I did it - I watched Sarah Palin's Alaska show and she seems like a nice person - I didn't find her annoying and I did envy her rock climbing ability - she is a strong person.The comments I received afterward didn't shock me and knowing how much I like a good controversy, I know I did bring them on myself. What I gathered from the comments was that my poorly-formed opinion of Sarah Palin was due to the media ability to portray Palin in a light that is not accurate - that Sarah Palin is in fact evil. I felt for a moment that maybe I better jump back on the Sarah Palin-bashing wagon, for fear of seeming idiotic, but I just didn't think that anymore. I have said things about Sarah Palin before that resonated with the "Sarah Palin is evil" tone, but seeing her on tv, trying to be a good mom (which is so hard!) and climbing a mountain, well, I just saw her differently and wanted to express that.
The incident reminded me of my interactions with the Mormons in Utah. There were times when people would tell me: of course the Mormons are being nice, they just want to suck you in (I'm paraphrasing, but I think that was the gist). I was definitely skeptical of the niceness at first, but as time went by and my Mormon friends attended church services with me and engaged in very open and candid dialogues, I realized that I had to love these people for what I knew of them, which was a kindness that extended beyond religious differences.
Here's the thing, I think that before I really knew any Mormons I could say they were conniving, just being nice to bring people into their fold, not willing to attend any church service other than their own, but once I got to know, really know, some Mormons, I couldn't honestly say those things. That was my experience. I knew my Mormon friends as more than just Mormons, they were mothers, fathers, community members, students, teachers...people. I wanted them to see me as more than just being not Mormon and that meant I had to do the same. I wanted them to see me as a nice person and when I did the same, well, they were really nice!
I guess I'm wondering how much of how we view others is about those people versus ourselves. I am in no way saying that people who view another as evil are actually evil themselves, but that there is something which keeps us from getting to know the whole person. I am guilty of this every single day. I see someone and instantly stereotype them and then use that stereotype to justify not interacting with them. What a shame. I'm probably missing out on meaningful interactions with a lot of nice people.