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Sunday, July 12, 2009

“Mountains in the Palm of Her Hand”: Has Sarah Palin thrown it all away?

Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand,

And rivers that ran through ev'ry day.

I must have been mad,
I never knew what I had,
Until I threw it all away.

It’s hard to believe over 40 years have passed since Bob Dylan threatened to walk away from the music business. But that’s precisely what happened in the days following the July 29, 1966, motorcycle accident that nearly claimed the singer’s life.

And while it’s unclear exactly what happened that fateful morning—the details surrounding the 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle Dylan crashed on a road near his home in upstate New York have always been sketchy at best—whatever transpired was enough to force the reclusive singer to reexamine his priorities.

In a way, the examination was long overdue.

By all accounts the ’66 tour of Europe had been grueling. And while Dylan may have had mountains in the palm of his hand in terms of his creative prowess, he was demonized nearly every night, forced to endure irate fans who were determined to deter Dylan’s new musical direction with jeers of “Judas!” on more than one occasion.

But now that the tour had come to close, Dylan was looking forward to spending some time with his new bride, fashion model Sara Lownds, whom he had secretly married the previous November.

Intent on seeking shelter from the storm, Dylan retreated to a provincial farmhouse in Woodstock. It turns out the months that followed turned out to be some of the most tumultuous of his life.

From the moment Dylan had arrived in Greenwich Village in the winter of 1963, he had dutifully carried the torch for the folk movement. And while Dylan had never masked his disdain for the moniker, “voice of a generation,” by the summer of 1966, it was evident that his audience’s insatiable appetite for all things ‘Dylan’ was beginning to take a rapacious toll on him.

The motorcycle accident hardly helped matters.

Overnight Bob was besieged with questions. Was the accident a cover for another drag-addled rock star whose addiction had gotten the better of him? Was the whole incident a carefully calculated publicity stunt designed to increase speculation around Dylan’s next creative endeavor? Would there even be another endeavor?

In the end, however, it wasn’t what had actually happened that early summer morning that kept Dylan’s legions of devoted fans up at night— it was the incessant speculation on what might have happened. Conjecture, it turns out, was the biggest contributor to a rapidly mounting mystique that all but eclipsed the notoriously ascetic artist.

Nearly 40 years later, a new conundrum has captured America's imagination. But instead of unfolding in the solitary the woods of Woodstock, this one is taking place in the open wilds of Alaska.

Sarah Palin’s July 3 press conference in which she announced that she would resign as governor of Alaska was so surrealistic that one had to wonder if Palin had momentarily mistaken herself as Patti Blagojevich’s replacement on “I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here.”

Bar a complete mental meltdown—something that even her most staunch supporters haven’t completely ruled out—clearly there’s more to the story than the wily politician from Wasilla is letting on. But anyone who patently dismisses Palin’s penchant for the dramatic is missing the point of her decidedly populist appeal.

Ever since she stepped on that stage at the Republican Convention in Minneapolis, Palin has taken to fame like a fish to water. In hindsight, however, perhaps Palin’s aversion to being labeled “a dead fish who goes with the flow” makes perfect sense. After all, when it comes to fame and adulation, nobody drinks it in better than Sarah Palin.

Watching Sarah Palin’s meteoric rise over the last year has been a lot like watching a tightrope walker navigate the hazards of the high wire. Her ability to balance her own ego with the ever-increasing aspirations of Republican Party is a marvel to behold.

Her performance last week, in which she cobbled together a series of incongruous sports analogies in an attempt to explain how abandoning a state in crisis translates to the type of leadership she can offer a nation in peril, was definitely a swing for the fences. In the end, however, Palin struck out big time. Though time will tell how much America’s favorite MILF’s recent muff dive will tarnish her once unmistakable luminous quality.

And so we are left pondering the question: Was Palin throwing in the towel, or throwing her hat in the ring for 2012 political season?

Conjecture has always been a critical component to the ‘Dylan mystique.’ Second-guessing what’s going on inside Dylan’s brain is precisely what makes him such an appealing and enigmatic figure. If the events of last week are any indication, a speculative glimpse inside the mind of Sarah Palin is clearly a far more trepidatious trip.

But even if we were able to unravel Palin’s convoluted, incoherent ramblings, how can anyone expect Palin to move mountains for the Republican Party when she can't even figure out why she's walking away from them…

So if you find someone that gives you all of her love,
Take it to your heart, don't let it stray,

For one thing that's certain,
You will surely be a-hurtin',
If you throw it all away.
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Anonymous said...

Really interesting take on two different, but compelling, figures.

Anonymous said...

A bit of a stretch to compare Dylan to Palin. She's little more than an opportunistic Republican hack who will say anything for money and power. A comparison to the late Allen Klein might be more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

No one but a right wing nut cares about Palin. To compare her to Dylan in any way is an atrocity.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the article but as Sonia Sotomayor recently explained to the judiciary committee she doesn't like dealing in analogies because analogies are always flawed. Comparing Sarah Palin's brain to Bob Dylan's brain is like, well its like doing just that. There is no comparison. The only thing Dylan in 1967 and Palin today have in common are both attempts to do it their way. Dylan is a multi faceted legend. Palin will be a footnote found under the rock of Dan Quayle.