Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Baby Palins: Feminism, Republican Style

The eye-catching name of Regis Giles (see her photo above) first came to my attention via an article in Elle magazine. Called "The Best and the Rightist" by Nina Burleigh, it delineates a new, up-and-coming, voting demographic of conservative women, ages 18 to 35--in her article Burleigh refers to them as "Baby Palins"--who deride liberal-style feminism and have a real passion for guns. Regis Giles is 20 years old, owns a spear and a CZ 550 rifle, and already has acquired an impressive kill sheet: one white-tail deer, one black buck, one giant bear, one antelope, a behemoth buffalo, and the wild boar she regularly spears on the shores of Florida's Lake Okeechobee. In large part because of her extraordinary hunting prowess, Giles has emerged as the new face of conservative womanhood: "thousands of young women in cocktail dresses who profess their love for guns, low taxes, and red meat."

Many of these women were to be seen at the recent Conservative Political Action Committee Conference [CPAC], an annual gathering of 10,000 political activists, more than half of whom are college-age, and nearly all of whom are white. Giles was there and made a provocative speech in her distinctive nasal drawl. "I'm sick and tired of seeing defenseless girls being abducted in broad daylight. My company stands for those girls who've decided to arm themselves with a gun that will pump lead into an attacker at 1,200 feet per second." No kidding! Talking this way at conferences causes her audience to stomp, whistle, and cheer, and she usually, effortlessly, brings the house down.

Regis Giles claims to be at her happiest when she's hunting. "I'm driven to hunt by the love of the sport, the thrill of the kill--hunting rejuvenates my soul. It's an awesome experience," she states. But she isn't a Palin clone, having been trained since the age of 9 to hunt by her father, Doug Giles, a conservative radio talk-show host and pastor of his own "clash church," long before Palin ever emerged on the scene. And she frequently donates her kill to a local homeless shelter, where the meat is fed to the needy. This young, Republican, female political activist may look like she just stepped out of a pre-Raphaelite painting, but rest assured, she does not spend her time decorating with crepe paper or building miniature windmills.

"Regis' niche," according to Burleigh, "is as the ambassadress of the polished trigger finger." Her website, Girls Just Wanna Have Guns, currently offers a variety of t-shirts, buttons, and coffee mugs for sale. Next year, however, at 21, she will be eligible to get a federal license to sell guns. Thanks to the 'Palin effect,' female membership in the National Rifle Association has risen by 20 percent.

The same issue of Elle magazine also contains a contrasting article, profiling a Democratic activist named Louisa Kamps, from Wisconsin. Kamps describes her conversion into activism thusly: she was driving out of town when she heard on the radio that Wisconsin's new Republican governor, Scott Walker, had announced a surprise plan to strip unionized workers (primarily nurses and teachers) of their collective bargaining rights. Horrified and appalled, she turned the car around and came back home to join the battle lines of irate protesters converging in hordes around the capitol building. Kamps claims that although she never voted for Walker, she hadn't realized his sinister union-busting intentions, or how deeply he was in cahoots with anti-regulation conservatives like the Koch brothers, who are among his biggest financial backers. The realization changed her life dramatically; it wasn't long before she became a revolutionary.

"We have a long history," she states in Elle, "of looking out for each other here in Wisconsin, birthplace of the nation's largest public-sector union and the first state to create worker's compensation and unemployment insurance....I never dreamed a year ago I'd be where I am now....I'm up late at night writing Republicans to register how strongly I oppose cuts to services such as recycling, public transportation, and libraries....Over a brutal couple of weeks recently, the Republicans passed legislation that will make it harder for students and seniors, who typically lean Democratic, to vote, and they introduced bills to roll back child labor laws and make it simpler to carry concealed weapons." She thanks Walker for one thing, however. "He's taught me exactly what I don't want government to look like, and how fervently I must work as a citizen activist if I want to live in a place that reflects my values."

So I put these two contrasting profiles together, feeling they were significant, and wondering where I needed to take them next. What was the punch line here? Then I began reading more of James Gilligan's book, "Why Some Politicians Are Worse Than Others," [see my previous blog about how levels of violence rise significantly during Republican administrations], Chapter 6 of Gilligan's book maps out the radically different cultures between Red States and Blue States. These differences, Gilligan suggests, are not merely differences in political agendas, but reflect different personalities and attitudes in relation to core indices of violence--such as guns, militarism, torture, capital punishment--that differentiate Republican voters from Democratic ones.

Gun ownership, he asserts, is much more prevalent among Republican groups (especially social conservatives), citing a Pew Research Center study which claims that nearly 60 percent of Republican groups have guns in their homes, in contrast to 23 percent of Democratic ones. (Eighty percent of social conservatives have a favorable view of the NRA.) So, not only do Red states have statistically higher rates of violent behavior, but the gun is deployed by Republicans as a moral and culturally potent icon that serves to breed contempt for non-violence and to encourage punitiveness, like public support for lynchings, capital punishment, and the concealed carrying of weapons. It is why "civility" candidates like Jon Huntsman and Barack Obama are ultimately met with contempt by hard-core Republicans for their "stupid altruistic urges." (The phrase is Ayn Rand's.)

