September 7, 2023
My Dinner with Sarah
With apologies to Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn
By: Martin Hackworth
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity, courtesy of a politically well-connected friend, to attend a local GOP function featuring Sarah Palin. Not only that, but it was a VIP invitation, which meant admission to a small VIP-only meet-and-greet followed by a front-row seat to the main event. When my friend, Craig, pitched the idea to me, it took less than a nanosecond to accept.
When it was my turn to introduce myself to Governor Palin, I brought up a story I’d heard about her father, a bear, and a local fire department. She was sufficiently intrigued and curious about the story that she tried calling her father to get the details. We had a very nice 5-minute chat while she tried to reach her father on the phone.
I am not a Republican in any way, shape, form, manner, or style. I’m a lifelong political independent. If I were forced to pick a point along the political spectrum that best represented a weighted average of my heterogeneous political positions, it would probably land just a bit right of center. That would make me a “RINO” to most everyone else who attended this event. I’m pretty sure that they might have demonstrated the utility of the AR-15 they raffled off during the fundraiser if they’d known this. The “liberty” wing of the current GOP don’t need no stinking RINOs.
Nonetheless, I had a great time, and I really appreciated the invitation. I found Governor Palin to be genuine and very friendly. I liked her, even if I don’t agree with many of her political ideas. I’d hang out with her, even if I might not vote for her. I think that she’s a person who is honest and genuinely believes in what she says.
She’s authentic, that’s for sure. And her portrayal in much of the media does not jibe with the person that I met that night. Big surprise there.
The photo above is from the VIP meet-and-greet portion of the event, and I posted it on social media that night. The reaction to it was mostly positive, but not uniformly so. There were a number of people who thought that there must be something wrong with me for having my picture taken with Governor Palin. They were not shy about letting me know about it either.
Well, allow me to retort. Why would I not take advantage of a rare opportunity to sit down with a former Governor and candidate for Vice President of the United States to discuss things over hors d’oeuvres and beverages? Only a knucklehead would refuse such an invitation.
I don’t have to love everything about anyone to be willing to talk with them. A position that, alas, seems largely lost in these modern times.
The United States of America is a big place—geographically, culturally, and in terms of sheer numbers of just about everything. We are as diverse a country as there is anywhere on this planet, and that’s a feature, not a bug. Our diversity has historically been a source of not only pride but also strength as a nation. Discussion and debate between disparate factions are woven into the very fabric of our founding ideals. Deliberation in order to sort through competing ideas is an integral part of our political process—by design.
But somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the fact that it’s entirely OK to disagree with one another in this country; it is, in fact, expected. Debate and deliberation were anticipated over time to improve our laws and standards. We don’t live in a benevolent dictatorship; we live in a republic with democratically elected officials. You make your case for what you want, and if your argument is persuasive enough, you may convince enough people to support it to have a shot at enacting it into law.
I flat-out reject the notion that we should all surround ourselves with only the like-minded. Living in political and social silos is no good in a democracy. It’s not even good, in my view, for your mental health. The only person in the world who thinks exactly like you is you. That’s a mighty lonely place to be if that’s as far as you want to go for edification.
I think that it’s just fine to not only hang out with but also be friends with people who are quite unlike you. My own requirements for friendship have almost nothing to do with political or religious ideals and everything to do with the content of a person’s character. If you are a good person, we are going to get along just fine, almost no matter what you believe.
I walk the walk too; I even hang out with Bigfoot people.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being willing to talk with those with whom you disagree. In fact, it’s expected in our form of government. The fact that we’ve lost sight of this is a large part of the reason that our politics are currently so knackered.
There’s also nothing wrong with showing some respect for others, especially people who’ve achieved something, even if it’s not to your exact taste. On this point, Sarah Palin has been elected to a variety of political offices and was a candidate for Vice President of the United States. By all accounts, she’s been a reasonably good public official in a variety of roles in Alaska (albeit a cultural lightning rod). Though I disagree with the Governor on many issues, I think that she’s reasonably competent and sincere. Alaskans could have done far worse.
I don’t give a hoot in hell whether anyone agrees with me on everything or not. I care far more about your character and what you’ve managed to accomplish in this world. I count among my friends and acquaintances people of all political persuasions. And I would not have it any other way.
Associated Press and Idaho Press Club-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time with family, riding bicycles and motorcycles, and arranging and playing music. Follow him on Twitter @MartinHackworth.