On the corner of Euclid and Foothill Boulevards in Upland, California, stands a statue of a pioneer woman. She is striding forward, carrying a baby in her left arm and a rifle in her right. Clinging to her skirts for protection is a small boy.
At 10 feet tall, erected on an eight foot base, the statue looms larger than life, embodying in granite the sheer grit that settled the Great Plains and the West Coast. But it is the character written on the woman’s face that catches the eye. For it is the kind and open face of a woman who accepts her responsibilities and is marching to meet them, trusting in God.
I thought of the Madonna of the Trail, as she is called, as I read the vitriol being heaped upon Sarah Palin by the Democrats and their allies in the media. The distortions of her record, the ridiculing of her background, and the outright attacks on her family have reached incredible proportions. Her firing of her public safety commissioner over budget disagreements is compared to Watergate. Liberal commentator Bill Maher ridicules her baby son who has Down’s syndrome. Senator Obama himself has even implied that Governor Palin is a “pig.” He denies it, of course, but his liberal audience clearly took his comment as a reference to the Governor, an impression that he did nothing at the time to correct.
What is it about this courageous young woman that the Left finds so frightening that they must destroy her? Just politics as usual, the jaded might say. Now I grant you that the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party, aided by their friends in the liberal media, believe if they can destroy the reputation of this popular governor, they will end John McCain’s bid for the presidency. They are probably right. And the prospect of controlling not just the House and the Senate, but the White House as well, has them salivating.
But there is even more to it than this. I believe that the radical feminists are deeply conflicted over Governor Palin’s success. Consider the reaction of two of our leading feminist talk show hosts, Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg. Oprah is so put off by Palin that she is trying to pretend she doesn’t exist.1 Whoopi Goldberg of “the View” is even more confused. On the one hand, she gushes that Palin “gave a really amazing speech, very strong … she’s a tough chick and she’s a babe and she’s a mom and all those other wonderful things we should be celebrating – the first time I think we’ve ever celebrated all of these things in a woman.”2 On the other, she darkly characterizes Palin as “a very dangerous woman.”
Dangerous? Who or what does Sarah Palin threaten, you ask?
First, she threatens the self-image of the radical feminists themselves. As young women, they were misled into believing that, as the phrase goes, they could have it all–career, marriage, and family–in their own time and on their own terms. Too late they realize that the all-consuming career that was to have liberated them has instead entrapped them, that the live-in boyfriend who was to have married them has found another, younger squeeze, and that the bodies of their tiny children have all been broken at abortion clinics.
Then along comes the beautiful and accomplished governor of Alaska, who has a successful political career, a loving (and faithful) husband, and a large and beautiful family. She appears to be the living validation of the feminist dream that it is, after all, possible to have it all. They eagerly look into the mirror of her soul hoping to catch a glimpse of themselves only to discover–horrors of horrors–that she is not one of them. Instead, she is a bona fide builder of the Culture of Life, who eschewed an abortion to give birth to a Downs syndrome baby. She is an advocate of traditional marriage, a serious Christian believer, a fiscal conservative who believes in local government, and a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association.
No wonder the feminists feel angry and betrayed.
But Palin not only threatens the radical feminist self-image, she threatens their entire movement, and ultimately the future of the Democratic Party itself. After all, if she is elected as Vice President, she will become a role model for an entire generation of young women. This would be a major setback for a movement which is already finding it difficult to attract younger adherents, and for a political party that relies upon feminists as foot soldiers. She is “dangerous” precisely because she threatens to redefine what it means to be feminine away from the radical feminist type back to real womanhood.
There used to be a lot of such women in America. These were the kind of women who crossed the Great Plains carrying a baby in one hand and a rifle in the other. These were the women who grew up on the frontier into strong adults, able to shoot a deer as easily as they could change a diaper. Women who put their families first, and knew that they in turn would always be first in the hearts of their husbands and children. Women who insisted that churches and schools be built, and charities and hospitals opened.
But the frontier, you say, is no more. Over a hundred years ago settlements already stretched across America to the Pacific. That chapter of American history is a closed book, and the wonderful, resilient women who peopled it are nothing more than dust and memories.
Well, not quite.
It turns out that there is yet one more frontier, up north by northwest from the old 48. Where else could a young girl named Sarah wake up at 3 a.m. to go moose hunting with her dad, develop a taste for moose-burgers, or travel by dogsled through snowy wildernesses? Out of Alaska, America’s final frontier, comes a brave and determined woman who appears to have every bit as much pioneer spirit–and sheer grit–as our forbearers.
Twelve statues of the Madonna of the Trail grace towns along the roads that took our ancestors West. But I suggest that we may have to add another. The town square of Wasilla, Alaska, it seems to me, would be an excellent site.
 ABC News: Is Oprah Biased? Host Won’t Interview Palin, Sept. 5, 2008; http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=5736716&page=1.