!"

Posted by: Rosemary Molloy on September 26, 2008 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Koreyel: I agree. Let's hear about those two jobs she's worked at all her life.

And, as far as not being part of "that culture," what prevented her from going down to the library and learning about the larger world through books. I believe it's called "armchair traveling."

Of course, that presupposes you allow the library to have some books.

Her lack of preparation began many, many years ago and would have been apparent almost at once had McCain's team done their own homework. Now they're stuck with her.

Posted by: JayDenver on September 26, 2008 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Really, this one's for the resentful rubes, and it'll work.

Sure. It's a can't miss with them. But even that's a small, particularly stale part of the GOP base.

It ain't the free trader part. Or the country club part. Or the missionary part. Hell, it even goes against the nominal Ugly American stereotype (which has a solid basis in reality), in which particularly loud rubes wonder why Paris ain't more like Des Moines -- because even while Ma and Pa Kettle don't understand the foreigners spitting in their food, even they figured they should get out there a little.

Shit, she obviously traveled in the States, which is something. What makes it curious for me is why she didn't want to keep going.

Posted by: Jay B. on September 26, 2008 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

Couldn't resist adding this to my earlier comment:

Books as Passports to Global Understanding
for Children in the United States


Posted by: JayDenver on September 26, 2008 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Had McCain's crack team of lobbyists even bothered to make Palin take her own state's High School Exit Exam she wouldn't be on the ticket.

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on September 26, 2008 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

She's a liar even about this. She says she wasn't part of the culture that could travel, and yet she left Alaska and went to Hawaii for college. Then to Idaho. Then back to Alaska, then back to Idaho. These are not inexpensive places to get to from Wasilla. And they're not closeby. Remember, Hawaii is "exotic", and practially a foreigh country. If she wasn't part of that culture, why didn't she just go to Wasilla State, or Alaska State Anchorage?

Posted by: halle on September 26, 2008 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

I was outraged at this comment. I wasn't 'handed a passport' by my parents. I worked my way through college and have worked ever since, sometimes 2 jobs or more. I have also had the courage and curiosity and drive to travel the world...and i plan to continue to do so. how dare she claim her narrow minded world view is somehow more real or american or legitimate than mine. oh, and i am not from a big city either.

Posted by: poly on September 26, 2008 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Her line bothered me, too. The idea that foreign travel is just for trust fund babies was one of those typical Republican cheap shots aimed at stoking "Us vs. Them" resentment.

If she he simply said that she couldn't afford foreign travel, it would have been fine with me. I didn't get a passport until I was 32 years old, and my employers paid for my first several foreign trips.

There are plenty of people who travel overseas without being rich. One of my brothers did it with the money he had earned from summer jobs. But Palin presented foreign travel as something only snooty people do, and like I say, that's just one more example of the Republicans trying to divide the country into mutually resentful tribes.

They've been doing this ever since Richard Nixon decided that stoking resentment would be a good path to the White House. What a shame.

Posted by: Magic Dog on September 26, 2008 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

TBogg has come up with the perfect nickname for Palin: "Bible Spice."

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on September 26, 2008 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

It so smacks of a ethnocentricism and bigotry to say this--this is frightening to hear she said that as a potential V.P.

And that she was proud to say this, apparently doesn't even realize the possible insult this is makes it doubly frightening, because it illustrates how utterly stupid she is.

Although maybe she isn't that stupid really--this comment falls right into the anti-intellectual stance she represents and elicits no doubt many warm fuzzies from the blue-collar crowd.

I say it falls in the category of the "community organizer" narrow-minded comment..

What a myopic elitist arrogant snob SHE is to say such a thing!

So now it's decidedly un-American to educate yourself about the world, to have a sense of wonder and adventure and learn how everyone else lives? Who cares about all those weird people and places when we have Alaska moose to kill from the air?!

Posted by: on September 26, 2008 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

The first school that Sarah Palin failed out of was Hawaii Pacific University, a private college founded in 1965 with a tuition (now) of $13,000/year. This in the early 80s, when tuition to many first-tier state universities was, to all intents and purposes, free. Assuming she wasn't on a full scholarship, money wasn't the reason she couldn't see the world.

