There is being a member of the awkward squad, and there is being a member of the awkward squad, Well, than is actually being a member of the awkward squad, and there is Camille Paglia. Here she is in today’s issue of Salon, asking us to believe that Sarah Palin is more substantial political force than we hitherto thought her to be.
…. Step by step over the past five weeks since the election, headlines about Palin in the mainstream media and some Web news sites have become more neutral and even laudatory, signifying that a shift toward reality is already at hand. My confidence about Palin’s political future continues, as does my disgust at the provincial snobbery and amoral trashing of her reputation by the media and liberal elite, along with some conservative insiders.
This provincial snobbery, which. it would appear, Paglia thinks is the sole reason for Palin’s failure to register as the intellectual heavyweight that she is, is still showing up all sorts of places.
Once the Republican ticket was defeated, the time had passed for ad feminam attacks on Palin. Hence my surprise and dismay at Dick Cavett’s Nov. 14 blog in the New York Times, “The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla,” which made a big splash and topped the paper’s most-read list for nearly a week. I have enormous respect for Cavett: His TV interviews with major celebrities, which are now available on DVD, set a high-water mark for sheer intelligence in that medium that will surely never be surpassed.
However, Cavett’s piece on Sarah Palin was insufferably supercilious. With dripping disdain, he sniffed at her “frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences.” He called her “the serial syntax-killer from Wasilla High,” “one who seems to have no first language.” I will pass over Cavett’s sniggering dismissal of “soccer moms” as lightweights who should stay far, far away from government.
I was so outraged when I read Cavett’s column that I felt like taking to the air like a Valkyrie and dropping on him at his ocean retreat in Montauk in the chichi Hamptons. How can it be that so many highly educated Americans have so little historical and cultural consciousness that they identify their own native patois as an eternal mark of intelligence, talent and political aptitude?
After devoting four subsequent paragraphs to demonstrating that Cavett – “far too processed by his undergraduate experiences at Yale, at a time when Yale was stuffily insular and a bastion of WASP pretension” -and his kind who speak a non-standard language, a language, she gets to her point.
Yes, that is the lordly Yale that formed Dick Cavett’s linguistic and cultural assumptions and that has alarmingly resurfaced in the contempt that he showed for the self-made Sarah Palin in “The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla.” I am very sorry that he, and so many other members of the educational elite, cannot take pleasure as I do in the quick, sometimes jagged, but always exuberant way that Palin speaks — which is closer to street rapping than to the smug bourgeois cadences of the affluent professional class.
English has evolved, and the world has moved on. There is no necessary connection between bourgeois syntax and practical achievement. I have never had the slightest problem with understanding Sarah Palin’s meaning at any time. Since when do free Americans subscribe to a stuffy British code of veddy, veddy proper English? We don’t live in a stultified class system. In the U.K., in fact, many literary leftists make a big, obnoxious point about retaining their working-class accents. Too many American liberals claim to be defenders of the working class and then run like squealing mice from working-class manners and mores (including moose hunting and wolf control). What smirky, sheltered hypocrites. Get the broom!
It does not seem to occur to Paglia “understanding Sarah Palin’s meaning” was never a problem for anyone. The greater problem from the fact that they could barely bring themselves to believe that that she wanted what said to be taken seriously.