Today is a good day, you know? It’s a day when we can all just entertain ourselves by thinking about the likelihood of the top of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s head possibly, cartoonishly separating from his body due to the high amounts of steam accumulating in that big, bloviating dome. It’s a day when we can feel happy about the fact that even though we’d never be naive enough to think that just because there’s new judicial and legislative recognition of the rights of everyone who lives in this country that the struggle of marginalized communities is over. But, you know, it’s still a good day, because it’s a day which now symbolizes the acceptance of difference, one where we can celebrate love and tolerance and the increasing ability in this country for individuals to determine their own paths to happiness. It is, when it comes down to it, an undeniably good day. Well, for most of us, anyway.
Because today brought other news that could also be considered undeniably joyful as it’s the announcement of an impending birth. And while pregnancy is not necessarily a welcome state of being for all women at all times of their lives, since we live in a country in which women have the choice to be or not be pregnant, when a woman decided to formally announce that she will soon be giving birth, it generally means that there is cause for celebration, for happiness.
Unless, of course, you happen to be Bristol Palin. The daughter of former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin announced on her blog yesterday that she was expecting another child. Bristol has one son, Tripp, with whom she was pregnant during her mother’s failed 2008 vice-presidential campaign. Following Tripp’s birth, Bristol became an advocate for abstinence education, and traveled the country making money preaching the gospel of no-sex-before-marriage.
But now Bristol finds herself pregnant again, and still not married. Which, of courses, is not—in and of itself—a bad thing at all. After all, Bristol is no longer just 17, unemployed, and pregnant. She is now 25 and has been earning a steady salary for years now, and should be able to provide for her child without a problem—especially because of the large, tight-knit family she supposedly has, at least according to the image of themselves the Palins present to the world.
And yet, rather than a happy announcement about her pregnancy, Bristol wrote the following statement:
I wanted you guys to be the first to know that I am pregnant.
Honestly, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one.
At the end of the day there’s nothing I can’t do with God by my side, and I know I am fully capable of handling anything that is put in front of me with dignity and grace.
Life moves on no matter what. So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up.
When life gets tough, there is no other option but to get tougher.
I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you.
But please respect Tripp’s and my privacy during this time. I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy.
My little family always has, and always will come first.
Tripp, this new baby, and I will all be fine, because God is merciful.
This is, in short, heart-breaking. The idea that Bristol is now burdened with the knowledge that her yet-to-be-born child is already a “huge disappointment” to her family and friends, and that Bristol anticipates not congratulations from people, but “lectures” is incredibly sad, and might be the cause of the only time I will ever feel anything approaching sympathy for any member of the Palin clan. (And, yes, Bristol insists that she doesn’t “want any sympathy,” which, fine, mine will be reserved for her progeny.)
What this pregnancy announcement reveals is what happens when people live in a culture of dogma and rigidity, in which they are taught to believe that god and their community are constantly judging everything they do, in which there is no acceptance or tolerance for difference, and no room for any kind of departure from the rules that are constantly preached. It’s actually pretty easy to imagine other families and other communities who wouldn’t be so oppressive that a young woman feels the need to reveal her pregnancy by apologizing to the world about it. And what’s more, it’s also not that hard to imagine why a young woman might make the choice not to continue with a pregnancy which she knows will bring hardship and unhappiness to her and those around her.
And so on this day of love and joy, when people around this city, this country, and even this world, can celebrate the fact that there are more choices than ever in place for people to live the kind of life they want to, Bristol Palin’s pregnancy announcement is a quiet reminder of what it’s like to live in a world so circumscribed by small-mindedness and intolerance that even the prospective birth of a child is cause for despair.
H/T Daily Intel, because I don’t frequent the Palin family blog.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen