William Nelligan has something to say to Sarah Palin about her brand of divisive politics. Nelligan is seventeen and he’s penned Alaska’s former governor an open letter on YouthRadio.org (cross posted on Huffington Post). While Nelligan isn’t offering a brand new slate of charges against Palin’s unique style of self-righteous willful ignorance, he writes with the clarity driven by his strong convictions of what is good in America. He writes to preserve the vision of America as a land of hope and opportunity that he was taught in school. Despite coming of age entirely in the Bush administration, Nelligan shows the poise of an educated and commited progressive.
It’s not so much that you and I see two different Americas, or that we just have different perceptions of the same core American ideals. It’s that you fundamentally misunderstand America’s ideals. Every time you talk about freedom, or the future, or “the wisdom of the people,” I only have one question: what the hell are you trying to say?
You’re right in asserting that government can’t make us happy, just like it can’t tell women what they can and can’t talk to their doctors about, and can’t tell gays and lesbians what kind of love is moral. However, you are wrong in saying that government can’t cure the sick and insure their families; that it can’t educate our children and reform our adults; or that it can’t generate employment for those who need it and lift those who don’t have it out of poverty. Government has done all of those things for a very long time, and will continue to do them for even longer.
I have had to grow up in this country, the land Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, under George W. Bush. A man who demonizes being smart and educated as “elitist,” and who somehow manages to make being uninformed and unengaged into something honorable. I’m lucky enough now to have a President who does none of those things, and quite frankly I don’t want to turn back the clock.
Nelligan clearly recognizes Palin as what she is: a politican who would seek to turn back the clock on the progress of the 20th century by dividing Americans against each other. Palin’s path to political power is one that she has set to be laid out through outrage and anger, two things that have not tended to produce the best our nation has to offer. Hopefully Nelligan is right and Palin will continue to recede from public life. But for the sake of today’s youth, in case she is thinking otherwise, I hope this open letter finds it way to her so she can see how dramatically she stands in contrast to the hopes and dreams of America’s youth.