The Palin/Rivers “Celebrity Wife Swap” is set to air Sunday Night on ABC. One thing is sure: Americans will tune in to see if there is drama. And there will be drama.
Most of the drama will probably take place in the living rooms across America and online. Critics are already saying that the producers are stretching it to make a “Wife Swap” edition out of two women with no husbands – thus, not wives.
My family and I participated in “Wife Swap,” and I quickly learned that the drama only begins when the cameras stop rolling. So why would the daughter of a conservative icon participate in a show on a network that indisputably caters to the left’s agenda? Probably for the same reasons a conservative talk show host/journalist would – because the culture demands it.
Andrew Breitbart said we cannot fix politics until we reclaim the culture. The reality is that many of us in the conservative movement call ourselves cultural warriors and then cower when given the opportunity to fight. We fear embarrassment, being misquoted, being harassed.
At first, I turned down ABC’s offer to participate in the reality show. Then I recall the casting agent asking me why. I told him I was concerned about the way reality shows edit time and space, and that I was hesitant to subject my family to an agenda that I knew was not conservative. He didn’t deny that, but he said, “You go on TV and radio every day and talk about what you believe, so if you believe what you say and write every day, aren’t you willing to take that risk to get your message out to an audience of millions that you otherwise might not reach?” I had to ask myself why I was saying no. After all, I wrote a book on “Why the Survival of our Republic Depends on a Revival of Honor,” and I was going to walk away from a chance to make a statement on the subject on national TV?
I could be pious and say, “I wouldn’t subject my family to such lunacy,” but it would have been a lie, and a laughable one. My family is subjected for far worse lunacy every day this culture continues the death spiral into the eventual demise of our country. What was I really afraid of? What was I really fighting for? How was I really fighting? How much was I willing to risk for the values I ranted about on radio and TV each day?
Faces of those who have endured far more slander and ridicule than I flashed through my mind – giants like Palin, Breitbart, Reagan. And I knew that this tiny risk could barely be called a risk at all in the dwarfing shadow of those who took real risks every day for freedom.
What if real soldiers, like the ones who stormed Normandy or the Navy SEALs in Benghazi, were concerned with frivolities like I was? How could I say no to this opportunity when American mothers send their children to war every day?
I tell my children every day that "nothing worth fighting for is easy." To gain ground, we must take risks. Those of us willing to take a risk aren't heroes; we are simply people willing to put a little skin in the game in this battle for our culture.
I know the Duggars, who have done "19 Kids and Counting," other families who have done "Wife Swap" and numerous other out-of-the-closet conservatives who were comfortable enough in their own skin to risk ridicule, bigotry and backlash from getting in the game. Do some criticize? Sure. Haters are gonna hate – that's what they do. But in our case, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and others came to our defense. Even if they had they not, the letters from those inspired by our episode would have been more than enough for me to know it made a difference.
The typical cadre of Palin bashers has already begun the chorus of unoriginal spew. They have mentioned that Joan Rivers has made fun of Bristol's weight, and her parenting skills are being questioned, while the Rivers' home is being played as ordered, but that they still manage to make time for dinner "as a family" each night. The stage is set for the Palin women to look clumsy, rigid or any number of other adjectives used by the left to describe those on the right. But this is blood sport for the Palin family, which has walked right through this battlefield again and again and been better for it each time.
Will it have been the "right" decision for Bristol's career? Who can know? Will it further the conservative agenda? Will she get hate mail? If her experience is like mine, she will get far more fan mail and touch people in ways she could never have dreamed. She will enjoy the process of civil discourse in ways she can only do through the medium of pop culture. And those who can look beyond the edits (edits made for entertainment, not accuracy), will learn something about her that makes something inside of us a little more courageous than before.
I reached out to Bruce Tomes, executive producer of "Wife Swap," and he told me, "I think people will be surprised at the outcome of the swap. I know I was. Two single women with very public and opinionated mothers – both raising boys on their own – made for a very interesting episode. It turned out to be more than the classic 'country-mouse/city-mouse' I was expecting. Bristol and Melissa are smart, complex women and I think that always makes for good TV. I hope everyone enjoys watching it as much as we enjoyed putting it together."
We all know what Hollywood uses to entertain, and what the audience appetite demands today. The armchair quarterbacks come out in force on reality TV programs, and this episode of "Celebrity Wife Swap" will be no different.
One thing is sure: No one can say that she refused a chance to engage the culture on her own terms, or that she acted out of fear or false modesty. No one can say she cowered in the face of controversy and criticism. She met it head on. She can only grow from that, and she is smart enough to know that, because she learned it from the one who has mastered courage over fear – her own mother.
When the daughter of the mom who popularized the phrase "game on" is invited to storm the culture, do you really believe she would shrivel in fear?