In The New York Times, reporter Jan Hoffman found an ingenious angle on an old story — a political candidate’s self-image.
She did this not by dialing up a dozen experts about their assessments of Palin, but rather by traveling to Palin’s old hometown of Wasilla, Ak. and interviewing the beauticians who cut her hair. Who else besides friends and family members could better describe Palin’s worldview?
Not many it turns out; the story revealed more about Palin and her neighbors than Hoffman let on.
In the course of the story, Hoffman describes the origin of the Beehive Beauty Shop, the parlor at which Palin got her hair done. Her account noted the following:
With more-established salons throughout the valley, the Beehive would seem a surprising choice for Wasilla’s then-mayor. Mrs. [Jessica J.] Steele started the salon in 1997 when she, a recently separated mother of two, put a salon chair in her garage and painted the interior Barbie pink.
Mrs. Steele relied on word of mouth through local congregations: “We’re all really strong Christians in this shop.”
Well, that last tidbit is interesting: Steele built her business primarily not by ads or promotion, but rather by using the network of local churches; and identifies herself and her staff as religious people. Hmm. So what does that say about the shop and the town?
A bit further down in the story, Hoffman quotes Steele making another comment related to religion and faith:
During Palin appointments, Mrs. Steele, divorced and financially stressed, confided in her client. “Sarah was always saying that God was in control and to have faith that there is a reason for everything,” Mrs. Steele said. “We would say it together.”
Read Steele’s quote again. She said that Palin was “always” talking about God’s sovereignty and that she and Palin talked about it. Clearly, faith and religion are not taboo subjects; quite the contrary.
Hoffman did not see the ghost in her story. As tmatt pointed out in an email to me, in Palin’s world, religious faith is accepted and considered normal; the subject can be discussed openly.
In other words, the small-town world from which Palin hails is religious. It stands to reason that Palin assumes that most other people are religious, too. That’s a key part of the story.