And then suddenly, the goose laid its golden egg: I had a positively golden insight into why Obama's presidency has not succeeded the way so many had hoped it would. (Of course there is the obvious reason, that Republicans, come hell or high water, will never let that happen.) But beyond the obvious, there is also something else, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Obama was elected in large part because he stood on tiptoe on the misty mountaintop and proclaimed there were no Red States or Blue States; there were only American states. We all hoped to god it was so, and In a note to himself, he vowed to become our first post-partisan president. Obama has failed to deliver on this, but not because of his personal inadequacies. He has failed because that core conviction has proven itself to be just plain WRONG. Not Obama, but Sarah Palin, was the one who got it right: there are really TWO Americas, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Sadly for us, the noble vibration of unity Obama so badly wanted and gallantly pursues, has not proved to be a winning hand in American politics. To believe there aren't Red States or Blue States at this point in time is a bit like driving through a plate glass window you didn't know was there--until it shatters, and there is broken glass everywhere.


Anonymous said...

Elle magazine? Seriously? A notoriously conservative rag like Elle is the source of your political insight? Give me a break!

You bemoan the Red and Blue division of Americans, blaming the Palin effect for what is really President Obama’s complete and utter failure to draw the Nation together, while completely ignoring the standard “line in the sand” Obama stump speech urging his audience to “reward your friends and punish your enemies.”

Suzi, you continue to choose to be blind to the truth and bathe your emotions in the warm effluent of the worst President in the history of our Republic. He had 2 years with BOTH houses of Congress in his hands, and managed only to scratch the back of his cronies, spending like a drunken sailor, accomplishing nothing positive, but much that is damaging to us all for years to come.

You conflate the exercise of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms to “public support for lynchings.” Lynchings, Suzi? Have you no shame? You apply your imprimatur to such a fallacious affirmation?

You choose not only to ignore the truth, but also to foster hateful accusations against the most innocent, like Regis Giles. You libel the young Ms. Giles who demonstrates not just self sufficiency, but also selflessness. She is a producer, providing her own support and in addition, creating a surplus which she shares with the less fortunate. Your mirror image heroine creates nothing of her own to aid those needy, but would take from the producers in order to give, not to the needy, but to the professional takers in Wisconsin’s overweight government unions.

I think your heart is mired too deeply in hate.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Anonymous! You are so courageous to come on this blog and bloviate without leaving your name.

Are you forgetting (conveniently) that the Democratic House under Nancy Pilosi passed several hundred pieces of good legislation that never saw the light of day because of constant and unending obstructionism by the minority RepubliCON Party in the Senate? Why? Because the only GOAL of the RepubliCON Party is to get rid of Obama NOT to help this country dig out of this horrendous recession. You and your Party have no room to talk about cronies! You are the masters of crony politics.

I'm sure YOU, Mr./Ms. Anonymous, clearly understand the hatred that is dominating our body politic, hatred for anything positive that might bring this country back into some kind of balance, because all the RepubliCON Party wants is complete dominance and control as a proxy for corporate greed. RepubliCONS are the haters, my friend. They hate democracy, because otherwise the first two years of Obama's presidency would have seen some real progress in this country. Instead, your party acted like spoiled brats, and wouldn't play the governing game unless you were in charge. Unfortunately, Obama believed it was possible to work with you RepubliCONS to save our economy at a time of crisis, but NO. If it isn't YOUR Party's idea, it isn't worth talking about. The 2008 election was about progress and righting a ship that is woefully off course, but you couldn't stand that, could you?

Ms. Giles seems a very fitting young cheerleader for your twisted ideas about what this country represents. Your "kind" can only think of strength at the end of the barrel of a gun. Oh, she is so magnanimous and generous with her "bounty," whereas someone in Wisconsin, who has seen the light when it comes to political misrepresentation and Bully Politics, and who is now wanting to correct the abuses of our political system, is "not doing anything" for those in need. She has only vowed to work to protect the rights of ordinary people through political advocacy, including those ordinary Americans who would be the First Responders you Righties love to adulate when convenient for your political pandering.

And another thing, Ms./Mr. Anonymous. Are you just conveniently forgetting that GW Bush chose to give tax breaks at the same time that he illegally took us to war in Iraq for no reason other than he wanted to? You MAY remember that this war - let alone the other one in Afghanistan - has cost this country more than a trillion dollars. Some say as much as three trillion. Oh, but that, too, must somehow be Obama's fault. GW Bush conveniently left ALL of the military spending for these two wars OFF THE BOOKS, but you probably don't remember that, do you. Selective forgetting is so helpful sometimes.

Barack Obama can't "draw this country together" any more than ANY president could at this time of never ending falsehoods presented as news by the propaganda machine of FOX and the corporate boys who occupy the halls of Congress. You are bullies, pure and simple, and your young cheerleader for killing is, unfortunately, just a pretty face on a very ugly ideology.

Oh, I guess since you won't name yourself, neither will I.

Anonymous said...

Be careful, you might injure one of those many fingers you're pointing.

I think you should write a book on mind reading, since you seem to know everyone's intentions, motivations and deep inner feelings.

With that kind of ability, you should sell Lottery number Picks

Anonymous said...

If by pointing my many finger(s), you mean pointing my finger(s) at the truth and calling out the facts, then I am happy to oblige. Every statement I make in my comment can be backed up by facts, if you care about such things and are keeping up with current events.

I'm not mind reading, my friend. All you have to do is keep up with reality!

You should try it sometime.

Anonymous said...

You might be able to get those Kool Aid stains out with a good dose of actual honest inquiry.