Posted by: shannynmoore | September 21, 2011

Personal Politics

There are only so many things a girl can think about while flyfishing the Naknek or Kvichak rivers. Concentrating on casting, mending and flirting with trout can block most distraction, but I discovered the value of a little red x on the screen of my Blackberry. No contact. No email. No news. No tweets. No status.

And so the smile on my face just wouldn’t fade — even when I was knuckle-busted by my reel and the sound of line racing out was louder than the skiff engine.

I needed the break. Before I left Anchorage, I received an email from a friend. He said, “Shannyn, you take politics too personally. Have a good trip. Just fish.”

I tried. I really did. But I realized something between the coho and rainbow runs. Politics are personal. Maybe not to me every time, but most of the time.

I know why people throw up their hands and say, “Who cares? They all seem the same to me.” The intentional hijinks of politicians and the constantly convoluted processes of policy seem designed to make us shrug, walk away and ask, “What’s for dinner?”

But we dial back in when dinner becomes something we can’t afford, or the fuel to cook it costs more than the stove, or we lose our jobs or get sick from contaminated food. When it gets personal, we pay attention. Many of our problems are rooted in politics. You needn’t look very far to find similar issues in the faces of your neighbors, friends or family.

It would be great if we could elect our representatives and then get back to our personal lives. Most people in Alaska are more concerned with fish runs, hunting and gathering, filling freezers, a promotion at work or whether the Aces will win the Kelly Cup again next year. Go ACES! (Both of them.)

The truth is this: If your streets are clear of snow in the winter and dirt in the summer, that’s politics. If there’s a pothole on your street large enough to swallow a VW Bug, that’s politics. If you care about where you can hunt and fish and what the bag limits are, that’s politics. If you want to be able to marry whomever you choose, that’s politics.

In King Salmon I chatted with a man who told me he lived out there because he hated politics — but even he couldn’t escape. The proposed Pebble mine is personal for him.

Last week I read about a woman in Oregon with bone cancer and no health insurance. She was having yard sales, selling her possessions to pay bills she was afraid to open. The city she lived in said she had reached her limit of three yard sales a year and shut her down. A man in Florida, diagnosed with cancer, robbed a bank for a dollar and waited for police. He knew he could get treatment in prison. Health care is personal.

It was hard to be distracted by the drivel of public policy while giggling like a 5-year-old and making Dolly Parton Varden jokes under the big sky of Western Alaska. I thought about my friend’s advice to “just fish” and realized it wasn’t entirely possible. Having forgotten about my fear of flying as I gazed out at the unfathomably vast wild from the window of a 206, I realized politics are inescapable precisely because they are personal.

Years ago, I was protesting the Iraq war and realized I could support the warrior and still oppose the war. From my boat, watching a little pink bead for hours on end, I realized I don’t have to support the politicians to believe we have the best model for a government in the world. Politicians can’t be counted on to fix the things that are personal to us. We have to do that for ourselves.

Your interests may be predator control or music in schools or traffic calming on your street. It doesn’t matter. Just identify the biggest problem in your community — however you define that community — and start trying to fix it.

That’s politics, and it should be personal.

Originally posted in the ADN 8/27/2011



  1. shannon, thanks for all you do from Homer, i am hoping the day comes when blue skies are all over the world…. imagine that being personnel
    politics… if only we could paint them all blue…? (that*s a dream of mine)
    i have been reading your stories for many years now and follow whats going on with bristol bay and fishing and how similar our personnel politics are.
    You are a fine journalist and i hope to read more just like you typed today.
    We get distracted from problems until they hit home and it stares you in the face, sadly, i feel we all over the USA have been distracted from what was happening under our eyes and ears, longing for that american dream blinded us all from realizing deals and politics was being taken away from us as those in power every 4 yrs and we were busy reaching our dreams not being able to learn what our leaders were doing with our tax money, how wars were *really* started, $$ for military industrial complex. Mr. Eisenhower
    gave us a hint in his speech back in the early days…. look today , we are thinking as you said, *it*s time to start fixing things for ourselves in our own communities*.. yet, alot of people are so stuck in their dream, still they think
    gov*t has to either help us or get out our lives entirely… both are extreme..
    keep typing the way you do shannon, it makes me think and so should all that read your blogs.

  2. Excellent post! I was moved by your words and thoughts and totally agree!
    Thank you for this,


  3. Why Politics Are Personal To Me

    I look around every day and there is something new that has become personal to me and those issues are always related back to politics.

    I have to bite my tongue anything someone tells me that, “what can they do about it,” … “I do not vote-why bother,” or “what difference would my vote make.”

    It is this type of apathy that makes me want to shake people or infuse some gorilla glue into their spinal column to give them some @#&^%#$@* back bone.

    I find it personal politics, when I have to go into my food cupboard and get food out for a disabled vet (Vietnam) who has steel columns in his spine and legs from being a prisoner of war for many years. Only to come home and there was no help in sight.

