Like it’s not bad enough. I’ve been hearing loons talk about secession up here my whole life. In Alaska, the three top ballot seats: President, Senate and House of Representatives, have candidates on the ballot from the secessionist Alaska Independent Party. In two of the three, the AIP holds at least 4% of the vote. The felonious Ted Stevens looks like he has convinced over a hundred thousand Alaskans what he couldn’t convince 12 jurors of a few weeks ago.
Now, Keith Olbermann has the temerity to ask if it’s too late to sell Alaska back to the Russians. Repeatedly. America’s liberal boy-wonder is breaking up with me. He’s not the only one suggesting putting Alaska up on eBay, but I can only handle one break up at a time. Consider this partner counseling; the circle of truth; the trust tree.*
I’m like many Alaskans, just not the one you’ve been forced to get to know lately. I know what newspapers I read. I know Africa is NOT a country. I know Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada, and I know he has T.V. perfect hair. I know who makes up NAFTA – which I thought was a crock when it passed. My favorite birthday present this year was the return of Habeas Corpus in a 5-4 US Supreme Court decision on June 12th.
I’ve never been to New York City, but I wanted to puke in my mouth watching the Republican National Convention’s “9/11 Tribute to Fear.” I wasn’t born in the 60’s, but I know what race baiting is. I know the public executions of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and RFK-all in a five year span-drove the American progressive movement into a coma for nearly 40 years. A once empowered, liberal generation sat like Terry Schiavo watching balloons float by; Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II. Wars, the corporate job-exporting economy, the perilous environment, expanded human rights violations, erosion of civil rights, The US Constitution compromised; none of it registered due to blunt force trauma on the American psyche.
Barack Obama’s voice blends many of those faint martyred messages cut short; human rights, hope, justice, peace, change. His inspirational urgency moved a generation politically paralyzed to stand up again. New generations learned to walk, on their own power, to change their futures. This promise is precarious. People my mother’s age hold their breath, pray he is safe, and bravely look forward from a painful past. I know, it takes one lone crazy, living in the apartment over his grandma’s garage; walls covered with “Pin-up Palin” shots who doesn’t need much more than a wink, a “pallin’ around with terrorists”, and her silence while “supporters” answered “terrorist!” and “kill him!” to her question of “Who is Barack Obama?” Even now, she’s still talking about “associations.”
I was born here, Sarah Palin was not. I don’t have a fabricated “Fargo” accent that sounds like I make casseroles with tater tots and mushroom soup. Many brilliant, artistic, articulate and cultured citizens call Alaska home. On November 4th, you got to shake your shoes of our Governor. You sleep easier now. Gone are the train wreck fantasies that kept you up at night; a 3am phone call and she, a heart beat away from the “nukular” codes. You now invest casual interest as you would a People magazine while waiting for dental work. BUT, SHE’S BACK HERE AND READY TO RULE!
Progressive Alaskans have a target on their backs for speaking out about her archaic philosophies and faith-based policies. January’s 2009 Legislative Session may see a bill allowing the aerial hunting of the exotic, but endangered species; “Alaskan Liberal.” I have a public creed of “painting a red state blue, one stroke at a time,” and you’re dumping me, Keith? Really?
Many suffer from PTSD-Post Traumatic Sarah Disorder. It comes with a long list of political collateral damage and shrapnel wounds. The McCain-Palin campaign sent Belmont level horsepower to Alaska to throw the Governor’s “enemies” under the Straight Talk Express Bus. NYC would have spit; Alaska gagged and swallowed.
This afternoon, the AP just called Alaska’s Senate race for Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. But for two weeks, it looked like we elected a felon. Ted Stevens has been a senator since before I was born. People here are torn between nostalgia and history. No matter where you travel in-state, you bump into establishments named after him; The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport; Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute; Ted and Catherine Stevens Center for Science and Technology Education and the Stevens Family Chalet at the Hilltop Ski Area in Anchorage. Many can’t imagine Alaska without him, but I can!