Posted by: kth on September 26, 2008 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

She just isn't relevant. This woman is a non-starter in the current political environment. She over-reached. No matter how much you can empathize or sympathize - she is so totally out of her element that she cannot communicate effectively. I'm sorry for her misjudgment, I'm sorry that she trusted McCain.

But she is a disaster waiting to happen. Just as McCain is. Double down, anyone?

Posted by: Granmere on September 26, 2008 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

It's the same sentiment that "Incurious George" appealed to.

I think it's born of fear, and it quickly produces anger, so it's an easy and lucrative target. This might explain her use of it.

(And BTW, I think righteousness definitely is not the right way to combat it. I usually try puzzled concern instead.)

Posted by: bleh on September 26, 2008 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

It's not that she's incurious and insular that's a problem. It's that she wants others to emulate her myopic viewpoint. Hence the book banning and the condescension towards those who want to broaden themselves.

Posted by: josef on September 26, 2008 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

This exists everywhere, I think. People who live as adults in small towns in northern BC or Alberta are the same, they have an odd snobbishness about cities. When they visit a city their backs are up the whole time. The phrase "over educated" comes up.

One guy who I knew who grew up in a small town actually admitted to me that whenever he first returns from trips home, he's afraid for the first few days, just of the people and activity level.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on September 26, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Who hasn't poured over the pages of National Geographic, dreaming of traveling to all the places depicted? It wasn't until I was 33 that I was able to travel outside the country, but from childhood onward I was able to 'travel' through the pages of NG.

Posted by: Varecia on September 26, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

The thing that rubbed me the wrong way most about her convention speech was the attitude "I'm from a small town, and that makes me better than you. (Oh by the way, thanks for your tax dollars though)."

It's reverse snobbery.

Posted by: scottap on September 26, 2008 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

Petty envy parading as filigreed bullshit.

Nothing more.

Posted by: MissMudd on September 26, 2008 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

A great way to 'travel' on the budget plan is using Netflix to rent or watch online the best of foreign films and documentaries. A couple of my recent(to me) favorites are Black Book and Monsoon Wedding. You know the films are good when after a while you forget you are reading subtitles.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on September 26, 2008 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who has been reading the news has gotten a passport. It may be necessary to flee quickly when the military brings in the microwave weapon for subduing insurrection, possible insurrection.

Posted by: jen f on September 26, 2008 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Hilzoy? Think we could have a debate open thread tonight? Thanks. And thanks for all your hard work.

Posted by: MissMudd on September 26, 2008 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

bleh: I think righteousness can work, when the person deploying it has a satisfactorily non-elitist background. Hence my silence until now.

Posted by: hilzoy on September 26, 2008 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to even bring this up, but I think it also ties in with Obama's controversial "bitter" comment. People (especially, but not limited to rural) who are angry about lack of of opportunity often cling to xenophobia and associate people who do that college-Eurorail thing with elitists, preppies, arugula eaters, etc. Palin may be incurious and unsophistocated in some ways, but she's as politically savvy and cynical as Bush.

Posted by: Danp on September 26, 2008 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

I thought that the "In fact I've had two jobs all my life until I had kids" comment was one of the few things Palin has said since she hit the national stage that really resonated. She connected with this because she spoke from personal experience. But almost everything else she says -- including the missing-middle sneer at the idle rich that brackets this -- screams defensiveness and insecurity. She really should Go Home. I think that John Rambo would agree.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape on September 26, 2008 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Palin preferred to stay in her bedroom and listen to Wagner.

what a crock of shit.

it's the dogwhistle two jobs thing. They're really trying to flog this small town ignorant white fear b.s.

The problem with that is that most people in small towns want to get the fuck out. I did and joined the military to do it. She failed out of college at least once on her parents dime. What a fucking lying lunatic.

McCain will have to dump her and this interview is the only reason he pulled this debate stunt until they can figure out how.

Posted by: grinning cat on September 26, 2008 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

"Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated--so:
"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges--
"Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!" Kipling: The Explorer

I have memories of my grandmother reciting this poem and the above passage often came to me as I hiked, biked, walked, trained, drove, hitch-hiked
across the Continent.

I can't say this poem sparked my curiosity, but I do know that the echoes of my grandmother's voice
were a part of my journeys.

