A Palin Donnybrook?

All this tittering over the Palin family’s alleged fisticuffs at a neighbor’s house has me saying “meh.” I may be even a little envious, in fact.

Years ago, I read some author’s recollection of his Brooklyn childhood, where his utterly normal (at least in the Mediterranean sense) parents would have the neighbors over for Friday-night cocktails and dinner every few weeks, with emphasis on the cocktails. Sometimes, as an evening wound down, the gathering would end with a raised voice or two, maybe even a push-and-shove on the way out the front door.

But by Saturday-night bowling leagues, everyone would be back on good terms. All forgiven, maybe even some added strength in their relationships now that low-level tensions had been raised and resolved.

That’s utterly foreign and beautiful to me. I grew up in a middle-class suburb where the display of strong emotion was largely forbidden. Instead, if we had a disagreement, we nursed grudges and started rumors. Direct conflict was to be avoided, possibly because we saw verbal assault as a sign of weakness. Physical force would naturally call for the cops.

I have to think my family wasn’t always like that. My paternal grandfather had a way of lighting up a room with his emotion, most of it positive; he’d just make up a song about whatever loved one came in the door. And my grandfather on my mom’s side famously got physical with his fellow World War I soldiers over whatever they didn’t agree on. (He still served his full enlistment and was discharged honorably.)

That was another time, but I think it also had to do with ethnic stereotypes, which usually have a grain of truth at their core. As we’ve gotten more molten in this melting pot, I think the various Old World volatilities have been Anglicanized by default. Irish tempers, hot Italian blood, the Scot’s pugilism — maybe when the cops themselves were Irish they were more likely just to send everybody home than take us into custody. So we felt a little more at liberty to set each other straight on the spot. Good: As P.J. O’Rourke said, we don’t need government involvement in private affairs, unless the government brings girls and some ice.

I can’t explain what happened with the Palins. I wasn’t there and I don’t trust anything published about them anyway.  I just think it probably doesn’t matter.