Reading about Queen Esther helped guide Palin

If there was any doubt that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will shake up Washington and institute real change, the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee has put that question to rest. Few people can match McCain’s maverick spirit andbipartisan nature like Palin.

I’ve known Sarah Palin since her election as governor in 2006. I am confident she will be a great friend of the Jewish community and Israel, as well as a terrific leader and great vice president.

It is not surprising that her historic nomination has brought enthusiasm and excitement to the nation.

In my speech at the Republican National Convention, I shared a few reasons for that excitement.

“As a fellow Republican governor, I have had the chance to get to know Gov. Sarah Palin,” I said in that speech. “She is a terrific individual and an outstanding governor. Sarah is a person with proven leadership skills and strong moral character.”

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, wrote that he was “excited” by the choice.

“Sarah brings a wealth of experience to the campaign and will pose a formidable challenge to the Democratic nominees,” Cantor said. “Sarah Palin is a smart woman who represents change.”

Gov. Palin brings numerous strengths and qualities to the position of vice president. She has been a mayor, a governor and the head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. While serving in these positions, she has built a reputation as a leader willing to work across party lines to bring about real reform and to better the lives of her constituents.

Gov. Palin has cut taxes and curtailed budgetary spending. Rooting out corruption and establishing ethics reform have been hallmarks of her career.

Gov. Palin has also shown that she is not wedded to party politics nor does she play politics as usual. She has said that the function of a politician is not to serve one’s self-interest but rather to serve with a “servant’s heart.”

Perhaps one of Gov. Palin’s greatest assets is her firm grasp on one of our country’s greatest security issues — how to tackle our dependence on foreign oil and our growing need for energy independence. On this critical issue, she has a depth of experience and firsthand knowledge that will prove invaluable to a McCain-Palin administration.

As governor, she challenged the influence of big oil companies and fought for the development of new energy resources in her state. And as an outdoorswoman and naturalist, she understands and cares deeply about the impact of climate change.

Gov. Palin has advocated that environmental issues be weighed against economic and social needs and that meaningful discussion take place in order for policymakers to make the best decisions for our country.

During her tenure as commander-in-chief of Alaska’s National Guard, she made it a priority to visit the troops from her state deployed to Kuwait and Germany.

Finally, on Iran — an issue that is critically important to readers of this publication — Gov. Palin gets it. She recognizes the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, while advocating for strengthening the strategic U.S.-Israel relationship.

It is also clear that Gov. Palin is a woman of deep personal faith. She has established a good relationship with the Jewish communities of Alaska, supported the residents’ desire to create the Alaska Jewish Historical Museum and was present at the reading of Alaska’s resolution commemorating Israel’s 60th anniversary.

In her office in Juneau, Gov. Palin has hung an Israeli flag. She displays the flag because Israel is in her heart.

One of the finest qualities Gov. Palin has demonstrated recently is her tremendous grace under fire. Since the announcement of her selection as our vice presidential nominee, she has faced an onslaught of rumor, smear and innuendo. Yet Gov. Palin has remained strong and resolute. She has let the truth speak for itself.

Shortly after coming into office, Gov. Palin asked her former pastor for examples of biblical people who were great leaders and what was the secret of their leadership. The pastor suggested she re-read the story of Queen Esther, the Jewish woman who rose to help her people and became queen of Persia.

Like Queen Esther, Gov. Palin has faced tremendous adversity, and time and again she has risen to overcome obstacles. This is the sign of a true leader.

As Americans get to know Gov. Palin, I think they will see all the wonderful things about her I have seen over the years. She will be a great friend and advocate for the issues important to us. For that she deserves our respect, friendship and, most importantly, our support.

Linda Lingle, a Jewish Republican, currently serves as the governor of Hawaii.

Courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency

toilette de esther queen esther

1841 Théodore Chassériau – Esther. Esther se parant pour être présentée au roi Assuérus, dit La toilette d’Esther, 1841.

Dreaming C’s

Either the apocalypse is coming, or I’ve been living in Los Angeles too long. Last night, I woke up from the most vivid dream, the kind that feels like it lasted all night, the kind of dream that feels like a journey through every emotion.

I dreamt that I had gotten a breast enlargement.

In the dream, I agonized over the decision — the size, where the scars would be. When I awoke from surgery, I felt the breasts, a solid C cup, overly firm, scars across the sides. They were heavy, swollen. I pondered the things I could wear, the bikini tops, the low-cut sweaters. I was going to draw attention. Cars would stop as I passed. I had arrived.

