September 16, 2008

LUCK AND CHOICES

You know, I used to think people were exaggerating when they wrote that liberalism has broken the modern family by allowing the government to replace the father. I see where they're coming from, but I always thought it was a bit much.

Until it got explicitly spelled out:

In the Boston Globe on Friday, columnist Ellen Goodman frets that Mrs. Palin is a "supermom" whose supporters "think a woman can have it all as long as she can do it all . . . by herself." In fact, Sarah Palin is doing it with the help of her husband Todd, who is currently on leave from his job as an oil worker. But Ms. Goodman's problem is that "she doesn't need anything from anyone outside the family. She isn't lobbying for, say, maternity leave, equal pay, or universal pre-K."

This also galls Katherine Marsh, writing in the latest issue of The New Republic. Mrs. Palin admits to having "an incredible support system -- a husband with flexible jobs rather than a competing career . . . and a host of nearby grandparents, aunts, and uncles." Yet, Ms. Marsh charges, she does not endorse government policies to help less-advantaged working mothers -- for instance, by promoting day-care centers.

When I read the Marsh article, all I could think of is why on earth the government needs to step in and help people fix their luck or choices. Because that's what life boils down to: sometimes you get back luck, and you get cancer or your husband runs away with the maid, and sometimes you make choices in life, like to get divorced or have multiple kids with multiple dads. And sometimes luck and choice blur, like when you get knocked up at 17.

There's nothing we can do about the luck. Luck can hit any of us regardless of whether we're white, black, rich, poor, successful, or downtrodden. It was bad luck that Christopher Reeve was paralyzed, but he had his own resources for extensive rehabilitation and technology. Paralyzed poor people don't have that.

So is it the government's role to step in and save them?

I'm the wrong person to ask: I don't even want to take my government's prenatal vitamins.

A hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, your luck and your choices were your business. Got your arm cut off in the mill? There was no workman's comp or anyone to sue. Got a disease? If you were rich, you could buy some medicines to help prolong your life. If you were poor, you died. I don't think people went shouting to the government to give them free meds. Got pregnant out of wedlock? Your problem. Here's your scarlet A, have a nice life.

I didn't live back then, but I get the sense that people had a more healthy view of luck and choices than we do.

There is bad luck in the world. I can't seem to have a baby: bad luck. Especially since we made choices that would put us in an ideal spot to raise children. You know how people always say that you shouldn't wait to have kids for financial reasons because you'll never have enough money? Yeah, well, we have enough. I specifically didn't get a job when we moved into town so I could stay home and take care of a baby. We made all kinds of choices and now have been tripped up by luck. It sucks.

And I would feel the same way if one of us got cancer. That's bad luck, and you just have to deal with it. And if one of us died from a disease because we ran out of money to prevent it, that's life. It's harsh, but that's the way I see it. I don't want there to be a governmental guarantee that everyone gets to live to be 90.

I have a problem with the government stepping in to fix either luck or choices.

In the Marsh article, I kept thinking about luck and choices. When she said,

Palin is staunchly pro-life, but, beyond this very public position, she has a slender record on issues that affect working moms. She is a member of Feminists for Life, an anti-abortion group that also advocates for equal pay for women, for part-time and telecommuting situations for working moms, and against domestic violence. (The group supported Biden's Violence Against Women Act.) Presumably Palin shares these views. But, despite all her emphasis on being a working mom and breaking the glass ceiling, in her debut and acceptance speeches Palin never once mentioned her support for any of these issues or the legislation designed to address them. And she said nary a word about affordable child care.

Affordable child care is something the market should take care of, not the government. So is "part-time and telecommuting situations for working moms." I don't want Palin to promise to start legislating things specific to single moms.

Remember that blogger who wrote about why she's not a Republican? She's partially right, at least in my case, about the "'I got mine' attitude." I did make good choices in my life: I married the perfect person, scrimped and saved every dollar we made, waited to have children, etc. So I do kinda get mad at the thought of our tax dollars going to "funding for a vocational residential facility that included a child care center for students, as well as the funds for breast-feeding pumps, among other supplies, for a Women, Infants, and Children program for poor women." I'm a little happy Palin line-item vetoed that one.

And I realize that saying all of this probably makes me look like a mean person, but I'm tired of being made to feel mean for being squared away. My husband and I have our shit together, and I get a little tired of putting single moms on a pedestal and saying the government should square life away for them.

And I am really sick of folks ripping down Sarah Palin because she too has her shit together.

Marsh wrote about Palin like it was some giant stroke of luck that she "has a six-figure salary and an incredible support system--a husband with flexible jobs rather than a competing career, a close-knit community, and a host of nearby grandparents, aunts, and uncles to lend a hand on the domestic front." That one ain't luck, it's choices.

But I bet Sarah Palin, like my husband and I, wouldn't start singing a different tune if she all of a sudden were struck with bad luck. Or, say, her daughter's bad choices. I bet Sarah Palin sat her daughter down and said, "This is your lot in life; now you have to deal with it and deal with it well." Somehow I don't see her giving her daughter a list of entitlements she's now eligible for and promising that she'll legislate day care for students.

