Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Let's VERB Palin!

Love her or hate her, you have to admit that Sarah Palin has a problem. I'm not criticizing--it's a problem she and I share, and it's why I'm a writer, not a radio pundit. We can't come up with a well organized spoken thought when put on the spot.

I got a call last night from the Fraternal-Order-of-Police-Stickers-for-Your-Car. You know the guys--they guilt you into thinking that if you don't give them money then some poor sweet barely-out-of-the-pimple-stage-of-life man is going to die from a sucking gunshot wound to the chest because he couldn't afford a bulletproof vest. And even if you don't believe that, you hope that having the sticker on the back windshield of your car is going to make the cop who just pulled you over think to himself, "gosh--there's no way I can give this woman a ticket--she helped pay for my station's last BBQ!"

Sorry, but I'm just NOT going to give these guys money. I don't mean the police, I mean the sticker people. I want the police to get the money, just not the sticker guys. So you know what I did? When the police department needed more funds, I voted to pay more taxes so they could have it. I want those fresh-faced rookies to have their bulletproof vests, dangit! But I'm not giving money to the sticker people.

So I got a phone call last night, and it went a little like this:

Caller: Hi, I'm so-and-so from the guilting-you-into-buying-stickers foundation. We've just started our most recent drive, which will pay for things like anti-drug education at schools, and all sorts of ambiguous help for our men in blue.

(I wanted to get him off the phone fast, so I decided to tell him I already give money to a variety of causes and am therefore, morally allowed to say no to him.)

Me: I already this year have given money to other things . . . charities, you know . . . for disabled . . . like the Federa-, I mean, Founda-, uh, the group for Blindness . . . that and for other disablednesses that . . .

(At this point I sensed that it wasn't going to get any better, and I hung up.)

I do give money. I tithe to my church. I've taken in people who need a place to live. I give money to my college. I've given money to diabetes charities. I regularly support the National Foundation for the Blind (I have two blind cousins.) I give all my used stuff to the Goodwill truck behind Safeway. I give money and energy bars to homeless people.

In other words, I don't suck as a human being. And I wanted this guy to know it. (Why I feel it's important that a stranger doesn't think I'm a bad person will have to be the topic of another blog post.) But I failed.

Now, I consider myself a pretty articulate person. I have a degree in English from a pretty good university. My writing peers consider me reasonably good at what I do. I've earned money for taking other people's thoughts and writing them down in a coherent manner, earning, in turn, money for those people. So why couldn't I come up with the words on the spot?

I am convinced that I am not an on-the-spot speaker. We all have our flaws. Albert Einstein and Henry B. Eyring were walking across a college campus when Eyring pointed out some beans that were growing in a garden. Eyring asked Einstein if he knew what kind of beans they were. When Einstein admitted he didn't, Eyring concluded that "Einstein didn't know beans!"

In other words, I don't think people should judge me (or Sarah Palin, for that matter) for being unable to string together a coherent thought in front of an audience. It doesn't mean we're not smart. It just means we're not good at that particular thing. On the other hand, when one's not good at something, one probably shouldn't try to get a job that would require one to do it on a regular basis. (I'm lookin' at you, S.)

So I think it would be a nice idea if we had a word for this phenomenon--where an otherwise intelligent person finds a way to make himself look stupid. That way I can say, "wow, when that police-sticker guy called last night, I really Palin-ed it!"

No comments, please, about whether or not Palin is qualified to be put in the category of "otherwise intelligent person." If you go there, you've missed my point.

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