I opine

Palin’s Teen Pregnancy

Posted in ethics, gender, politics, race by jaeminuf on September 3, 2008

Family Members of the Republican Presidential Ticket

I personally don’t care about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. What I object to is the hypocrisy, not just of the Palin family but of the claim that it is a subject inappropriate for public debate.

On the one hand, of course, it is entirely a private affair; however, it was made a public affair a long time ago by those who insisted on abstinence before marriage, who cast judgment on anyone who had pre-marital sex, who sneered at teen pregnancies and particularly those of black teens, who supported policies that either rendered it impossible to terminate unwanted pregnancies or eroded public forms of support for girls/women and their unplanned offspring who lack the kind of support that Bristol fortunately has, etc.

In the past two days, I have genuinely been surprised by what I’ve heard from people rallying to support Palin and her nomination to the Vice Presidency.

  • Parents can only try their best, but you know how teenagers are.
  • You can’t hold parents responsible for their kids’ actions.
  • I know I was a horndog when I was that age. (Yes, I actually heard this from a McCain Camp pundit on NPR today.)
  • It’s the reality. (This is the one that really gets me. All of a sudden these people realize that teen pregnancies are a reality of life? Slow on the uptake there, given a whole contingent of people for generations have been trying to make that argument to no avail.)
  • She’s like us. It makes her real.

I had hoped that Bristol Palin’s pregnancy would lead to humility and reevaluation of positions, especially racist and classist ones, taken on teen pregnancy. I had geniunely thought good just might come of this. I was not cynical enough to remember that people have a tendency to disregard inconvenient truths and to apply double standards.

I sincerely would like to know what percentage of those who are rallying to Palin with the aforementioned rationalizations have in the past self-righteously insisted upon abstinence as the sole form of family planning, prevented access to contraceptives and/or abortions, derided teen pregnancies in general and in particular amongst blacks, tried to protect sons who impregnated other people’s daughters from the consequences of their actions, condemned poor single (non-white or white) mothers and their children, and otherwise consistently acted in ways that increased the disparity between the rich and poor, between the privileged and those not.

I am aghast. So it’s okay when Bristol has pre-marital sex because, all of a sudden, the reality is that teenagers have sex, but it wasn’t okay for everybody else before because the reality was somehow different? It’s okay for Bush to have been an alcoholic (allowing that rumors of his cocaine use are rumors), for his underaged daughter to be cited for possession of alcohol, and for Palin’s husband to have gotten a DUI as a rash young adult (which by the grace of god did not result in harm to anyone but himself), but shame on everyone else? So everything is out the window when it’s one of your own?

The same applies to Clinton, Edwards, the Dems, etc. I do think it is entirely legitimate to be angry that WJC tried to redefine “sexual relations” and to question HRC’s decision to stay with WJC because their actions sent mixed messages, and the college student who got flack for conveying his peers’ question about the latter to Chelsey was treated unfairly. Perhaps we would not be undergoing this public debacle if WJC had said back in 1998 that he had had sexual relations Monica Lewinsky but that, while he’s not proud of it, it was a private matter. Perhaps people in general, not just teenagers, who are wrestling with their moral philosophies may have learned that nothing is black and white had WJC and HRC borne out the feminist claim that the personal is the political.

To be frank, I want my Presidents to have experimented with drugs, to have had premarital sex, and to cop to having done so. I too like them real and open-minded enough to try/decide things for themselves, preferably not to pass judgment but to understand.

I’m sorry. The policies, the stances, the hypocrisy are indeed matters of public debate. Judging Bristol and Levi, no. I feel for Bristol, Levi, and their families that they have to be renderd
subject to it but it’s a bed that they and their company made.

This has reminded me of Plato’s Republic and Socrates’s definition of friend/guardian and example of guard dog. The question of where ought one’s loyalties lie? To friends or to the principle? What is ethically correct? What is the honorable choice? To have friends’ backs even when friends have committed a wrong, or to resist shielding friends from their own mistakes no matter how much we may care for our friends?


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