The title of Marsh's article is "Whine Not," in a sarcastic way. People went berserk when Phil Gramm said we've become a "nation of whiners." But I completely understand what he meant, especially since he prefaced it with, "We've never had more natural advantages than we have today." Because even with all our advantages, we expect more and more from the government. We expect them to save for our retirement, pay for our health care, and lower our price of gas. We expect the government to provide all the basics of life, apparently; they provide the meat and potatoes while it's up to us to work on the gravy.

I reject that entirely. It's the government's role to provide you with the plate; what you put on it is up to you. Some people will have a whole meal with gravy, while others may barely have rice. That's life. Government was never intended to make sure we all get the same stuff in the end.

Marsh ends with this explanation of why feminists reject Sarah Palin:

Feminism is not just about having the opportunity to do it all. It's also about having the support to do as much as you can. This is why, in the end, feminism needs to be tied to not just an identity, but to an ideology that encourages that support. Sarah Palin's free-market feminism fails that mission on almost every count, diminishing the trade-offs and sacrifices that haunt working moms.

And that is why feminists and Democrats will always be intertwined: it's not about the opportunity, it's about having the government provide the means to equalize everyone's lives. It's not enough that everyone can succeed if they make good choices; the government has to guarantee that, despite luck or choices, everyone will end up on equal ground. If you can't come up with the support on your own, as Sarah Palin did, then the government has to provide it for you...out of Sarah Palin's tax dollars, of course.

And as for that last line, how dare you think that Sarah Palin hasn't made trade-offs? You don't think it's a trade-off to make good choices? Think of all the fun my husband and I could've had instead of saving 50% of our income towards retirement and savings.

Listen, Marsh: Everyone makes trade-offs, even successful, rich people. Even people who seem to have it all and make it work. How dare you diminish what Sarah Palin has accomplished because she doesn't need to hold a palm out to the government asking for free breast pumps and WIC food. If more families were like the Palins, we'd be a lot better off in this world.

Because regardless of what luck and choices come their way, they are upbeat, hardworking, and self-sufficient.

It's too bad feminists can't see Sarah Palin for the inspiration she truly is.

Posted by Sarah at September 16, 2008 11:07 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Wow! So true...I read this outloud to my husband...but you know, I think you are preaching to the choir here. I don't think that Ms. Marsh would really be able to see things this way.

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at September 16, 2008 12:07 PM

I agree with you completely. If there's no benefit to making good choices (i.e., you get the same outcome whether you do or not), then what's the point? I mean, you and I and people who feel the way we do still will, because we know it's what's right, but there are plenty of people who won't, and who will depend on our tax dollars, our hard work, to give them those benefits. Man, everything's coming back to Atlas Shrugged now. So glad I read that book.

Speaking of, did you see in that NRO article you linked the other day where Michelle Obama is quoted as saying: "We left corporate America, which is a lot of what were asking young people to do," she tells the women. "Dont go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and were encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond." Faced with that reality, she adds, "many of our bright stars are going into corporate law or hedge-fund management."

You know, if too many of those "bright stars" took her advice there, our entire economy would collapse. I don't know how people expect us to pay for all of these government-backed services and programs without any successful businesses to help maintain our economy. *rolls eyes*

Posted by: Emily at September 16, 2008 01:43 PM

Absolutely, Sarah! One thing I would add, though, is that we don't owe each individual person anything as a society (other than the opportunity to do or screw up), but we do owe society as a whole.

The thing is, that's not as ominous as it sounds - how many of us willingly donate to Soldier's Angels or other charities that strike a chord with us? If your good friend came to you with a problem, don't you help? If your friend comes to you about someone they know with an issue - don't we often chip in, be it money, time, or other advice we specialize in?

The problem with forcing government to provide all these services that used to be provided by the community working together is that it has contributed to totally demolishing the community. I barely know my neighbors, and the people who are helping me move while AFG is gone are from other DC Metro area towns rather than the people next door.

The thing is, I do have friends to help. Which is what friends and neighbors do.

It drives me nuts that there is an insinuation that "if government doesn't do it, no one will." That's bull crap. The community will. The community DID. And it is embarrassing to have to accept help from the community, and it should be. That's what keeps us from taking advantage of it and what keeps us playing our part in it (we know we may need it some day). People aren't embarrassed at government help anymore, so they take advantage in ugly ways.

But aside from the help the community provides, the fact that the community has to come together to do so fulfills a basic human need to be a part of something and belong somewhere. A need that is really going unfilled now that government has become the all-powerful nanny. And that is sad.

//thesis off

Posted by: airforcewife at September 16, 2008 01:52 PM

I had lunch with my Dad today. I told him I was very lucky to be as successful as I am, without a college degree. He replied that it was not luck, but my hard work.

I agree with your post and I am tired of the "you owes me" belief. Why does Sarah owe any specific group or demographic? She should support us all.

Posted by: Amy at September 16, 2008 04:54 PM

Great post Sarah.

Ditto to Airforcewife on private (PRIVATE) groups
doing what they can where they can to improve the
lives of others and their comunities.

Voluntary not mandated,thank you!!

Posted by: maryindiana at September 16, 2008 06:01 PM

Sarah -

Amen. You rock.

Tim

Posted by: Tim Fitzgerald at September 16, 2008 08:27 PM

What a thoughtfully written and excellent blog. I've visited your blog before and enjoy catching up, but this is...wow. Everything I've been thinking but can't put into words.

Great job!

Posted by: Lindsay at September 19, 2008 03:42 PM