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Sarah Palin: America's Trojan Horse

Sarah Palin has the ability to evoke many goddesses simultaneously which may account for her appeal. Yet there is something false about how she conjures up each feminine archetype as if playing dress up.
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Ever since she burst on the national scene in the summer of 2008 Sarah Palin has captured our attention and has successfully held it with the tenacity of an American Idol finalist. Love her or hate her we are still riveted by her story and her ascent. How did she achieve rock star status? A good place to begin to understand her is Jean Shinoda Bolen's book, Goddesses in Everywoman, Powerful Archetypes in Women's Lives. Dr. Bolen, an esteemed Jungian analyst, brings to life the seven main goddesses in Greek mythology (Athena, Artemis, Hestia, Aphrodite, Hera, Demeter, and Persephone) and shows us how to apply the power of their stories to our personal lives.

Although these goddesses are ancient their mythology is both universal and timeless which is why they continue to be so compelling. As women we carry qualities from each of the Greek heroines although there may be one symbolic figure we resonate with; mother, daughter, wife, homebody, free spirit, consort or career woman. Understanding these inner archetypes can bring meaning and direction to our lives and awaken potential.

Public figures, movie stars, athletes often tap into this collective central casting and lacking real gods and goddesses in today's world we easily allow them play the part, sometimes with tragic results. Some public figures do represent the highest qualities of an archetype; Hilary Clinton, a fine politician, is an example of Athena, goddess of wisdom. Gloria Steinem, a leader in the women's movement, personifies Artemis, the champion of women; Mother Teresa is the maternal Demeter. Others merely aspire to be, but because these mythic themes are embedded in the fabric of our culture and within our own psyche they exert a powerful attraction and like soap operas and tabloids, we can't seem to get enough of them. Which brings us to Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin has the uncanny ability to evoke many of the goddesses simultaneously which may account for her overwhelming appeal. Who can forget her at the Republican National Convention, a ravishing Aphrodite (goddess of love and beauty) dressed in expensive clothes and designer shoes surrounded by her children (Demeter), and accompanied by her husband (like Hera, the goddess of marriage), in a political arena (Athena). Photographs of her in the Alaska wilderness evoke Artemis, the goddess of the hunt.

Yet there is something illegitimate about how she boldly conjures up each feminine archetype as if playing dress up. Like a political Lady Gaga, she is more surface than substance and doesn't fully embody or honor any one goddess. Athena was a true intellect and extremely loyal to her mentors. She would have never criticized John McCain publicly. Artemis was the protector of wild animals, not a hunter, and Demeter would not have subjected her child to the invasive glare of the campaign trail. She doesn't have the depth and devotion of Hestia (goddess of home and hearth) nor the vulnerability of Persephone (maiden and daughter).

We need to look beyond the main Greek heroines to really understand Sarah Palin. Eris, the goddess of Strife and Discord was a minor goddess responsible for starting the Trojan War. Like Palin, she was always "going rogue" and therefore not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. She showed up anyway and took her revenge by tossing a golden apple into the festivities. The fated apple, marked "for the fairest" set off a bitter competition between Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite; it was this conflict that triggered the Trojan War. The war lasted ten years and caused immense destruction and countless deaths. The end finally came when the Greeks pretended to accept defeat, then sent a giant hollow wooden horse filled with soldiers to the unsuspecting Trojans who mistook it for a gift. They let their guard down and opened their gates; once within the city, the soldiers emerged from the horse, attacked the unprepared Trojans and burned Troy to the ground.

Carl Jung said "Whatever we don't bring to consciousness comes to us as fate." We need to be extremely careful and conscious when it comes to Sarah Palin. She may not be a great politician or understand foreign policy but like Eris she is brilliant at stirring up conflict and controversy; it's what she does best. Add the confusion, fear, and disillusionment we are experiencing in this country to Palin's brash showmanship and over-the-top confidence and the ultra right wing conservatives might be able to slip her into the nation's highest office just like the Greeks slipped in the Trojan horse.

The health and vitality of a democracy depends on the active engagement and participation of its people. We have to realize that the best qualities of the gods and goddess reside in "we the people" and not elevate our politician to Olympian status, least we continue to give away our power and leave ourselves vulnerable. In mythology Eris was merely a minor goddess but by being difficult and driven she was able to start a major war.