If you are planning to vote for John McCain because you view him as a man of rare integrity, demonstrated courage, intellectual and political independence, and because you believe him to be more seasoned and more savvy than Barack Obama in the realms of foreign policy, the applications of military force, and such domestic issues as taxation, health care, social security and welfare reform, you can stop reading this right now.
If you have decided to vote for Sarah Palin because you admire her as gutsy and fresh-thinking and an authentic Reagan Republican, and because you identify with her views on abortion, the right to buy and hold arms, and the excesses and interventions of big government, you can stop right here.
This is not going to be a column about issues, nor fitness for high office.
And though this is not about racism in the classical sense, it is specifically about the passion and prejudices - race being just one of them - with which some people hate Barack Obama.
Obama-hate is worth a close look not only for what it tells us about political campaigns, but for what it can teach us about America itself, its divisions and the possibility of healing.
This is, as well, about the role Sarah Palin can play in the process. She can, if she chooses, elevate the level of debate on the urgent challenges Americans must face.
Or she can say something like this:
"We see America as the greatest force for good in this world," Palin told a fund-raising event in Colorado on Sunday. "Our opponent though, is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."
"This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," she said. "We see America as a force of good in this world."
Since taking the national stage a month ago, Sarah Palin has been subjected to an onslaught of invective, dismissal, insult and smear.
Now, the debate safely behind her, she has chosen a new means of response: incitement.
Does she really believe that Barack Obama, and by extension, those who support him, do not see America as a force for good in this world?
There are many among her admirers who celebrate her for speaking unvarnished truth, for saying out loud the kinds of things that "you and I" really feel.
The problem is not unvarnished truth, but thinly varnished hatred.
As she proved in her speeches accepting John McCain's and her party's nominations, Governor Palin is a person with acute skills of self-expression. She knows exactly what response - and what bigotry - she will elicit when she denigrates the concept of a "community organizer."
Just as she knows precisely what message she's sending when she states that Barack Obama "is not a man who sees America like you and I see America."
She knows to the letter what flags she's flying when she implies that Obama not only does not love his country but reviles it, even to the point of being a fellow traveler to subversives and potential terror murderers.
Nor is it any accident that she uses the term "terrorists" - unnamed, plural, and in general usage in America, often referring to Islamic radicals - rather than focusing on the one man in question.
Sarah Palin has crossed a line.
She could have used her powers of persuasion to advance her ideals. Instead, she has joined those who have chosen to fight Obama with prejudice.
In the process, she has widened America's fault lines, equating her coy "you and I" with love of country. Her opponent, then, is the Non-Us, the AntiUs, and, by extension, the Unamerican.
Is this to be the Palin Doctrine - that the Right has a lock on love of country?
In making the Colorado declaration, which she was to repeat twice more that day, she drew a stark distinction between those who love America - her people - and those who love Barack Obama.
In doing so, and in tarring him as a man who consorts with terrorists, she has joined those who have leveraged other lies to extraordinary success, in particular, the lie that Obama is a Muslim.
It was the phenomenal power of the Muslim lie that has lent fuel to all others. The falsehood granted free rein to intolerance. It has successfully disguised racism as patriotism.
It has granted false license to irrational suspicion and grotesque stereotyping on the basis of faith.
In short, it has freed people to hate a black man right out loud.
In painting her opponent as a fellow traveler with subversives and terrorists, Palin has joined those who have promulgated bigotry in inciting against Obama, those who say, in clear hints if not in so many words:
1. Vote against Obama because you fear and loathe MuslimsIn segregating America into Us and AntiUs, Sarah Palin is asking for the votes of all Americans in order to speak for half of them.
2. Vote against Obama because you fear and loathe Arabs.
3. Vote against Obama because you've had all you can take of affirmative action, immigrants, names which defy pronunciation, pluralism, and bend-over-backwards tolerance.
4. Vote against Obama because liberal Democrats are hypocritical wimps, not real Christians, and, in fact, closet gays - and deserve to be punished.
5. Vote against Obama because the New York media and Hollywood deserve to be exposed and disgraced.
6.Vote against Obama because in this day and age in America, white people get the short end of the stick.
7. Vote against Obama because the one group facing the worst discrimination is the community of believing Christian Republicans.
8. Vote against Obama because blacks hate whites.
9. Vote against Obama because even though Jews once helped blacks, blacks hate Jews.
10. Vote against Obama because the Left hates America. Because liberals are ruining America's core institutions, schools, the military, the economy.
The half she believes loves the country.
In denying Barack Obama his love of country, she has denied the vision, the values, and the profound patriotism of the remainder.
In doing do, she does a disservice to both sides, and to America.