Monday, October 27, 2008

The Existential Wardrobe


In the scheme of things, I realize that that the Sarah Palin wardrobe story isn't the most important issue in the campaign. However, a few of the recent comments made by Palin (& her cronies) has raised a few questions and even made me wonder about -- and perhaps reconsider, Palin.

First of all, it seems as though the "sexist" card is being played with the whole $150,000 wardrobe matter. Apparently, "The View" co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who is campaigning with Palin, accused Palin's opponents of being "fixated on her wardrobe" and "deliberately sexist." See Palin and Hasselbeck blast ‘ridiculous’ wardrobe story. Now, I'm glad she has raised this issue and although I don't follow The View (so I don't know who Hasselbeck is), I assume that she raised the same issue on behalf of John Edwards when he was being pilloried over his $400 haircut. Surely, it was just as sexist to criticize a male for caring about his appearance as Palin over her clothes and makeup.

Then, there was the statement by John McCain that some of the clothes that were bought by the Republican National Committee for Palin were returned after they were purchased. McCain campaign says Palin returned much of clothing GOP bought for her at high-end stores. So, what's up with that? Surely, they don't mean that they pulled that old trick of wearing an outfit once, putting the tag back on & returning it to the store? Or, do they mean that Sarah, a la Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada, rifles through the racks, rejecting clothes with a withering sneer.

But, there is yet another possibility. As the Political Ticker notes:

Ensuring that news of the Republican National Committee's sartorial spending spree will remain in the headlines for at least one more news cycle, Sarah Palin on Sunday sounded off on the $150,000 wardrobe that was purchased for her in September, denouncing the report as "ridiculous" and declaring emphatically: "Those clothes, they are not my property." (Emphasis added)
Could it be that I have seriously underestimated (as many have) Sarah Palin?

When she said that those clothes "are not my property," could she have been speaking existentially?

That is, the nature of the individual and her relationship with others is one of the most important questions in philosophy. Is the individual solitary, outside of society? And does (or how does) the individual relate to the whole of society? And what of the interplay between individualism and freedom and property? More importantly, what is "property" after all in the existential sense? What about the right to private property? Or communal property rights?

Pope Leo XIII wrote "It is surely undeniable that, when a man engages in remunerative labor, the impelling reason and motive of his work is to obtain property, and thereafter to hold it as his very own."

This is similar to the libertarian and conservative view, which holds the belief that all property ownership is justified either through labor or fair exchange, and any wealth distribution that contradicts this principle is immoral. Yet, Palin seems to suggest that ownership of property is not necessarily an absolute individual right, but must yield to the common ownership and I would hesitate to apply a label to that line of thought.

Could these have been the source of her deep thoughts on the fallacy of wardrobe ownership?

(Cartoon via Jerry Holbert, Boston Herald)