I can imagine Ted making license plates wearing an orange jumpsuit! My friend, Phil, says Stevens’ punishment should be overseeing the re-naming of all his institutional namesakes. I’m a recovering commercial fisherman, and I know he sold us out. His confirmation of “conservative” judges paved the way for the recent Baker vs. Exxon case that robbed many Alaskan fishermen of damages incurred by the 1989 Valdez Oil Spill. The R.A.T.S. (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia) saw fit to cap the award at ten cents on the dollar after 19 years. Translation to Exxon: four days profit for environmental terrorism-the cost of doing business. Translation to Alaskans: F*@# YOU! Bend over, we’re driving.
The only thing Uncle Ted liked better than the Patriot Act was the Military Commissions Act. His “Incredible Hulk” tie trumped the Constitution more than once. I broke up with him a long time ago. Do I seem bitter?
Mark Begich is Senate seat-worthy. I begged him to run for higher office when he was a weekly guest on my local radio show. I called him the “Fairy-God Mayor” for making many of my municipal dreams come true. During one of our weekly chats, I asked the Mayor what he liked on his pizza. (I have a secret theory people order up their life like they do pizza.) He said, “Oh, just put it all on there. If I don’t like something, I’ll pick it off.” I loved that answer; low maintenance and not afraid to try it all. (BTW, according to my theory, if you don’t like pizza you may need some hotline help.)
Part of wanting Mark to run for higher office was nostalgia for his father’s brilliant political career tragically cut short. Congressman Nick Begich was lost in a plane crash with Louisiana Congressman Hale Boggs in October of 1972. A few weeks later, though presumed dead, Congressman Begich beat his challenger Don Young by 12.4%. A special election was then called which Don Young won. He still holds the seat today.
Truth be told, I wanted a Begich to take the seat back from Don Young, who squandered it. Seeing Mark Begich take the Senate seat has more historic healing for many old time Alaskans than seeing Stevens retain it.
Not to get too “professor” on you, Keith (think hair up, glasses, short skirt, high heels. Oh wait, never mind!) I want you to know what you’re ready to cut loose.
First Alaskans thrived in a frozen land for thousands of years and left no foot print. In 1867, Russia gave you a hell of a deal at 1.9 cents an acre. The Klondike Gold Rush was a quick pay back, and gave Charlie Chaplin some great material.
The last shot of the Civil War was fired by the CSS Shenandoah on June 23, 1865, 10 weeks after Lee’s surrender. Go figure, it was in Alaskan waters and CSN Captain, James Waddell hadn’t heard the War was over. That was awkward.
Homesteading pioneers farmed, fished and flourished. In 1922, a Tlingit Chief, Charlie Jones was jailed for voting. His protest gave way to Native Alaskans getting the right to vote two years before Native Americans. In 1944, years before the civil rights movement in the States, Roberta Schenck, a Native woman refused to budge from her seat in the “White’s Only” section of a movie theatre in Nome. She was dragged out and jailed. Schenck was Alaska’s Rosa Parks. Because of her bravery and the moving testimony of Elizabeth Peratrovich, on Feb. 16, 1945, Territorial Governor Ernest Gruening signed an anti-discrimination law. Against the argument that the law would not eliminate discrimination, Peratrovich said, “Do your laws against larceny and even murder eliminate those crimes?”
We decriminalized abortion before Roe vs. Wade. Our privacy laws are the strongest in the country. A man told me he moved here after studying the Alaska Constitution at law school; it could have been Section 22 that allowed Alaskans the right to possess marijuana.
During WWII the Japanese occupied the Alaska islands of Kiska and Attu for almost two years. Because of the harsh conditions endured, frost bite became worthy of a Purple Heart. 1958, the Inupiat Village of Point Hope protested the nuclear detonation of Project Chariot to create a port on the North Slope. As a “thank you,” the Federal Government transported and buried the contamination from the 1962 Nevada Test Site to the Chariot location. Cancer rates among villagers are staggering. Where’s Erin Brockovich when we need her? In 1988, Homer, Alaska voted to officially become a “Nuclear Free Zone” in response to proposed nuclear subs. That same town — my home town — 20 years later, had the only known “spontaneous” Obama headquarters in the country. You’re welcome, Keith.
