So far, we’ve refrained from joining in the media circus surrounding Sarah Palin’s cross-country bus tour. Even when she grabbed a slice with The Donald in New York City. Even when she massaged (okay, fabricated) the facts of Paul Revere’s story. Even when when she drove through a tornado with all her kids aboard.
Frankly, I’m getting sick of gawking at Sarah Palin’s gaffes. But I do think her One Nation bus tour is a brilliant idea.
It may very well be a clever way to manipulate the media, or the thinly veiled start of a presidential campaign, or both. Regardless, politicians and pundits should take this kind of trip more often. It’s exactly what you want a public figure to do—to surprise you, to schmooze with you, to inhabit your space rather than spout stiff soundbites on some campaign stage. To talk to you face-to-face, without begging for your vote. To talk to you without a media filter.
These are the kinds of exchanges that could turn from symbolic to substantive really quickly, where both celebrity and average citizen are pulled out of their respective comfort zones and given the opportunity to challenge each other's beliefs, unmediated. It sounds cheesy, but the only way to understand this country’s many colliding identities is to glimpse into another person’s reality for a moment. I wouldn’t say Sarah Palin is doing this, exactly. But that’s a result of her personality, not the nature of her trip.
The history element is pretty cool, too, assuming the person conducting the tour can keep the facts straight. Imagine your favorite TV or political personality giving you their take on what happened at Ellis Island at the turn of the century, or in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, or at the site of the 1968 Miss America pageant where feminists threw bras in the trash. Palin’s road trip is a mission to “celebrate the good things that bring Americans together,” which, for me, also includes the dark or difficult challenges our country has, to varying degrees, met and overcome.
Ninety-nine percent of our talking heads from across the political spectrum just sit on their asses in New York or Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles, pretending they can relate to the rest of America. Granted, that’s what I’m doing right now. But if I were given the time and resources to go on a cross-country bus tour, just to talk to “regular” people about key moments in their country’s history? I’d be outta here in a second.