Posted by: on September 26, 2008 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

"...small and incurious mind." So-So right! A true soulmate of GWB who is also the proud possessor of one! Scary indeed.

Posted by: Jeff in VA on September 26, 2008 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

After Sarah loses this thing, I hope she dons a backpack and heads off for adventure.

It will do her a world of good.

Posted by: George on September 26, 2008 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

This latest interview with Katie has shown the Repubs that this pick is not a good one at all. She couldn't even string together a coherant sentance. My sister watched it and was wondering why she couldn't understand a word Gov. Palin said. My other sister who is a Republican came over laughing about how stupid Gov Palin is!! McCain is going to have to get rid of her or he can use her as a reason why he lost the election.

Posted by: mishanti on September 26, 2008 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

What I don't get is the need by some people to make things an "Us" vs. "Them" conflict.

There is no "them", there is simply "us". It is fine for you to be the way you are or want to be, why do you have to look down on or villify people who are different? This is the source of racism, and every other bad "ism" you can think of.

Posted by: nerd on September 26, 2008 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going to go with PokeyBob and the Magic Dog (hey, together they sound like a 60's rock band!) - Palin has a talent, whether instinctive or acquired, for saying, "I was never a part of that" in a way that suggests you should not be, either. She makes an interest in travel seem like a wealthy indulgence that honest hockey-mom moose hunters could never afford. If she's doing it intentionally, it's a most unappealing trait. If it's instinct, she has some kind of "poor me" complex that will disappoint her sooner or later in politics - a notoriously unsympathetic profession.

Like Grinning Cat above, I joined the military to see the world; 31 years on, I guess I've seen most of it. I know the potholed streets of Vladivostok like Sarah Palin never will, I've drunk straight from the coconut in St. Johns, Antigua and bargained for souvenirs in Saigon (although it's Ho Chi Minh City now, but that doesn't have the same alliterative lilt). And I paid my own way. There are all kinds of ways to see the world, as the interesting observations on this thread illustrate, even if your parents don't hand you a passport and their checkbook as soon as you're big enough for a prep sweater.

Posted by: Mark on September 26, 2008 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

For many the contempt for travel is probably a defense mechanism. Whether its true love or not, forced by circumstance or peer pressure or not, getting married and raising kids is one hell of a trade off for many, and they can't admit that even to themselves.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on September 26, 2008 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

First, I want to say I lived in Europe for more than 5 of the last 10 years. I enjoyed most of the experience. I've touched, several times, every continent on this globe, including the Antarctic. (I've been in the ice up north, too.) I visited at one time or another nearly 100 foreign cities. I've also seen nearly all of the 50 states. I think I've traveled and I'll compare my record with anyone on this list. But...nearly every post here is wrong. Travel in and of itself is worthless. It can be enlightening but it is not the only or even best way to know the world. More importantly, if you have something else more important to do, like feeding and clothing yourself and your family, it can take a backseat. Making that choice is called maturity and demonstrates another quality called judgment. Welcome to the real world. Finally, I don't care if I ever leave this country again. Frankly, I didn't see anything better anywhere.

Posted by: Larry on September 26, 2008 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

What I mind about Sarah Palin is not, and has never been, her small town. It's her small and incurious mind.

A mind is a terrible thing to mind! (As Dan Quayle might have said)

Posted by: rea on September 26, 2008 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

Larry - I agree with part of your statement - that travel in and of it self isn't really a magic elixir of education -- Traveling with the right frame of mind, however, is. And part of traveling, intentionally, with the curiosity and openness that typically comes with it, is not only educational but changes and broadens the mind. However, it's a pretty damn important part of 'knowing the world', if your definition of the world extends outside the United States. Which it generally should if you're interviewing for a job as head of state, president of the USA.

Frankly I don't really elevate travel or those of us who have up just for the sake of having done it. However, I really resent the kind of snide "you have a passport therefore you're a trust fund baby" attitude that Palin's remark attempts to resonate with.

I'm kind of hoping that enough people are smart enough to distinguish the two.

I immediately could tell what type of person Palin is. She's not an idiot. She's actually quite clever and, while not educated or well informed, is one of those talented wordsmiths who can tinge and tone their language to appeal to/piss off just the right people. It's a gift. When it's used cynically as it has been most times I've heard her speak, it just rubs me the wrong way.

