Why Americans Still Need to Know the Truth about Sarah Palin

I'm disappointed thus far in the first part of Matt Lauer's Today Show interview with Sarah Palin this morning. It was all fluff. Not a single question of substance was asked. No word about her failure to have sat down for a significant interview since the disastrous rush job with Katie Couric. No word about her blithe claim to have accepted McCain's invitation to join the ticket "without blinking"--and apparently without thinking twice. No request for a thoughtful reassessment of her qualifications for that office. What struck me most about the interview was Palin's tendency to respond to Lauer's questions without the slightest pause for reflection to digest the meaning and the implications of what he asked. She shot straight from the hip.

Now, I have no wish to be flogging the proverbial dead horse, but I am also distressed and angered by the way we are hearing things about Sarah Palin that we should have known before--in scraps of rumor and innuendo, and tidbits of information from "sources who wish to remain anonymous."

There are three good reasons why we still need to know the truth about this woman who could so easily have become our President, and only one of them is her apparent wish to remain a presence in our national political arena. We need to know also because we'll unable to get past this wretched episode until we know the actual facts rather than the rumors; and we need to know because the time has finally come, has it not, for us to arrive at some clarity about ourselves--who we really are, and what it is about us that allows us to be content with lies, deceptions, cover-ups and the transparently false claims of shameless sales pitches.

The questions about Sarah Palin are both serious and abundant. Why have we never learned the truth about the method of her selection, as one who might well inherit the mantle of the President? Why was she never exposed to a serious, sustained interview or press conference? Is she really as dangerously ignorant of national and world affairs as those tidbits of information would suggest? About the office for which she was chosen? About the Constitution of the country she presumed herself qualified to serve? Why were her medical records kept secret? What did a young and healthy woman have to hide? Is there truth to the rumors about a past abortion? About the parenthood of her Down syndrome child? Has she lied to the electorate about those very issues the she trumpeted so wildly?

There are those who say we should allow the whole McCain/Palin candidacy to slip into a forgettable past. If we do, we are like those abused wives who prefer to remain in denial of their husband's exploitation in order to maintain the peace. We are addicts of denial. As that hoary chestnut has it, those who fail to understand their history are condemned to repeat it. Because the Palin episode is not just about Palin. For too many years now, we Americans have swallowed lie after lie from those we elect to high office. We have allowed ourselves to be fooled and manipulated by those in power, we have failed notably to demand the truth because we are too lazy or too fearful to be able to handle it. The Bush administration was but the latest, albeit the worst example of this abject abdication of responsibility. What an irony, that the current occupant of the White House should appear between its noble columns the other day to announce to the press that the election of Obama was a tribute to the democracy he has loudly touted to the rest of the world, while making a mockery of it here at home. I have written before that democracy depends on the education of those who vote. It also depends on transparency and truth, without which we lack the knowledge on which to base our vote.

But the problem goes deeper and is more systemic even than our electoral choices. To really understand who we are, as a people, we should examine the ways in which we allow ourselves to be manipulated and lied to in every aspect of our lives--by supposed spiritual leaders as well as by those who wish to sell us their shoddy, often unneeded goods and products. Here in California, to take but one example, what does it say about us as a people that we allow a handful of religious extremists and the money they control to pervert our human compassion for each other and our sense of fairness. So much for the Golden Rule, when we do unto others what we would certainly not wish to have done to us.

From the Buddhist view, then, we should perhaps treat Sarah Palin as a gift--one whose potential is to teach us more about ourselves than we might wish to know. We should demand to know the truth, not to invade her privacy or subject her to further torture, but because without it we are suborning our own desperate need for some real honesty about who we are, and the changes we might need to make in our lives if we are ever to return to the path laid out by those wise people who devised this country's constitution, and the implicit promise that we do, yes, still hold out to the world. This, as I see it, is the "change" of which Obama spoke so eloquently and so often. It's not the superficial ones that are important--how to better my own little life and improve my standard of living. It's the great inner change of a renewed hunger for, and dedication to the truth. I deeply hope that this was what I heard him talk about.