Good Tidings & Great Pain – The End!
I finished Sarah Palin’s Christmas book. I started it on November 19. It took me 49 days to read a 6″x8″ book with 209 pages of text, not including recipes. I admit, I’m not the fastest reader in the world, but bear in mind that I wanted to finish this book. I committed to reading the whole thing, and so completing it was the only way to make it stop. And now I have, and I can confidently say that Good Tidings and Great Joy is the most powerful misnomer for a book title I’ve ever encountered. It’s also the most bewilderingly long and most painful 4.3 pages a day I could ever have imagined. But I finished it on the 12th day of Christmas. Keep your drummers drumming. Finishing this project was the best Christmas present EVER.
Chapter 6, which we explored last time, was a fanciful romp of Christian martyrdom as Palin daydreamed about the year 2028 in Anchorage, Alaska, “if the militant atheists, and secular liberals have their way.” Strangely, Palin’s imagined atheists and secularists seem to embrace Paganism, and Islam because they are scary to middle-America. Because if we’ve learned nothing else by slogging through this morass of words, venom, and narcissistic daydreaming, it’s that this book is about very little that has to do with Christianity. It shouldn’t surprise us coming from someone who is inherently suspicious of that new Pope and his liberal ways. (Nobody tell her about Jesus, she’ll totally lose it!)
It is, instead, a Dear Diary of personal Christmas tradition, which at its best is a remotely nostalgic view of holidays past, and a glimpse of Alaska that might feel familiar to anyone who lives here. But these stories only serve to pepper a stew whose meat and potatoes is not Christian charity, tolerance, forgiveness, kindness, and turning the other cheek, but a thinly disguised treatise on modern Christian political conservatism. “Preserving the Heart of Christmas” the subtitle of her book, apparently includes abortion, Islamophobia, aggressive jabs at liberals, atheists, Democrats, city-dwellers, and those who wish to offend the fewest number of people. Those bastards.
At the beginning of this chapter, Palin includes a picture of the “Alaska governor’s Christmas cards.” It’s her then newborn son Trig in a Santa hat, by a decorated tree, surrounded by wrapped gifts. There’s a stuffed elephant (get it?) and a stocking ornament on the tree. The message reads, “With special, child-like faith…”
Now, while you may look at this and think “Christmas card,” let me remind you that using Palin’s own criteria, this is nothing but a cop out. Nowhere does it say Christmas. Nowhere does it mention Jesus. Ornaments, stockings, a Santa hat, a tree, presents… these are all, by her own description in the current book, simply secularized adornments there to distract us from the true message. “What are they afraid of?” she asks while pondering stores that sell “holiday ornaments” or proclaim “Season’s Greetings” in the tree lot without using the word “Christmas” or featuring virgin birth scenes. So, what was she afraid of?
My speculation about the governor’s “Christmas” card is probably the same as yours. It’s Christmas-y to anyone who actually lives in this country and pays attention. But it stops short of wishing everyone in Alaska, “Merry Christmas.” Why? Because the governor of a state, whose job it is to act in the interests of everyone, shouldn’t be using their elected office to promote their own religion; and they should be mindful of the many non-Christians who will receive the card on the state’s dime. Did Palin fall on her Christmas sword and demand a Merry Christmas message? No. Did she tell the state of Alaska that Jesus is the reason for the season? No. And the Sarah Palin of the past probably knew that was OK… to everyone except the Sarah Palin of the future who would indirectly call herself a giant wuss for not being an unapologetic theocratic governor.
But now that she’s safely in the public sector, everyone else should be acting like she didn’t, including individuals, private businesses, large corporations, the people who choose the music in the mall, and government. Rip down the Happy Holidays signs over aisle 5, Walmart! Put a nativity scene on the lawn of the municipal building! Don’t allow some checkout person to say “enjoy the holidays” without correcting them. What’s Christmas without having people at which to be pissed off? Jesus forgave those who put him to death, and those who betrayed him, but the message trumpeted from Palin’s angels give a smack down to public school teachers, liberals, non-Christians of all stripes, and those who wish to be politically correct. Inoffensive thoughts are in themselves offensive. Thine enemy shall be known by the Birkenstocks they wear. Except Jesus. His Birkenstocks were OK.
