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All this week, people — my mother, my friends — have been asking me “what are we going to do about Sarah Palin? Aren’t you worried about Sarah Palin?” I’m not sure why they ask me in particular, except that they’re looking for comfort, and they’ve probably learned that I’m an old hand at comforting the afflicted.

I found myself afflicted this morning by this NYT article about Obama campaign donations coming in below expectations.

My comforting things about Palin usually focus on how she’s a distraction of exactly the sort that the Obama campaign has been warning us against for months. Presidential campaigns are about the presidential candidates, and no one ever said “What are we going to do about Cheney [in his capacity as a VP candidate]” or “Woohoo he picked Bentsen, now we’re home free!” Palin is a military-grade distraction bomb, detonated at just the right time to demoralize and instill doubt. But she is not the end of the story. She is a polarizing flashpoint, a crusader who is only effective at converting the already-faithful; she will surely help the evangelical turnout, but no one who supported Hillary Clinton’s because of her lifetime of public service and real support of women’s rights — sorry, make that “human rights” — will consider Palin to be a reasonable surrogate.

Remember that the Obama campaign is doing a huge, historic voter-registration drive in all 50 states, something no one has ever tried in my short, GOP-dominated lifetime; Republican operatives, on the other hand, are well known for dirty-trick campaigns to suppress voter turnout.

Obama needs our support, needs everyone who donated in the primary to donate again, and then some. I think I gave something like $20 in the primary, and money is tight for me right now. But I decided to meet McCain’s recklessness in an unvetted VP pick by being reckless with my personal finances, and maxed out a credit card with a donation today. I’ll gladly pay 17-30% interest for years if it means that Obama will be president.

I remember the endlessly unfolding horror of the 2000 election, when the inconceivable, idiot candidate got inaugurated for no compelling reason. I remember the glimmer of hope of the 2004 election, and the bitter sense of doom that we were in for another four years of the idiot, who was proving to be idiotic like a fox: a reckless, arrogant fox, one who has been unrelenting at reversing our country’s proud social progress in the 20th century. And I think the concern about Palin comes from that place, the specter of another night staying up late in November, another election-watching party that turns into a dejected walk home and another night of troubled sleep, worrying and dreaming about just how bad it could be under the new horrible candidate, or how much worse it could be if that maybe-still-a-little-bit-reasonable candidate were to die and leave his #2 in the office.

I cannot face that again. We cannot face that again. Money is tight for everyone right now, but I beg you to do whatever it takes to give whatever you can; my $20 would have been just as good in this round as in the last one, but I do feel a little more hopeful than I did yesterday, having given more this time. I could have spent the money (plus interest) on any number of other things that I really do need, like pants that don’t have holes in the crotch. I still don’t feel that I can say “I did my part” — I want to find other ways to fight to make sure I don’t have another sleepless November. I do rather wish, after reading that article, that Obama had gone with the public financing so that he could concentrate on campaigning and not spend so much human resource on fundraising right now. But as the template for this message said, “We’re transforming the political process by bringing together millions of ordinary Americans in a campaign that’s owned by no one but the people.” And that is, in the end, an exciting opportunity in its own right.

Please give what you can, then add a little bit more, until you feel at least as awful about giving up the money as you felt about losing the country in the last two elections. Think about how you felt in 2000 and 2004. Think about all the recklessness of the last 8 years of Bush, and the recklessness that McCain has shown in his only executive decision so far, the choice of Palin. Think about how great it would be to have a woman pumping her breast milk in the Oval Office — then think about all that this particular woman would do to take away rights and opportunities for women, men, gays, straights, polar bears, library books, climate science. Think about the Bush brand of “fiscal conservatism” that leads to skyrocketing deficits, and google up the Anne Kilkenny email about how Mayor Palin practiced exactly the same kind of insolvent, burn-the-candle-at-both-ends pseudoconservatism that Bush has given us, over and over again, and that McCain promises to continue.

Look at me, getting distracted by the Palin distraction-bomb. McCain is the candidate we need to beat; Palin is a flashpoint and is even more of a Bush clone than McCain is. We need to turn that to our advantage. Your vote will help Obama, but he’s had your vote since 2000, since 2004. There are people out there who are undecided, uncertain, or swayable, and may be even more distracted by Palin than you are. Your money will help Obama get to them. Your credit card interest will help Obama get to them, too.

Please do all you can to get Barack Hussein Obama into office, and consider taking on a little bit of debt to help him just that little bit more. And when you stay up all night this November, let it be in breathless, frenzied excitement that the movement that you funded will finally get the country back on track.

Yours,

Orion
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Palin/πάλῐν

Sarah Palin’s (husband’s) surname doesn’t come from Greek. Repeat: Sarah Palin’s surname doesn’t come from Greek. But πάλῐν is such a common Greek adverb that I can’t help but think about it whenever I see it — originally on Michael Palin, but now on this poor doomed budding Quayle Schlafly.

Patrick Hanks’ Dictionary of American Family Names gives Palin origins from English (a person from Palling, Norfolk or Poling, Sussex), Welsh (from ap Heilyn ‘son of Heilyn’, which probably means something about serving at table), or French (unknown).

You know ‘palin’ as the first half of ‘palindrome’, a word that reads the same right-to-left as left-to-right: Madam I’m Adam, A Man A Plan A Canal Panama, A Gassy Obese Boy’s Saga. Together with the -δρομ- “-drom-” bit, you can gloss palin-drome as “running backwards”. It’s also present in “palimpsest”, giving the ‘again’ in “scraped again, back to its former condition” which is how you erase ink from parchment.

But the definitions of πάλῐν in Liddell & Scott are fun for the ways in which they support the Democratic talking points about McCain as a third Bush term: “backwards” (the direction in which McCain/Palin would take the country further), “once again, once more” (McC is Bush once again). Sense I.2 starts out vaguely in the vein of the now-defunct “straight talk” image: “to express contradiction, gainsay”; but then it also heads into McCain’s unfortunate attempts to “take back, unsay” some of the things he has said, whether previous positions or misstatements about the width of the border between Iraq and Pakistan.

This is not an etymological issue; I guess it’s just a subliminal suggestion of devolution, the sort of thing that naming consultancies are supposed to help you avoid: on another axis, it’s probably part of why Barack didn’t choose Chris Dodd (Obama-Dodd).