In the end, it doesn't matter if Bristol Palin is eliminated tonight on Dancing with the Stars or if she goes on to win the mirrored ball trophy. She has already done something amazing: she made me forget who her mother is. Or more precisely, what her mother means to the politically passionate.
Like most of us, I rolled my eyes at the thought of my favorite show being invaded by this hypocritical unmarried teenage rightwing Republican puppet (how many of those hot-button adjectives did I simply import from my opinion of her mother?). But Bristol has won my respect and even affection.
She did it by simply behaving humanly, something my partisan posture didn't quite expect. She has tried her best, taken success and failure with equal grace, misses her kid and her friends back home and yes, loves her Mom. I can relate to that. I like her.
Bristol made mistakes, got pregnant by the only boy she's slept with, been thrust into a blazing political circus not of her own design, and yes, has allowed herself to become the spokesperson for the questionable safer sex strategy of abstinence. But the woman is 20 years old. She has plenty of time to carve out her own life views and values. At her age I was a stoned part-time theater major, for crying out loud.
Sarah Palin has provided the occasional cringe by showing up in the studio, but I can't hold that against Bristol any more than I blame Kelly Osbourne for having a drug addict vampire bat-eater as a father (no wonder Kelly is an outspoken member of the Bristol fan club).
Last night the show highlighted the various life challenges each of the remaining contestants have faced, and I realized during her video package how deeply I have come to admire Bristol. I watched a very poised young lady respond gracefully to early, unwelcome attention, and then today facing the physical and mental challenge of the dancing competition.
I say this with great trepidation, but might Bristol Palin be the result of good parenting...?