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Perhaps Sarah Palin Does Need to Rephrase Her “Neanderthal” Comment

Posted on November 22 2010 9:00 am
Lisa Graas has covered politics and religion at her blog since 2008. She has served as a crisis pregnancy counselor, youth speaker, mental health advocate and legislative consultant.
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It’s been with great interest that I have read the discussion regarding “Mommy Wars” and Sarah Palin’s “Neanderthal” comment. I actually had not heard the “Neanderthal” remark until I read Suzanne Venker’s article “Are Neanderthals to Blame….” which linked to another article she wrote about Sarah Palin’s “Feminist Stripes.” As a Catholic mom, I know a great number of “Neanderthal” conservative women who believe that children are better off in a two-parent, large (eight children?) family where the mom stays at home and the father works, so I would agree with Venker’s observation that perhaps Sarah Palin would like to “rephrase” that.

We live in a pluralistic society wherein we may all choose to believe whatever ethics we would like to believe in. Our American law is intended to give structure to our society in a manner that reflects our values as a society, in accordance with the will of the people, or ostensibly so. Sarah Palin may choose, then, to believe whatever she wants to believe. But if she really believes what she says here, she might have alienated a lot of women.

There are still the Neanderthals out there who pick on the petty, little, superficial, meaningless things – like looks, like whether you can or can’t work outside of the home if you have small children – all those type of things where I would so hope that at some point those Neanderthals will evolve into something a bit more with it, a bit more modern, and a bit more understanding that, yeah, women can accomplish much.

Conservatism is at a crossroads now. The movement is deciding how it is going to be defined on many issues, not the least of which is “family values.” If Sarah Palin’s views above are the voice of conservatism, then conservatism has “progressed”. Has it “progressed” so much that women who model Mary, Mother of Christ, are to be considered “Neanderthals”?

I’d like to take a moment to inform readers about a separate battle going on right now that most of you may not be familiar with. It’s a battle within Catholicism in the American Church. While secular conservatives debate whether or not issues like abortion and traditional marriage should be put on the back burner behind fiscal conservatism, Catholics are debating whether or not abortion and traditional marriage should be put on the back burner behind social justice for the poor. If the pro-life, pro-traditional marriage Catholics lose that debate, and if the fiscal conservatives win in the secular conservative debate, we can definitely count on four more years of Obama.

Nine of the last ten presidents were elected with 50 percent or more of the Catholic vote. (Al Gore, the only exception, got exactly 50 percent.) It seems clear to me that the only viable candidate is one who can win both the Tea Party vote and the Catholic vote. Not either/or. Numbers are what they are. You can’t win the presidency with one faction of people any more than you can win a hand of poker with only one ace. The debate in the Catholic Church is somewhat loud, but strangely, few in the secular conservative world seem to be noticing it. Consider this your wake-up call.

It’s decision time for presidential candidates. Where do they really stand? Does Sarah Palin really think Catholic women who model Mary are “Neanderthals”? Suzanne Venker’s suggestion that she may want to “rephrase” that is a reasonable one. Disagree with the “Neanderthals” all you like. It’s a pluralistic society and you’re free to believe that of us. But if you’re calling such women — and the men who love them, also sacrificially — “Neanderthals” in order to win friends, you should know that you may be losing some who are even more important friends.


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