The speech Palin read last night (unless you think she wrote it, in the few days since she found out she was John McCain's idea of the best candidate for the job) had a sneering reference to community activists.
“Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown,” Ms. Palin told the delegates in a speech that sought to eviscerate Mr. Obama, as delegates waved signs that said “I love hockey moms.” “And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”
The reference was to Obama, who spent the three years after he graduated Harvard, working on the Chicago's South Side (a part of town known more for the rough inhabitants who lived there in the late '60s, early '70s, as summed up by Jim Croce in "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown).
He wasn't making great piles of money. He was helping those who had lost jobs to the emergence of the Rust Belt. Joe Klein explains it better than I can.
So here is what Giuliani and Palin didn't know: Obama was working for a group of churches that were concerned about their parishioners, many of whom had been laid off when the steel mills closed on the south side of Chicago. They hired Obama to help those stunned people recover and get the services they needed--job training, help with housing and so forth--from the local government. It was, dare I say it, the Lord's work--the sort of mission Jesus preached (as opposed to the war in Iraq, which Palin described as a "task from God.")
This is what Palin and Giuliani were mocking. They were making fun of a young man's decision "to serve a cause greater than himself," in the words of John McCain. They were, therefore, mocking one of their candidate's favorite messages. Obama served the poor for three years, then went to law school. To describe this service--the first thing he did out of college, the sort of service every college-educated American should perform, in some form or other--as anything other than noble is cheap and tawdry and cynical in the extreme.
What one wonders is a greater responibility than looking after people? Than helping make sure they don't fall into poverty? Then keeping families together?
I seem to recall a candidate for president who ran on a campaign of just such small scale activism. He wanted to see volunteers organising communities, an America shining with, "A thousand points of light."
That's nothing to these guys. Being a small-town mayor counts for more than trying to help the poor and the needy. Maybe Gov. Palin's pastor misunderstood the verse about the poor being with us always as a reason to keep the nard for the faithful.
It's a funny sort of elite which goes out among the needy; forgoing wealth, and pelf and fame.
It's a funnier sort of, "just folks," which sees that as a destriment, some sort of stumbling block to understanding.
Christy Hardin Smith, of Firedoglake:
Lost your job and you need a hand with the utility bills or some food from the local church pantry? Suck it up, America, because the folks who used to extend a hand to those in need don't count in Republican land. That "do unto others" crap has to stop, and Jesus was clearly just a rabble-rousing, do-gooder. Loaves, fishes, feeding the multitudes? Hogwash.
Your neighborhood watch program, to help supplement the police force whose budget keeps getting cut under the Bush Administration? Well, you don't deserve a safe neighborhood and your efforts are useless anyway.
Cleaning up a local riverbed or a walking trail with your kid's scout troop? Republicans think you are a loser.
Working with a job training or literacy program to help folks move from welfare to work? Republicans think your efforts deserve ridicule. Promoting a spay and neuter program at your local animal shelter? Republicans are laughing at you. Volunteer at your church pantry to help the least of these? Republicans are mocking you.
Country first? Only if you live in Republican country where they come first and the rest of us should take whatever they choose to trickle down on us.
Those are the things which don't count a responsibilty. Those are the things Sara Palin says are less important than her record as mayor outweighs.
Pilate was a Governor, Jesus was a community organiser.