Until the thought hit me: What had I done? I was stuck with these things forever. They sat up high and surreal on my chest. Everywhere I went, they would follow. Special bras would have to be bought. I couldn’t run, couldn’t sleep on my stomach. I would have to accommodate and explain these for the rest of my life. A terror gripped me, and I awoke in a sweat.

Smacking the snooze button, I ran to the mirror. The familiar 36B breasts were back. I was relieved, but a little disappointed, too.

Oddly enough, the dream followed the pattern of a recurring nightmare I’ve had for several years, in which I give birth to a child, go through pain, labor and finally elation at this glowing little baby in my arms before the thought paralyzes me: I will be responsible for this thing for the rest of my life, and I can’t take it back.

That nightmare seems normal enough for a woman in her 20s, but the breast dream — what was that all about?

Considering I grew up in California in the era of rampant breast enhancement, I was remarkably free from breast envy, for a girl with an athletic body and a pretty flat chest.

The French say the perfect breast should fit into a a champagne glass, and that saying pleased me well enough. I was never self-conscious, never wanted to buy into another reason for a woman to feel insufficient. I would never have considered risking major surgery to transform my body into some distorted, grotesque male fantasy. It seemed absurd and sad.

But I moved to Los Angeles, and, two years later, the dream.

Jung said a dream is like a letter from the unconscious to the conscious mind, full of symbolism and waiting to be opened. So I thought about it.

It’s always been clear to me that beauty opens doors, but never so obvious as it is here. Any pragmatist can see that beauty, perhaps in the form of a pair of surgically enhanced breasts, eases one’s way through life.

Beauty is within. Bodies of all shapes are beautiful. Our bodies are just the hand dealt to us in a game of gene poker; they don’t represent our spirit or our talents or what we have to give the world. These things I know and have been told about since I was old enough to ask my mother to teach me how to shave my legs. Still, there’s no erasing the inexorable experience of watching a roomful of men become stunned, speechless and momentarily still when a gorgeous winner of the genetic lottery glides into a room.

I think in many women my age there are two warring wants: There’s the desire to make our mark as individuals and be free of the shackles of facials and waxing and the silly search for the perfect lip shade. Underneath lurks the inexplicable desire to stop traffic with the sheer force of a pretty face and a perfect body.

I’ll never forget renting a documentary on Sylvia Plath when I was in college. There were the depressions, the intense inner life, the angry, lyrical poems. But what haunted me were the stills of Plath posing as a model, lithe in Capri pants, for the Smith College yearbook. I was stunned. Plath herself was caught in the same conundrum.

Two women I know, about 10 years older than myself, tell me that there will be stretch marks to come, drooping and the occasional unfortunate hair to be plucked as the breasts age. I will have to steel myself against comparisons with some air-brushed ideal whenever a man sees me naked. It will only get harder to assure myself that breasts are just a feature like any other, designed for a purpose, appealing at any size.

Wouldn’t it be easier just to save my pennies and wake up one day in a recovery room to a perfect rack?

Hence, the dream. The unopened letter is just a note from the back of the brain to say, Guess what, read all the feminist books you want, go as far as your courage and intellect can take you. But make no mistake, the struggle that began in puberty remains.

Junior high. The boys rate the girls in the class, ranking them from one to 10. I don’t know what I want more, to merit a high score on the pretty list or to beat out Moukie Moore in the spelling bee. High school. I know the answer, but I don’t raise my hand in class, because Alan Aranofsky might think I’m a geek or my voice might sound funny when the answer comes out. I scribble it in my notebook. College. I’m working my way through school and getting straight A’s in two majors, but I’m also scooping ice cream and I can’t stay away from the mint chip. I’m chubby and round-faced, and nothing else seems to matter.

Here I am, years later and still hearing the silent ratings from one to 10. As much as I hate myself for it sometimes, I still feel good when I look good, and life comes more easily to me.

I won’t be getting the breast enlargement, but my girlfriends tell me there’s a $72 bra made in Italy that is a magical investment. It lifts and separates. The underwires don’t dig. It looks natural, and with a deftly placed combination of silk and latches and straps, it gives you a slightly better silhouette than your genes may have had in store for you. Best of all, at the end of the day, it comes off.

Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.