Posted by: S on September 26, 2008 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

The word you are searching for is parochial. It is the arrogant snobbishness of the small minded, small town girl.

Posted by: candideinnc on September 26, 2008 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

I've been to Canada three times, a one-day excursion, a two-day trip, and three and a half days in the Banff area.

Been to Mexico twice, once as a kid and once ("illegally" -- crossing the river at Big Bend before 9/11, when everybody did it), and I make less than $30K.

On passport, I've been to Europe once, a graduation gift from my middle of the middle class dad.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on September 26, 2008 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

George Bush in a skirt.

Posted by: Paul on September 27, 2008 at 3:22 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is that 'I'm just an ordinary non-elitist gal who worked two jobs" might make some people sympathize with he--but is precisely the wrong tack to take for somebody under attack for lack of preparedness.
There are probably some people out there who think that just being A Regular Gal makes you magically equipped to take on the world--but to anybody else, she's just being defensive. She might make a portion of the populace feel sorry for her--but that's the opposite of what she needs.
Sarah, if you can't afford to backpack it , you read. You inform yourself. You put language tapes in your Walkman as you file your papers, flip your burgers or whatever. You subscribe to Foreign Affairs. You take Henry Kissingers books out of the library. Something.

There are excuses for not having the experience. There are none for not having the knowledge. And Sarah doesn't even seem to have the interest.

(I backpacked around Europe, but back when they were publishing 'Europe on $5 A Day" books. Doing it without money prevents you from being insular. (read 'American.") You learn more.)

Posted by: pbg on September 27, 2008 at 4:24 AM | PERMALINK


You're right that travel is not, in and of itself, broadening or indicative of open-mindedness. But contempt for travel is something else, and it's not "maturity" or "judgement" that kept Sarah Palin from getting a passport and looking at something outside the Alaska-Idaho axis.

It would have been quite possible for her to travel overseas instead of to Hawaii, or to travel (and work) before moving on to the next school, or the one after that, or the one after that. She wasn't married then, she didn't have to worry about feeding the kids or clothing the family, but she restricted herself to Alaska, then Idaho, then Alaska again, then Idaho again. She never even expressed an interest in seeing where her ancestors came from, which is a pretty startling level of incuriosity.

Heck, she could've joined the army or might even have worked hard enough in college to win a scholarship to travel abroad, which is what I did while my mother was working to put my three younger siblings through school.

If she then came back and said that she'd seen a lot of places, but none so grand as the good ol' US of A, then she'd still have her patriotic credentials in order, and might sound like she was speaking from a position of knowledge rather than one of ignorance.

But that's not what she did. She drifted around in a tiny, insular orbit, decided she didn't need to know anything about the outside world, and is now left with defending her knowledge of foreign affairs with non-sensical remarks about Alaska's proximity to Russia (which she's never visited) and a gubernatorial travel itinerary composed mainly of airport stopovers en route to a brief visit to an overseas military base.

She could have simply said something like, "I didn't make the best choices when I was in my teens and twenties, and if I had it to do over, I'd certainly have applied for a passport and made plans to travel to (fill in the blank)." Follow that with a quick smile and a remark about how Track is gonna be able to tell his Mom all about the great big world, or a question about the wonderful places Katie must have visited, and the whole travel thing would have been defused. But she just doesn't have it in her to approach the question that way...

Posted by: keith on September 27, 2008 at 5:53 AM | PERMALINK

Matt the dancing guy was recently interviewed on Australian TV - he credits his introduction to the backpacking culture through Australia.

The parochalism of palin is not class envy - it's specific to certain areas of the US. It's different in Australia - even our conservative ex-PM Howard said, after the first of the two Bali bombings, that this was "a challenge to the national birthright" of being able to grab a backack and go OS travelling. People are still visiting Bali, our equivalent to Hawaii, even though its situated in the world's largest Muslim country and there have been two attacks targeting them. These are working class people - plumbers, footy teams on end of year tours, weddings, etc.

Mind you, they go to Bali because its cheap - that's the only class element to it. If they could afford to they'd go to Latin America, where ever.