    I was against the war in Vietnam but I was never against the personal who American.

    I find it personal politics, when Republicans want to cancel Medicare and Medicad and people need health care for serious illnesses. They have worked all of their lives, paid their taxes into the system and now are not able to get assistance when they can not work,

    I find it personal politics, when big business, millionaires and billionaires are getting tax cuts and lower and middle tax brackets are not. (Back Barack with the Buffett Rule!)

    I find it personal politics, when Americans go to bed ill and hungry and other countries are receiving American dollars before our own people are,

    There are lots of things that I find that are personal politics.

    Shannon, you go right on fishing because out of those moments of casting that rod, Letting the line fly to that spot on a river or lake…comes clarity, as to what you need to fight for,

    I hope that you catch a big one and then release him.

    Southern smiles and world peace,
    ~The Baby Boomer Queen~

  4. Maybe I need to go fishing. I am about to be laid off for the fourth time since Nov 1st, 2004. It’s politics that got me into this mess. Sometimes I grow tired of it. I don’t want to bite my tongue anymore when some RWNJ starts their rant in the store. I want to kick them in the shins. So maybe I need to go fishing. I can’t escape politics but I might get to mellow out a bit. Thanks Shannyn for posting this. I feel a little more normal now.

  5. The stream of consiousness in your article, that internal converasation, should be first and foremost in everyone’s life.

    It’s that internal voice that grounds us. We’re not just flecks on this big blue marble, what we do today can effect others in the future.
    I’ve tried instilling this in my kids, and it’s amazing what they come up with. They start each day with what they need to do for school, then embark on their “Do one thing today that will make someone better off” chore. Politics and life are interconnected. It starts in our own back yard and grows from there.

    I’m in the same boat, I think we all are.

    Happy Fishing!

  6. Shannyn…. I hope your trip was great… Sounds like it and the reference to looking out the window of a 206 brings back memories of getting my first pilots license…. amazing times…

    Too many people that we all know today have been sucked into this amazing Consent Machine that has been manufactured around us over the last 100-150 years. (ref: Noam Chomsky) Many may, or may not, know they are part of that machine … And, they also have less and less personal thought time to contemplate how and why they got there. In MANY cases, it’s based on the amount of money in their lives to get them over a particular bump. That money foundation and it’s elusiveness seems to have been the point of the machine all along.

    Some have been able to cross over to ‘wealth’ and never know they are part of the ‘system’; some work many, long years to get out of one place and in to another with some measure of success; some are touched by the tumble of the dice and leap from one beach head to another, albeit sometimes reluctantly; and others struggle FOREVER and always seem to be right on the cusp of breaking free; still others never have a chance.. That’s personal.

    What makes it even MORE personal, is that obstacles are put in your way intentionally by folks that are trying their best to make sure you FAIL! That’s what seems to happening today… To millions.. And finally, there is the ‘we’ve had it’ attitude that is driving a lot of the “Protest Wall Street” or the “Arab Spring” or work environment protests all over China’s electronic ‘Free Zone’ around Shenzhan where folks are dying everyday from the pollution…it goes on and on…

    The look inside that you got to do in your fishing boat lost somewhere on a pristine setting in Alaska or mine, sitting on the side of a gently sloping mountain in the wilds of Colorado, many will never get to experience or even know they’ve done it, but we gotta keep trying. All of us need to rise above all the manufactured noise in our world, as much as we can. because that peace is personal and is worth helping other folks to find theirs….

    Good piece..

  7. It’s good to see you blogging again, Shannyn.


  8. You speak the truth!

    Everything is personal!

  9. Wow. You really really get it. I had given up a long time ago, but reading what you write gets me rejuvenated.

  10. This is one of the better blog posts I have ever read. You ROCK!

  11. Taking it personal brings on tears and laughter. Felling it can get your motor going to do something. It’s beautiful.

  12. I had not stumbled past your blog in far too long, and this was the first post I read. Simply beautiful, and speaks right to the heart of what many people must be feeling lately. I know I have felt as inconsequential in my own efforts to make the world a better place recently, so I have decided to refocus my passion on more local politics where I CAN make a difference. Chez Pazienza also wrote a similar piece on his blog DeusExMalcontent in the past week or two…expressing his disdain for the uphill trudge that daily politics feel like, but resolving to keep fighting for whats right. I’m glad that you will too. I know I can then 🙂

  13. Thats what you get when Alaska is run by republicans. That, and I suppose many people like to “cloud” their own opinions for the sake of reputation with others they want to be approved from so badly, versus those that will actually do something about it.

    Well said.

  14. Shannyn, forget eating, fishing or anything else about the salmon. They may be irradiated

  15. It’s easier for a crazy person to get an automatic weapon than it is to mental health treatment.

  16. […] interests may be predator control or music in schools or traffic calming on your street. It doesn’t matter. Just identify the biggest problem in your community — however you define that community — and start trying to fix […]

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