Although it doesn’t quite rise to the level of this election year’s Pledge of Allegiance moment — did Barack Obama call Sarah Palin a lipsticked pig, or did he not — I’ve found the examination of this even more minor issue fascinating.
That is: Is the fact Palin got the first passport of her life only last year significant?
Roger Ebert says yes (original link dead; Free Republic copyright violation substitutes):
And how can you be her age and never have gone to Europe? My dad had died, my mom was working as a book-keeper and I had a job at the local newspaper when, at 19, I scraped together $240 for a charter flight to Europe. I had Arthur Frommer’s $5 a Day under my arm, started in London, even rented a Vespa and drove in the traffic of Rome. A few years later, I was able to send my mom, along with the $15 a Day book.
You don’t need to be a pointy-headed elitist to travel abroad. You need curiosity and a hunger to see the world. What kind of a person (who has the money) arrives at the age of 44 and has only been out of the country once, on an official tour to Iraq? Sarah Palin’s travel record is that of a hopeless provincial.
As you can imagine, this column has ignited the knuckle-draggers, including James Lileks, who does his best imitation of a minor character from Sinclair Lewis with this zinger:
We have cathedrals; they’re just younger.
I suspect I know why Palin never traveled: Children. She married young and every few years she’s had another kid coming along, and if there’s anything to make a woman say, “You know, maybe another year in Vegas isn’t the worst thing in the world,” it’s the idea of making a trans-Atlantic flight with a small child. Also, and this is harder to quantify, but my guess is, if you live in a place like Alaska, the priority for your time off is pretty simple — sunshine and warmth — and Arizona or Florida is where you go, maybe Hawaii. Or it’s entirely possible Ebert’s suspicion is correct, and she really has no curiosity about the rest of the world. In which case it’s not exactly a campaign issue, but it is interesting.
I remember hearing the same thing about George Bush, and reacting the same way. Bush, son of privilege, a man who had both the money and the time, reached his late 40s without having traveled more widely than North America. (Like all good Texans, he’d been to Mexico.) If this makes me an elitist, so be it, but if you’ve got the resources, you should travel, and travel outside the country. When the Powerball tops $150 million and people around me spin lottery dreams, I don’t even have to think about it. I’d take the money and hit the road, and I wouldn’t come home until I got tired of it. And then I’d hit the road again, and I’d do the sort of travel I’ve only fantasized about: A month in Shanghai, summer in St. Petersburg, beaches in Corsica. India. Japan. Brazil. The Galapagos. Australia. Africa from top to bottom. And that’s only the beginning.
Without making this a discussion of Palin’s provincialism or lack thereof, where have you traveled and where would you like to travel? What was the biggest surprise of the trip? And do we think the dollar will ever recover enough to make travel outside the U.S. possible for the middle class again? (If the answer is no, name a place where you can still get a lot for a little, because my feet are itchy to be on the road again. I thought I’d take Kate to Europe by now, but when the cost is X thousands of dollars, plus 40 percent currency-exchange adjustment, plus 26 percent VAT, the answer is, “Maybe next year.”) And finally, why is it important to leave your country once in a while (and how do you explain that to a pinhead who think it’s about touring museums and cathedrals)?
And if you’re not in the mood for that, here’s some bloggage, an amusing piece from Slate: Walter Sobchak, neocon. Yes, with clips from “The Big Lebowski.” What’s more delicious?
Me, I get to interview a Rockette today. Envy me, world.