Alaska is one of the best things about America. We are the last frontier. What once was wild in America still is here. I still catch my breath; the northern lights over Denali can trump a full moon; a phosphorescent glow in the wake of my row boat; bears fishing salmon out of Brooks Falls; glaciers bigger than cruise ships.
It’s wrong to be hard on you for not knowing Alaskans aren’t all Palinbots. After the last week or so, it would be fair to wonder if we suffer from Reality Deficit Disorder when it comes to Ted Stevens and the Rule of Law. It’s easy to want to knock sense into my neighbors who have ignored our history; so rich with strength, true with characters, and patriotism that deserves to be called American.
The progressive history of Alaska is buried under the “new” wave of oil workers and rapture watchers. McChurches promise to Super Size your Jesus. They haven’t noticed the miracle of “curing a gay guy” wasn’t mentioned in the works of Christ. Sarah Palin cut the red ribbon and the prayer asked God’s blessing on “all those who enter” the Wasilla Wal-Mart. I hope God does bless those who work there; they’ll need it since they have no health benefits.
Women with “the bigger the hair the closer to God” up-do, line up to live the American dream of buying flag lapel pins and sequined “I Heart America” t-shirts made by un-aborted children in China. They punctuate their purchase with a personalized credit card owned by a company in Abu Dhabi. Men drive by in the newest “Ford Compensator 350”, towing a trailer loaded with ATVs. Rush Limbaugh blaring when the Lee Greenwood CD gets too teary; something about “Where at least I know I’m free.” Yellow ribbon magnets claim to support the troops; the same troops who are fighting to make sure the gallon of gas moving him all of 9.4 miles, stays cheaper than a latte.
I too, through my elitist patriotic lens, mock them. I realize how easy it has been to see a regressive, fundamentalist, socially-crippled Alaska. I get it, the jokes have written themselves; in Braille, smoke signals, etch-a-sketch. Alaska has issues galore; who doesn’t? Are you going to break up with Kentucky as well?
So, Mr. Olbermann and others (you know who you are, Bill Maher), before you break up with Alaska, let’s have a reality check. The known examples of Alaskan Spirit have vaporized in the wake of the “Great White Shopper from the North.” I hate to think “That Woman” would come between us. But the truth is, we are what America used to be. We are the Oregon Train with iPods. We are Lewis and Clark with hybrid snowmachines. We are Sacagawea with a Garmin. We are Yellowstone on steroids. We are Davy Crockett with a helicopter. (OK, I’ve gone too far.)
Not to play the blame game, but in the spirit of transparency you only get in therapy*, the colonization of your 49th State by Global Enterprise has gone largely unnoticed. Again, not your fault, Northern Exposure was filmed in Washington State. We could use some help fighting to insure the wild Salmon runs of Bristol Bay stay pristine against the Pebble Mine. Your aid would be appreciated in keeping our wolves and bears safe from aerial “hunting.” And were your voices lifted with ours in a message to Exxon, maybe our fishermen would have been able to maintain their industry despite an environmental disaster.
Keith. I can call you Keith, right? It would be easier to hear your rejection if you hadn’t kept many Alaskans sane with your “You, Sir” rants. Bill Maher’s New Rules encourage me to write my own. Chris Matthews exhausts me with explanation, but I get it. Rachel Maddow is still talking to us…she’s strangely fascinated. But you — Sir — are singled out as chief dumper. It’s only fair. I was getting ready to go to Anchorage’s Election Central, when I heard your voice break slightly; Barack Obama was the projected 44th President of the United States. I realized I’d held my breath for 8 years. I cried; in relief, in triumph, for hope, for healing, for history. I felt American.
“You, Sir” took many politically battered, Alaskans; your American brothers and sisters through a keyhole in time. Since then, “You, Sir” keep on the queries of how to dump Alaska every time Sarah Palin stumbles. “You, Sir” should kick Russia’s ass if they even look cross at us. (Well, talk to them first…then get our back.) “You, Sir” are joking, and to an extent, so am I.
We should make up. I’d like that.
We need your help, your respect and maybe some flowers.
*think: Will Farrell’s therapy scene in Old School.