Let me begin this column with a disclaimer: I am not a big fan of Sarah Palin.

The reason I know this is because any time I write anything either mildly or constructively critical of the woman, I get scores of emails excoriating me as a “Palin-hater from the get-go,” from people who are completely aware that I not only predicted her invite to the McCain ticket, but applauded it, too.

But the reason I must make the disclaimer is to head-off those who truly do hate Palin and try to disguise their hate in concerns over how she dresses. These are the people who dismiss any defense of her as mindless wingnuttery.

Actually, disclaimer or no, anyone who defends Palin on any front”even against ludicrous charges that she is responsible for an assassination attempt by a seriously ill man”is instantly dismissed as a rightwing hack, such is the state of 21st Century anything-but-open-minded “liberalism,” which is a far cry from the liberalism to which I was raised.

American’s sad ideological balkanization is most obviously exposed for the sickness it is whenever this woman’s name is mentioned. Thanks to cable news and the social media echo-chambers that invite us to pledge allegiance to a stark perspective and then hiss “enemy” at anyone who thinks differently, Americans are being conditioned to absorb The Daily Outrage on cue; we are one nation, quite divided, with reactionary hyperventilation for all.

And if the nation is becoming addicted to hysteria porn, its centerfold is Sarah Palin.

I know this because of a Facebook thread begun by a friend. She had linked without comment to Newsweek ’s latest Palin cover”a rather unflattering, harshly-lit image of the former governor, arms akimbo and wearing the sort of shapeless and unmemorable henley hoodie that women wear when they’re running to the grocer’s and don’t much care how they look.

The very first comment on the picture”from a “liberal” who might be supposed to know better than to objectify women and whom, one presumes, considers himself a free-thinker”went like this: HAHAHAHHAAAAA Keep flashing those [breasts], Sarah!

The poster was correctly diagnosed by others as projecting his own obsession upon Palin, and he was good-naturedly given the chance to hit “reset,” but he could not let it go. Next he suggested that if only she were a smarter woman, like Jeane Kirkpatrick, he would treat her better. Apparently the class distinction that existed back when James Carville talked about Paula Jones’ trailer park background still exists, and it still permits the so-brights to treat anyone they consider their lesser in sexist and reprehensible fashion. Palin’s “tight little running shorts from 2008?”perfectly unsexy, standard-issue running shorts worn for the cover of a fitness magazine”indicated to this paragon of prole-tolerance that the mother-of-five was thrusting her body into our faces because “sex sells” and she needs to distract us from her myriad misspeaks and incompetencies.

It was at this point in the stupidity that I became annoyed. Sarah Palin has surely made her share of misfires and flubs while speaking. That is the unavoidable and common hazard of everyone in the public eye. They all get things wrong now and then”just ask the candidate (that would be Obama) who declared that he had not yet finished visiting “all 57 states” during the campaign, or the president (Obama, too) who not once but twice referred to Naval corpsmen as “corpse-men””and those lapses should earn a shrugged shoulder, regardless of party. But to suggest that Palin was serving cheesecake is not only idiotic, it is insulting to women, in general. Should attractive or non-Yalie women bind their breasts so as to not threaten so-bright men, who might be crushed by the corporeality of their cups? Do liberal men need to put attractive political women in burqas in order to proscribe the potency of their Playtex, and hide their taut mid-thighs?

But perhaps this astonishing mind-cramp of a man was unconsciously demonstrating a learned concept to the Facebook faithful”subconsciously recalling the Chesty McCheesecake images of a shirtless candidate Barack Obama exiting a gym, or romping in the surf; maybe this fellow remembered the mainstream press features breathlessly chronicling how the sweat glistened on Barack Obama’s skin and the splendor of his pectorals, and he is simply sending up a red flag we should be attending to: “danger, danger,” his subconscious self is warning, “sexy pictures are a misdirection! That candidate has nothing else to recommend him or her than a glorious body, the beauteous shell disguising a staggering incompetency!”

So, I’ll keep my eyes out for pictures of Palin romping at the beach, and press articles plotzing about her taut thighs or Michelle-Obamaesque arms. And if I see those popping up, I will know that America must never, never allow that woman into the Oval Office.

After all, experience is the best teacher.

Elizabeth Scalia is the Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos and blogs as The Anchoress . Her previous articles for “On the Square” can be found here .

RESOURCES

Predicting Palin , earlier than most

Mildly Criticizing Palin

Hate Mail

How She Dresses

The Madness of the Mainstream Media

Palinoia

Palin Newsweek covers

James Carville and “Trailer Trash”

57 States

“Corpse-men”

“Chesty McCheesecake” and “chisled pectorals”

Wit, Clarity, Coherence

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