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|Topher Payne: Hey, Bristol the Pistol|
|by Topher Payne|
|August 03, 2012 00:00|
Dear Bristol Palin,
I heard the news this week about your return to “Dancing with the Stars,” for their special All-Stars edition. I’m sure it’s exciting for you to be going back to the ballroom.
Last time you were on the show, there were more than a few jokes at your expense, mostly in the vein of questioning exactly what you’d done to gain “celebrity” status.
We’re funny like that in this country — elevating private citizens (meaning people who did not specifically seek a career in the public eye) to celebrity status, following and debating their every move, and then bemoaning how much attention everyone is giving them. The Kardashians have built an empire on this cultural quirk.
You and I both come from towns roughly the same size. Your hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, and my hometown of Kosciusko, Miss., both had about 7,000 people in it during our respective formative years. I went out into the world at 17, and made a lot of mistakes while few people were watching. I am grateful for that.
You, at the same age, found out you were pregnant, and were promptly thrust onto the national stage by the 2008 campaign. The commentary regarding you, and your unborn child, was uncalled for.
I say all of this so that you understand: I do not hate you. I genuinely believe you have tried to make the best of a bewildering twist of fate. If your mother hadn’t gotten that phone call from John McCain, you likely would have continued your education while quietly raising your son. You would have grown into an independent woman with a career and a life that isn’t dissected incessantly by strangers.
But since 2008, you’ve made the choice not to quietly fade into private life, which would have been possible if you wanted, as nobody bothers Al Gore’s daughters or John Kerry’s kids these days. You’re a bestselling author, and you’ve had your own TV show. You’re not questionably famous, you’re justifiably famous. And that’s where opportunity lies.
I want you to think about your son, and picture the man he’s going to become. No doubt your dream for him is that he’ll be honorable, honest, and loving. There is nothing in this life that could diminish your devotion to him.
What you would do if he came to you in 13 years and told you he is gay? Would you love him less? Would you feel that he was undeserving of a happy, full life?
I understand and respect that your religious convictions lead you to have a very specific view of what a “real” family is, but there are people out there who feel the same way about you and Tripp. They don’t believe the two of you are a “real” family because you’re not married to Levi Johnston and living in Alaska.
I would never wish that for you. I know that a mother and child can form a very tight family unit. I respect your family unit. All I’m asking is for you to give my family unit — my husband and me — the same respectful consideration.
The conservative movement needs a voice that is willing to stand up and differentiate between the civil right and the religious rite in the marriage debate. You can explain that your house of worship does not recognize certain marriages in accordance with their beliefs (as Catholics do with divorce.)
But as a young Republican conservative, you do not support Big Government interfering in the private lives of American citizens, imposing one set of values on the populace as a whole.
You believe people should have the right to choose what is best for their lives, just as you were afforded the choice to become a single mother. You are more than just Todd and Sarah Palin’s daughter now. You have your own voice, and your own place in the world. If your parents want to pose with bags of Chick-fil-A, that’s their right.
But we’re part of the next generation of American voices, and I respectfully ask you to consider the platform you’ve been given, and do your part to create a nation driven by understanding, acceptance, and kindness.
I’m asking you to make a better future for your son, because you don’t know how he’ll turn out, and you should really be prepared.
Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at www.topherpayne.com
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