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January 22, 2016

Let's try to listen to Sarah Palin about PTSD and domestic violence, shall we?

Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss her words as political blame-shifting lunacy

Sarah Palin, erstwhile vice presidential candidate and perpetual odd-phrase creationist, is a public figure who elicits at-laughter on the regular. I get that because, well, I laugh too.

I also get that we live in a politically anxious society in which social media amplifies that mockery to the point that communities form around it.

Hoo boy, goes one common refrain serving to marginalize, Tina Fey’s gonna tee off on that one once "Saturday Night Live" airs this week (and validate our worldview vs. theirs)!

When Sarah Barracuda jumped above the surface and publicly endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy with a bizarre word-smoothie of a speech earlier this week, giggly pushback arrived with the mocking swiftness to which we’ve become accustomed.

That was to be expected and reasonable, but what happened next wasn’t.

Back in Alaska, the night before she endorsed Trump, her son Track Palin was arrested on domestic violence charges after getting into a fight with his girlfriend. That girlfriend, who was allegedly punched in the face by the son of Palin, reportedly told investigators she was worried that the Iraq combat vet would kill himself with an AR-15 rifle.

This is the type of thing that would concern even marginally involved parents. But this is the type of thing that led the former governor of Alaska to devolve into blame assessin’ polispeak.

Here’s an excerpt of what she had to say publicly about it:

“So when my own son is going through what he goes through coming back [from military service], I can certainly relate with other families who kind of feel these ramifications of PTSD and some of the woundedness that our soldiers do return with, and it makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America’s finest that we’ll have that commander in chief who will respect them and honor them.”

No, it wasn’t necessary for Palin to present this personal issue in a political frame. Heck, it wasn't even accurate. Most sane people wouldn’t do so.

But, it was similarly unnecessary for critics to fire back in the insular frame that Palin shouldn’t blame President Barack Obama for her son allegedly punching his girlfriend in the face (see here, here, here and here).

Did Obama prompt Track Palin to allegedly punch his girlfriend? Of course not.

Should a mother have latched onto rhetorical flailing afterward? Of course not.

Should we set that aside and realize that, sometimes, under-covered issues sometimes garner attention from less-than-preferred means? Absolutely.

Unless we know Track Palin personally, we don’t know whether he came back mentally damaged from his time in the service. But, we do know this: A lot of veterans do.

Shouldn’t we then take this chance to examine what more can be done to help vets returning from even a year in the service, instead of getting fixated on Sarah Palin’s blathering comments?

Extract political rhetoric from the discussion. In its place, insert non-judgmental discussions about funding and research.

This isn’t about excusing the Palins’ actions. They’re inexcusable and unnecessarily brand people who have PTSD as violent time bombs.

I've never fought in a war (thanks, not being born during military draft days!) so I can't sit here and profess to know what it's like to be a veteran. From this observation deck called citizenship, though, I'm thinking we should use this chance to take some good from the bad.

Amplify the voices of veterans and veterans advocacy groups and give them the tools they need to not only clarify the effects but, in cases where necessary, help prevent the types of things Track Palin is accused of doing from happening (or at least reduce it).

If we get sidetracked by mocking the eminently mockable Sarah Palin, we’ll miss a chance to actually understand the underlying issues that cause pain and suicidal thoughts in some sufferers. With all due respect to Upper Darby’s Ms. Fey – who I'm sure will do a splendid job with the "right-wingin' bitter-clingin'" skit – that’d be a damn shame.