If you’re wondering why I wasn’t compulsively posting yesterday, it’s because I got a wonderful invitation to attend a dinner for some of Alaska’s greatest bloggers, and other members of the community. Also invited were a freelance writer who’s doing a piece for The Nation, and a film crew from the UK, working on the Sarah Palin story. So, off I went on a beautiful drive to the Mat-Su Valley, through the golden fall foliage that has suddenly emerged in the last two weeks while I haven’t been looking.
It was great fun to talk with this fascinating group of individuals over some of the best fresh local foods I’ve had in a long time. For someone who has been glued to the screen, and eating cereal because it’s easy, this was a lovely treat – fresh pesto potato salad, beets & goat cheese, copper river red salmon, and communicating without using a keyboard. What a novelty!
In addition to bloggers and media, were other dinner guests I didn’t expect, a local baptist minister, the Rev. Howard Bess, and his wife Darlene. Bess is responsible for writing one of the books that Sarah Palin wanted banned from the Wasilla Public Library while she was mayor. The title of the book? Pastor, I am Gay. The book is so bold as to suggest that gay people are not sinners, nor are they diseased. Well, they don’t like talk like that in the Valley. After the book was written, Rev. Bess was targeted by conservative churches, his book was rejected or pulled off the shelves by bookstores, his long-running column in the local newspaper was terminated, and mayor Palin tried to get the book yanked from the shelves of the public library.
Palin now denies that she wanted to censor library books, but Bess insists that his book was on a “hit list” targeted by Palin. “I’m as certain of that as I am that I’m sitting here. This is a small town, we all know each other. People in city government have confirmed to me what Sarah was trying to do.”
Bess was able to tell his compelling story to the film crew for use in their upcoming project. They also spoke with local bloggers including yours truly. They wouldn’t let me put a bag over my head, so after some desperate negotiating, we settled for a shot from behind, silhouetted by the backlighting of a window, and voice distortion. It made me laugh. Mudflats’ Deepthroat Moment!
Bess was not the only man in the room who has had firsthand knowledge of how Palin’s evangelical views color her world view and therefore, potentially, her policy-making decisions. Phil Munger, our host and author of the Progressive Alaska blog is also a noted local musician and has had many dealings with Sarah Palin in the past.
[He] says that Palin also helped push the evangelical drive to take over the Mat-Su Borough school board. “She wanted to get people who believed in creationism on the board,” said Munger, a music composer and teacher. “I bumped into her once after my band played at a graduation ceremony at the Assembly of God. I said, ‘Sarah, how can you believe in creationism — your father’s a science teacher.’ And she said, ‘We don’t have to agree on everything.’
“I pushed her on the earth’s creation, whether it was really less than 7,000 years old and whether dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. And she said yes, she’d seen images somewhere of dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them.”
Munger also asked Palin if she truly believed in the End of Days, the doomsday scenario when the Messiah will return. “She looked in my eyes and said, ‘Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime.'”
As the days go by, more and more brave and principled people are standing up and speaking out. Every time someone does, it involves some measure of courage. Alaska is a small town, and opinions that go against the powers that be are not always welcomed. Everyone in that room last night recognized that suddenly, speaking out about Sarah Palin has become an act of sobering and great importance.
David Talbot of Salon.com was supposed to have attended the dinner last night, but was unable to make it. His article that came out today is mandatory reading, and the source of the quotes above. The article goes on further to discuss Sarah Palin’s personal involvement in heated anti-abortion protests that physically disrupted the practice of a local physician.
The convention euphoria is wearing off and the can of worms is being opened.
After you read the article, have fun browsing the guest list of our bloggers dinner: