For some people, especially those who live and work in the District of Columbia, there is no aspect of life untouched by politics. It surrounds them like a cloud. This leads some of them to constant overanalysis of life, pop culture, and even shopping trends through the harsh lens of partisan politics. They tend to be the same people attracted to the constant unrelenting snark that the internet thrives on, and — if you said it to the subject’s face — is the sort of thing that in the old days would end with pistols and paces (as it should be, Thomas yells somewhere).
I have no idea if Dana Goldstein of The American Prospect is one of these people. But her latest written work of political analysis over at TNR just goes so far over the edge of any guidelines of respect or decorum, it exemplifies what happens when partisan political views warp the prism through which one views the world.
Namely, “Baby on Board” accuses the McCain campaign of “using [his adopted daughter] Bridget as a political football” thanks to a mailer depicting Cindy McCain with baby Bridget in her arms, standing beside a beaming Bangladeshi nun.
“Cindy cradles little Bridget, a baby she and John adopted in 1993 from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh. Bridget has been a great blessing to the McCain family. Today, Cindy and John work together to promote adoption and to help women facing crisis pregnancies.”
In these three small sentences, Goldstein finds “code words” and “symbols” of the “religious right” and “anti-choice activism.” She goes on to take several shots at Mother Theresa, and to actually suggest that the Catholic Church and pro-lifers as a whole are blissfully unaware of all of the difficulties associated with adoption. She suggests this is all an effort at playing race-based guilt politics (I’d suggest she take a look at what happened in New Hampshire on the other side of the aisle if she wants to see racial politics at its worst). And she finishes up with the idea that promoting adoption of children born in the Third World, in worlds of terrible poverty, and (in Bridget’s case) with physical disfigurement that makes one an outcast, as “the ugliest rhetorical practices of the pro-life movement.”
McCain has seven children in all, including an older daughter, Meghan, who is rather prominent. But Bridget’s interactions with the press have been careful and limited, sensitive to her. In this campaign as in others, she hasn’t been paraded about or held up as a totem. And if talking to the kids at such a prominent place as Scholastic makes one a political football, well…but let’s leave that accusation to the dustbin it deserves.
In truth, it’s not worth raising a response to the political hackery of Dana Goldstein, whose pro-abortion views clearly tint her view of the world. The response is Bridget McCain herself, who today is safe, and healthy, and loved by a family, because a woman was brave enough not to merely react with hands-off sympathy, but to gather this frail infant up in her arms and never let her go. I can venture this much: Politics was the farthest thing from her mind at the moment she held this ten week old child in her arms.
Cindy took one look in Bridget’s beautiful eyes and said, “That’s my baby, if I leave her here she’ll die.” I don’t think Cindy ever put her down.
My little sister Florence is a few years younger than Bridget. She is thirteen, and she is adopted from DC social services—not exactly as daunting a task as the McCain’s faced in their long struggle with the Bangladeshi adoption services, but still, it took long days of expense and effort.
A few months ago, she got into a conversation about abortion, of all things, with her friends at ballet practice. It’s the sort of thing 12 and 13 year old girls talk about all the time these days.
Florence, without any prompting whatsoever – and never having had a conversation about the issue with my parents, siblings, or me – listened to her friends for a while. And then she interrupted:
“So let me get this straight: you all think someone should be able to make someone like me not exist?”
I love my little sister. I love her not as a “political football,” as a “code word,” as a “rhetorical practice.” I love her because of the girl she is, and the woman she will be. And every day, Florence reminds me that we are loved not because of where we were born, because of who raised us, or because of how we grew up—and that there exists within each of us a spark of the divine, worthy of dignity and meant to be cherished as a gift.
In the real world, not everything in life is political. Dana Goldstein should try visiting it sometime.