Camille Paglia, who writes for Salon magazine, is a trifle bristly – part of her charm. She is to feminism what Lewis and Clark were to the great Northwest, for there is more to feminism than meets the eye of many establishment feminists.
In her most recent piece in Salon, “Fresh Blood for the Vampire,” Paglia, North America’s Oriana Fallaci and a self described “dissident feminist”, takes aim at the outrageous attacks on Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin:
Over the Labor Day weekend, with most of the big enchiladas of the major media on vacation, the vacuum was filled with a hallucinatory hurricane in the leftist blogosphere, which unleashed a grotesquely lurid series of allegations, fantasies, half-truths and outright lies about Palin. What a tacky low in American politics -- which has already caused a backlash that could damage Obama's campaign. When liberals come off as childish, raving loonies, the right wing gains. I am still waiting for substantive evidence that Sarah Palin is a dangerous extremist. I am perfectly willing to be convinced, but right now, she seems to be merely an optimistic pragmatist like Ronald Reagan, someone who pays lip service to religious piety without being in the least wedded to it. I don't see her arrival as portending the end of civil liberties or life as we know it...
It is certainly premature to predict how the Palin saga will go. I may not agree a jot with her about basic principles, but I have immensely enjoyed Palin's boffo performances at her debut and at the Republican convention, where she astonishingly dealt with multiple technical malfunctions without missing a beat. A feminism that cannot admire the bravura under high pressure of the first woman governor of a frontier state isn't worth a warm bucket of spit...
The witch-trial hysteria of the past two incendiary weeks unfortunately reveals a disturbing trend in the Democratic Party, which has worsened over the past decade. Democrats are quick to attack the religiosity of Republicans, but Democratic ideology itself seems to have become a secular substitute religion. Since when did Democrats become so judgmental and intolerant? Conservatives are demonized, with the universe polarized into a Manichaean battle of us versus them, good versus evil. Democrats are clinging to pat group opinions as if they were inflexible moral absolutes. The party is in peril if it cannot observe and listen and adapt to changing social circumstances...
The gigantic, instantaneous coast-to-coast rage directed at Sarah Palin when she was identified as pro-life was, I submit, a psychological response by loyal liberals who on some level do not want to open themselves to deep questioning about abortion and its human consequences. I have written about the eerie silence that fell over campus audiences in the early 1990s when I raised this issue on my book tours. At such moments, everyone in the hall seemed to feel the uneasy conscience of feminism. Naomi Wolf later bravely tried to address this same subject but seems to have given up in the face of the resistance she encountered.
If Sarah Palin tries to intrude her conservative Christian values into secular government, then she must be opposed and stopped. But she has every right to express her views and to argue for society's acceptance of the high principle of the sanctity of human life. If McCain wins the White House and then drops dead, a President Palin would have the power to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, but she could not control their rulings.
It is nonsensical and counterproductive for Democrats to imagine that pro-life values can be defeated by maliciously destroying their proponents. And it is equally foolish to expect that feminism must for all time be inextricably wed to the pro-choice agenda. There is plenty of room in modern thought for a pro-life feminism -- one in fact that would have far more appeal to third-world cultures where motherhood is still honored and where the Western model of the hard-driving, self-absorbed career woman is less admired.
But the one fundamental precept that Democrats must stand for is independent thought and speech. When they become baying bloodhounds of rigid dogma, Democrats have committed political suicide.
What concerns Paglia most is the calcification of modern thought, instantly old before its day, and the cataracts that have formed on the eyes of traditional feminists. The backward looking gaze of such as Gloria Steinum, a frequent target of Paglia’s, simply prevent motion forward; and feminism must continually be enlarged by fresh experience or wither and die.
This is writer whom no one can accuse of being friendly to Republican presidential nominee John McCain, described variously in Paglia’s piece as “…that hoary, barnacle-encrusted tub that many Democrats like me had thought was full of holes and swirling to its doom in the inky depths of Republican incoherence and fratricide. Gee whilikers, the McCain vampire just won't die! Hit him with a hammer, and he explodes like a jellyfish into a hundred hungry pieces.”
But, reaching for a descriptive analysis of the essential character of Governor of Alaska Palin, Paglia turns to an obituary written about Abigail Becker in 1905:
Here's another example of the physical fortitude and indomitable spirit that Palin as an Alaskan sportswoman seems to represent right now. Last year, Toronto's Globe and Mail reprinted this remarkable obituary from 1905:So does the truth dribble out of our timid journalism, in tiny, little, obscure freshets – along with oceans of venom.
“Farmer and homemaker born in Frontenac County, Upper Canada, on March 14, 1830
“A tall, handsome woman 'who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all,' she married a widower with six children and settled in a trapper's cabin on Long Point, Lake Erie. On Nov. 23, 1854, with her husband away, she single-handedly rescued the crew of the schooner Conductor of Buffalo, which had run aground in a storm. The crew had clung to the frozen rigging all night, not daring to enter the raging surf. In the early morning, she waded chin-high into the water (she could not swim) and helped seven men reach shore. She was awarded medals for heroism and received $350 collected by the people of Buffalo, plus a handwritten letter from Queen Victoria that was accompanied by £50, all of which went toward buying a farm. She lost her husband to a storm, raised 17 children alone and died at Walsingham Centre, Ont.'
Frontier women were far bolder and hardier than today's pampered, petulant bourgeois feminists, always looking to blame their complaints about life on someone else.
“But what of Palin's pro-life stand? Creationism taught in schools? Book banning? Gay conversions? The Iraq war as God's plan? Zionism as a prelude to the apocalypse? We'll see how these big issues shake out. Right now, I don't believe much of what I read or hear about Palin in the media. To automatically assume that she is a religious fanatic who has embraced the most extreme ideas of her local church is exactly the kind of careless reasoning that has been unjustly applied to Barack Obama, whom the right wing is still trying to tar with the fulminating anti-American sermons of his longtime preacher, Jeremiah Wright.
“The witch-trial hysteria of the past two incendiary weeks unfortunately reveals a disturbing trend in the Democratic Party, which has worsened over the past decade. Democrats are quick to attack the religiosity of Republicans, but Democratic ideology itself seems to have become a secular substitute religion. Since when did Democrats become so judgmental and intolerant? Conservatives are demonized, with the universe polarized into a Manichaean battle of us versus them, good versus evil. Democrats are clinging to pat group opinions as if they were inflexible moral absolutes. The party is in peril if it cannot observe and listen and adapt to changing social circumstances.”