Sarah Palin Lacks Curiosity

What is the difference between elitism and curiosity? Depends on who's answering!

Read the post below from undiplomatic. It's what we have all been trying to say about her.
Palin, Passports, Fake Snobs, and Real People

The more I think about Sarah Palin’s comments about getting a passport, the more angry I get. In case you missed it, Katie Couric asked her why she didn’t get passport until last year:
I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate from college. Their parents get them a passport and give them a backpack and say, “go off and travel the world.” No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact I’ve had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture.
Notice that she never came out and says what she really means. Rich people. Snobs. Elitists. You know — the kind of people who get passports. Them.

I guess I’m one of them, given that I’ve traveled all over the world.

There’s only one problem with that, however. I don’t come from a super-elite background. My parents were middle class. My dad did well in his chosen profession, but lived in a time when that didn’t translate to a high salary. My mother was a homemaker. We always lived comfortably, and when I was 14, my parents retired to Florida. Again, they had a nice home, but no palace — they paid $60,000 for it.

Like Sarah Palin, my parents helped put me through college (though I only went to two schools, not six, and the second only because my parents no longer could afford the first school after it instituted a massive tuition hike). Scholarships paid for part of my expenses, and upon graduation, I got a scholarship to study for my Ph.D. During graduate school, I held down two jobs — as an associate instructor and as manager of a local record store. Later on, I was a line cook in a wings joint and delivered pizzas.

After I left graduate school, I worked a series of jobs, sometimes doing evening odd jobs to pick up some extra money. I never made more than $30,000 a year until 1996 or 1997. So other than the fact that my parents helped along the way, I wasn’t any more of “that culture” than she was.

I got my first passport in 1994. I was 32 years old. My first trip, not counting Canada, was to Kosovo to look at human rights abuses. When I first arrived in-country, my fellow delegates teased me because I was taking so many pictures.

Even though I had studied Russian, French, and Serbo-Croatian in college and graduate school, even though I had studied history and at one point hoped to teach it, I had never been overseas. I wanted to go, but my parents were retired and already were helping to the degree they could. I didn’t really feel I could ask them for, to paraphrase the Sarahnator, a passport and a backpack.

I’m not that different from Sarah Palin. Except for one small thing. I was curious about the world. I really really wanted to see it. I was dying to learn what it had to offer. But even after I started working, I remained too poor to travel. That didn’t stop me from dreaming.

If you’ve read my bio, you know I’ve been to between thirty and forty countries — last time I counted, I think it’s thirty-five or thirty-six. And I’ve seen all of them in the past fourteen years. I’ve been lucky — much of it has been paid for by the organizations for which I worked. But not all of it — there are many parts of the world that I’ve seen on my own (or with Molly) and on my own nickel. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Well, except Ukraine.

So I don’t object to the fact that Sarah Palin didn’t have a passport until last year. Maybe, as she said, she didn’t have the money. She was a mother of four (Trig was not yet born), and had a family to raise. What bothers me about her answer is that she thinks only rich people want to travel, that only elites are interested in the rest of the world.

I’m reminded of that scene in Breaking Away where Dave (the main character) has seen his dreams shattered when a visiting Italian cycling team sabotages his bike. His mother, while consoling him, goes to her purse and pulls out a passport. Dave, surprised, asks why she has it. And his mother says something like, well, I always wanted to see the world, and who knows — I might. Every once in a while, when they ask me for i.d. when I write a check at the grocery store, I pull it out and remind myself of my dream. It’s a lovely moment, one that captures the dreams of many folks.

But apparently not those of Sarah Palin. She never talks about wanting to see the Pyramids, or the Taj Mahal, or the Great Wall of China, or the Wailing Wall, or the Sydney Opera House, or Big Ben, or Rio de Janiero, or the Eiffel Tower, or even the parts of Russia she can see from her house. Such desires aren’t a sign of elitism, but rather curiosity.

Unlike Cindy McCain, I met Mother Theresa (and have the photos to prove it). I’ve also met the Dalai Lama and Jose Ramos-Horta — in the case of the latter, before he was famous — we used to have coffee together at the UN Human Rights Commission because no one else wanted to be seen talking to him.

But the people I remember most are not those who are famous. I’ve walked through the slums of Calcutta and the villages of southern Sudan. I’ve gone to refugee camps. I’ve helped teach self-defense to sex workers. I’ve witnessed the horrors of an orphanage run by a government whose values do not include taking care of abandoned children. I’ve eaten local cuisine from street stalls — and once got so sick I almost died.

Along the way, I have met so many good and kind people. Most of them didn’t have passports either. In fact, many of them didn’t have a college education, and more than a few didn’t have a job, a house, sanitation, or clean drinking water. But they always welcomed me into their homes, giving me a chance to learn from them and to witness their courage, resiliance, and joy.

In other words, I’ve lived. I’ve seen many of the wonders of the world. And I hope to see much, much more.

I’m not the only one. Remember “Wherethehellis” Matt, the guy who had himself filmed dancing all around the world and then put it online? He never went to college. Before he found a corporate sponsor (which occurred only after his first online video was a hit), he paid his own way, doing odd jobs.

Is he an elitist? What about all the fine young men and women in the Peace Corps? Mormon (and other) missionaries? Doctors and nurses who travel to help in crises and operate on children with cleft palates? Volunteers for MercyCorps, Christian Children’s Fund, Catholic Charities, Lutheran World Relief, American Jewish World Service and other faith-based charities? Little old ladies who go on group tours to Europe?

To paraphrase John McCain, I guess we’re all elitists now.

I’m no saint. I don’t claim to be one. But I know I have one quality that Sarah Palin never will: curiosity about what exists beyond my corner of the planet.

And I know that when it comes to the rest of the world, Sarah Palin is one thing I’ll never be: a snob.

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