This is a national quirk you're seeing here, not a class one or a conservative one.

Posted by: floopmeister on September 27, 2008 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

Really, Larry? Almost every post is wrong? I don't see anyone post that Palin should have dumped her family to travel the world. The point most people seem to be making is that she is a small town snob. Its fine if she did not want to travel the world or even the US. She does not need to be dismissive of those that do. And here I thought I was being responsible when, after working my way through college, I saved my money and traveled. I thought it was the only time I would have the freedom to do so. Apparently, I would have shown more maturity and better judgement if I had immediately started a career and a family

Posted by: Homer on September 27, 2008 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

She's lost Roger Ebert:

I think I might be able to explain some of Sarah Palin's appeal. She's the "American Idol" candidate. Consider. What defines an "American Idol" finalist? They're good-looking, work well on television, have a sunny personality, are fierce competitors, and so talented, why, they're darned near the real thing. There's a reason "American Idol" gets such high ratings. People identify with the contestants. They think, Hey, that could be me up there on that show!

My problem is, I don't want to be up there. I don't want a vice president who is darned near good enough. I want a vice president who is better, wiser, well-traveled, has met world leaders, who three months ago had an opinion on Iraq. Someone who doesn't repeat bald- faced lies about earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere. Someone who doesn't appoint Alaskan politicians to "study" global warming, because, hello! It has been studied. The returns are convincing enough that John McCain and Barack Obama are darned near in agreement.

I would also want someone who didn't make a teeny little sneer when referring to "people who go to the Ivy League." When I was a teen I dreamed of going to Harvard, but my dad, an electrician, told me, "Boy, we don't have the money. Thank your lucky stars you were born in Urbana and can go to the University of Illinois right here in town." So I did, very happily. Although Palin gets laughs when she mentions the "elite" Ivy League, she sure did attend the heck out of college.

Five different schools in six years. What was that about?

And how can a politician her age have never have gone to Europe? My dad had died, my mom was working as a book-keeper and I had a job at the local newspaper when, at 19, I scraped together $240 for a charter flight to Europe. I had Arthur Frommer's $5 a Day under my arm, started in London, even rented a Vespa and drove in the traffic of Rome. A few years later, I was able to send my mom, along with the $15 a Day book.

You don't need to be a pointy-headed elitist to travel abroad. You need curiosity and a hunger to see the world. What kind of a person (who has the money) arrives at the age of 44 and has only been out of the country once, on an official tour to Iraq? Sarah Palin's travel record is that of a provincial, not someone who is equipped to deal with global issues.

But some people like that. She's never traveled to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America or Down Under? That makes her like them. She didn't go to Harvard? Good for her! There a lot of hockey moms who haven't seen London, but most of them would probably love to, if they had the dough. And they'd be proud if one of their kids won a scholarship to Harvard.

I trust the American people will see through Palin, and save the Republic in November. The most damning indictment against her is that she considered herself a good choice to be a heartbeat away. That shows bad judgment.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on September 27, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Michael7843853 typed:
{{ I don't care if I ever leave this country again. Frankly, I didn't see anything better anywhere. }}

I don't believe you...unless your extensive travel did not include Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Spain, Portugal, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Iceland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. All of those democratic nations are superior to the United States in the most important ways: health care, schooling, quality of life, etc.

I commend you for visiting the less fortunate societies of this world, but it is grossly unjust to use them as a comparison to Amerika. Better to compare with other western civilized societies. Otherwise, you're not being fair at all.

Posted by: Zeke Krahlin on September 27, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Good job arnufo

Posted by: max on September 27, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

When I was in college, my middle class parents encouraged me to go see the world -- with my own money. As an obsessed Anglophile, I worked part time while going to school and went off to England by myself one summer. (They drove me to airport.) The next year I got myself a student work permit, lined up a job in London, and lived there for 8 months. I later went back and lived and worked in London for nearly a decade, and took the opportunity to travel around Europe. I loved it! There are a lot of great places out there, and I think the country would be a better place if more Americans went out to see something of the world and how other people live. Yes, the USA is a great place to live, but we can also learn much from other countries that do things differently that we do, as well as see how American policies affect the rest of the world.

Posted by: Inkblot's Aunt on September 27, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK



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