And when her aggression is couched in passivity, we get a variety of “I wanted to say something rude to the liberal, but I took the high road and kept my mouth shut” attempts to appear the bigger person. She “inaudibly gulps,” she silently gasps, she thinks up snarky rejoinders in her mind, she rolls her eyes when people aren’t looking, she “gags.”
Chapter 7 pivots away from persecution fantasy, and focuses on a scare in which her father was hospitalized on Christmas Eve. It reminded everyone about what’s really important. As they race to his side, unsure of the circumstances of his hospitalization, they suspect a heart attack. Todd had stopped by earlier in the day to deliver some smoked salmon, and noticed him napping looking “terribly uncomfortable with his arm and head dangling straight down in front of the chair.” But despite concerns, he dare not have awakened his father-in-law to make sure he was alright because he “could be packing.” This, of course, proves how much safer we all are when gramps exercises his second amendment rights as he snoozes while watching the game. Don’t disturb his nap or you might get shot. Good thing the grandchildren weren’t there, I guess. And it turns out grandpa just had a bad case of food poisoning from eating bad fish.
Later, during the annual tradition of reading the Guinness Book of World Records, Willow discovers that her mom is the most searched internet name of the year. “Oh, hush,” Sarah tells the giggling children. “Honestly, it freaked me out a bit,” she confesses, to have the memories of her VP nomination infiltrate her Christmas celebration. The trauma of the event, and her own humble and modest nature were uncomfortable with all this attention, and she’d just as soon not think about it at all except to recall it and retell it in a book. (I inaudibly roll my eyes, and think up snark in my head)
She leaves her readers with the comforting words that they shouldn’t worry about having a picture perfect holiday, and that “Christmas gently encourages you in your weakness… [Jesus'] life and death free you from others’ expectations, from cultural decay, and even from your own inadequacies.” Nobody’s perfect, dear reader. Now if you’ll excuse her, she’s going to go put on a fur parka, and join mittened hands with her perfect husband, and walk down the winter wonderland lane of snow-covered spruce bowers to go warm herself in her home on the lake, with alcohol-free beverages and homemade baked goods in front of the huge fireplace she made herself, and exchange non-materialistic and meaningful Christmas gifts with her huge extended family.
My solace came from believing that the people who bought this book far outnumber those who actually read it. Stilted unbelievable dialog, the gratuitous use of inane adverbs, and contradictions in logic often occurring in the same sentence made huge parts of the book both enraging and giggle-worthy – not unlike the author herself. I call her the “author” because even though the acknowledgments seem to indicate she had help, the book reads like Palin was put in a room with a laptop and left to her own devices. And that pretty much tells you all you need to know.
Compared to the rest of the book, the final chapter was blissfully easy – almost… nice at times. After our captor tortured us, and beat our pre-frontal cortex senseless for six chapters plus an introduction, her final approach as we huddle in the corner, hand over our collective face is kinder. This time she puts down the bullhorn of hate screech, and holds out a cup of hot cocoa. But first, she gazes into the cocoa at her own reflection and smiles. The worst sin of this chapter is contrived not-so-subtle political messaging, and narcissistic story-telling. Now that we’ve been pummeled into submission – it feels like a token of friendship. I think it’s how the Stockholm syndrome is supposed to work.
The tome finally, and blissfully ends with 20 pages of recipes. Because after a crap sandwich, you want a little something sweet.
Peanut butter and sugar rolled into balls and dipped in chocolate sound pretty darn good. And so do “Juanita’s Soft, Gooey Oatmeal Raisin White Chocolate-Chip Heaven” cookies. But don’t tell Sarah’s friend Juanita where you got the recipe, because she was sworn to secrecy and promised never to divulge it. You can find it on page 225 of what is now a New York Times best-seller. Oops.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go repurpose this bound stack of paper and turn it into something useful.
Blogging Good Tidings and Great Joy – the rest of the series: