Sunday, April 08, 2012

Game Change

I have twice now attempted to watch the HBO film Game Change  all the way through. Twice I have failed. I find myself turning the channel after 15 minutes, 20 max. I’ve even tried coming back to it and still can’t make it through.

The film is based upon the book by two political reporters assigned to the 2008 campaign. Much of the film focuses on the campaign aide assigned to prepare Sarah Palin in  her bid for Vice President. How historically accurate it might actually be is anyone’s guess. But the film does appear to confirm the worst fears that many Americans had about Palin: that the woman who would have been one heart beat away from the Oval Office was profoundly unprepared to assume that role.

I should hasten to add that my decisions to stop watching the film were not rooted in anger or disgust, feelings that I experienced toward Palin during the actual election. Rather, HBO’s presentation of Palin is very human. It forces the viewer to consider Palin as a fellow human being, capable of fear, sorrow and a growing sense that one has bitten off way more than they could chew. Palin is simultaneously the heroine as well as the pitiable victim in this portrayal.

To be honest, this presentation of Sarah Palin is painful to watch which is probably why it is important for people like me to wrestle with the pain and watch the whole film. The book and the film present Palin as shrewd and strategically gifted even as her native intelligence is limited, her inclination to see the world through ideological lenses pronounced and her intellectual curiosity virtually non-existent. (See Bush, George W.). But this portrayal by the very talented actress Juliann Moore also presents her as vulnerable, as overwhelmed, as a mother missing her baby and an Alaskan desperately missing her home. Which one of us does not know most if not all of those feelings?

While there is absolutely nothing in this film that could make me reconsider my decision to vote for Obama – in part due to the Palin/one heart beat factor – there is much that requires me to regret my own tendencies to see this woman as a caricature. On the one hand, one must admire Palin’s willingness to step up for the party when it called. But there is a very disturbing sense as one watches Game Change that the relationship of the party to Palin was essentially predatory.

This is hardly to say that Palin did not let her ego override her common sense here. The film well documents the arrogance and insensitivity that often mark Palin’s rhetoric. It is clear this woman is largely ignorant of the world outside her immediate bubble and, worse yet, not particularly interested in knowing about it. Even as she is pitiable in her vulnerability, the filmmakers do not let the viewer escape from the inevitable conclusion that the rejection of Palin’s candidacy by an American populace weary of the destructive obtuseness of the outgoing George Bush administration was not only well-founded, it was undoubtedly imperative for the sake of the country.

It is a common practice of Buddhist practicioneers to part from one another with the benediction of “I wish you well.” As I consider the fleeting excerpts of Game Change that I have been able to suffer through, I find myself wishing Sarah Palin well. Even as I would never want to see her hold political power of any kind again given her limitations as a political leader, nonetheless she deserves better than being seen as a caricature of a human being. And I believe we are all in the debt of Mark Halperin and John Heilemann who wrote the book and to Jay Roach who directed the film for HBO for forcing us to see Sarah Palin as any of us would wish to be seen – a fully human being.

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law U
niversity of Central Florida, Orlando

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++