Seventeen

This past weekend my 19-year-old sister-in-law got a tattoo on her ankle that says LOVE in Hebrew (Although, considering my sister-in-law doesn’t speak Hebrew, it may well say I LIKE MOLDY TURKEY). She was extremely excited about the whole thing, which—to be honest—I immediately dismissed as a random (yet classic) act of youthful silliness. To be blunt, there is no way a 19-year old knows what she wants permanently affixed to her body. No friggin’ way. Think of tramp stamps. Of tattoos of, say, the Nike Swoosh or the old Coors Beer Wolf. Of Tom Gugliotta’s barbed wire tattoo, which seemed cool in, oh, 1997, but now screams, “I am old and pathetic!” Hell, when I was 19 I had a hoop earring in my left lobe. I’m sure, at the time, I figured I’d have it forever (It was gone less than a year later).

This (awkwardly, I’ll admit) leads me to yesterday’s shocking news that Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant. Now, when the information first hit the web, the general buzz seemed to be all about Sarah Palin’s political future—would she stay on the ticket? Would this kill her hopes? How would the conservatives respond? Etc. But, to me, the truly fascinating thing about the whole episode isn’t whether Sarah Palin should stay on the ticket (I believe she should), but the oddball, removed-from-reality reaction of the conservative Christians. First, they seemed to celebrate the news, indicating that it merely showed the Palins are an all-too-human American family facing the tough choices we all do (fair enough take, I reckon). But second, they heartily applauded the news that Bristol would marry the unborn baby’s father (a surely petrified playa named Levi Johnson) and start a family.

This, my friends, is inane.

In the Fruit Loop world where arch-conservative Christianity meets right-wing politics, two 17-year olds marrying is, well, a good thing. It shows values. Strength. Integrity. A devotion to God. Never mind that many of these same people bemoan every minority baby born to young parents in this country as an indictment of liberalism. Never mind that many of these same people damn to hell “welfare moms” and “food-stamp collecting ghetto dwellers.” Never mind that marriage, at any age, is extremely, extremely hard; that the odds of two 17-year olds succeeding at such an endeavor is, oh, two percent (at best). Never mind that both teens would surely be better served by not getting married; by turning to their families for help raising the baby and going on with their lives, ie high school diplomas, college, etc. Never mind that a little ol’ thing called, um, a rubber, could have prevented this whole mess—but that Sarah Palin and her ilk believes contraceptives only encourage sex.

No, this whole incident is not—by any means—an indictment of Sarah Palin’s political worthiness. But it does raise several societal questions—none of which will be addressed at this week’s convention.

Writer’s note: My wife said something this morning I hadn’t thought of, and I’m not sure whether I agree. Her quote: “If Palin knew her daughter was pregnant before accepting the VP nod, she’s evil. Who would expose her child to this scrutiny?”

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