Monday, November 10, 2008

Independent, Self Reliant Alaskans and other myths

Sometimes I just can't help myself, and my wife is gone so she can't restrain me.

My apologies to JC because her letter isn't different from a lot of others. This is from today's letters to the Anchorage Daily News.

Alaska has long been the last bastion of individual self-reliance and independent thought in the entire United States. The Daily News endorsement of the man who is the very antithesis of those concepts is exceedingly disappointing. President-elect Obama wants the general populace to become more dependent on government for their livelihood, housing, education and health care. All of which, naturally, will give the government more control over what they do, where they live, how they are educated and what quality of care they will receive.

I look forward to the next election, when this trend toward becoming a nation of grown-up-infants can be turned back and we can continue to become a nation of mature, independent, innovative, motivated and free adults.

-- JC


The opening sentence really got to me:

Alaska has long been the last bastion of individual self-reliance and independent thought in the entire United States.
The last time Alaska was truly a bastion of individual self-reliance was when Alaskan Natives were living off the land - whether Tlingits in Southeast, Yup'ik and Inupiaq, Athabaskans, Alutiiqs, and all the other Alaskan Native peoples - before the Russians came.

Since the time Russians, and then non-Native Americans, arrived, Alaska has basically been a colony of outside interests. The Russians enslaved Aleuts and others to kill seals and otters to send the furs back to Russia.

The missionaries came to Christianize the Alaska Natives, exploiting the devastation caused by the diseases they brought to the indigenous peoples to 'prove' that the old ways were evil and that the Christian ways were good. Most did their best to ban the local languages and the practice of local traditions. They lived off of contributions from churchgoers throughout the US and the hunting and fishing skills of their congregants.

Then there was the gold. The lifeline was the supplies coming up from Seattle.

Copper, same thing.

Fish. Same thing.

Military - the most successful cooperative living experiment in US history, where everyone sacrifices, income, personal freedoms and choices - location, health care, housing, education, even sacrificing life - for the good of the whole.

Oil, back to resource exploitation by Outsiders (we've all heard repeatedly what kinds of profits the oil companies have made the last few years) and many of the people working up here have come up from Outside, often to leave after making (or not) their fortune.

Federal spending is the largest single source of Alaskans jobs.
[As I understand it, these are the five largest sectors in the Alaska economy and the jobs from oil include jobs paid for by the spending of the PFD checks. Slide from ISER Powerpoint.]

Our self-reliance and independent living comes from receiving (in 2004) the second largest amount of federal expenditures in ratio to tax burden of any state (New Mexico beat us) and from our collective ownership of the oil in the North Slope.

[Map from the Tax Foundation. Double click to enlarge it]

This is a long way from the Alaskan Natives who really lived off the land without supply ships, or even our romantic image of non-Native trappers living in little cabins in the middle of nowhere surviving by their wilderness skills and often their shipped in liquor. Instead we get our Permanent Fund checks, drive our gas guzzling cars and recreational vehicles of all kinds paid for by jobs funded either by the federal government or through using up Alaska's natural resources - more responsibly than in the past only because environmentalists have gotten in a few laws that regulate some of the industries.

President-elect Obama wants the general populace to become more dependent on government for their livelihood, housing, education and health care.
Excuse me. I believe that when Democrat Clinton left office in 2001 our economy was doing well and we had a huge surplus erasing the deficit left by Republican President George Bush I. And as the Bush 2 administration leaves office our economy is in its worst shape since the Depression in the 1930's and we are reeling in debt.

JC, the emperor has no clothes. I'm not sure which world you are living in or who's been telling you what to believe. From my perspective you've bought into the Orwellian Newspeak of conservative attack talk radio - Black is White, War is Peace, Republicans are fiscally responsible, Democrats are not. The words are good, but they are totally disconnected from facts. Is that what you meant by "independent thought"? That it was independent from facts?

What the Bush administration teaches us is that the market is NOT the answer to all our problems. Government may well have grown fat by the 1970's when the tax revolt began, but people had jobs, were living better than their parents, the physical infrastructure of the US (roads, bridges, rail lines, water systems, etc.) was kept in reasonable repair, kids graduated from high school with a reasonable education in most places. Government is NOT the answer to all our problems, but without a strong government, private companies grow larger and more powerful and offer a threat even greater than government.

It's conservative Republicans who have concluded that the market is going to collapse without the help of massive government spending. Or, an even more sinister interpretation, as the Bush administration winds down, they see this as their last chance, for a while, to raid the government coffers.

We need both the government and the market to perform what they each perform best. And in an informed democracy, people can keep their government accountable. But in a brainwashed population that believes myths like "the self-reliant and independent Alaskan" and the "Obama who is about to enslave Americans with big government," we'll do things like elect convicted felons to represent us in the false hope that the money spigot from Washington will continue and we won't have to actually be self-reliant and independent.

Sorry, my wife is out of town and not here to keep me from hyper-ventilating when I read letters like this. Fortunately, enough people in the US have seen through the hype of the last eight years.

JC, I know that the ADN doesn't give you too many words to make your points with, but how about a few references to actual facts that cause you to make the generalizations you make.


  1. Well done!
    I hope you've submitted a truncated version of this to your paper. I know the Seattle PI has the option to submit longer op-ed pieces as a guest commentator. Get these out where all Alaskans can see it!

  2. Steve, do you feel like there is a game being played with supporters of each party? I saw it with Clinton, but that was only because I was an adult and was Republican and I'm sure the idea had been around for some time, that each group of supporters would blindly support their person no matter what. I think it would be worse with Republicans when Tony ran against Lindaur and the Republicans told their supporters to support him no matter what, the reasoning being that a bad Republican was better than a good Democrat.

    The Letters seldom say anything original, although I like that people sometimes say things in a new way. I am waiting to see if one that I write on juries will make it-- it's a topic that's not been brought up, so I doubt it.

    I go to church and I really dislike listening to a certain person bash Obama for his stance on abortion (he doesn't want to change Roe v. Wade!) yet they were unaware of a local Democrat who doesn't like abortion. The person is a close friend but I walk out on him when he refers to Senator Obama as Our Glorious Leader. Why? It just spreads hate and he and his ilk just say the same "schtuff" over and over!

    Certain people who lean right make sweeping statements about the Democrats that are total BS and it just gets assumed and it's easy to vilify the whole party. I believed them until I was assigned to cover the caucus and found the Democrats to be a diverse group of genuinely good people. They don't all think that all kids should have mandatory sex ed, they don't push abortion, they don't want to throw money away-- and to my extreme disappointment, there was no tawdry behavior on the parts of anyone that I could see, or anyone giving into various vices.

    So many problems that we have are made by blanket statements with the governments. The Democrats know this. They are not into making everyone the same.

    I say all this as if the Republicans have a monopoly on being jerks, but there are Democrats who do the same.

    I fall into a trap of generalizing more than I'd like for a stupid reason-- I'm busy. After I told a man who is very wise (and a wise guy) that I liked Palin because she was just like me, his smile turned wicked and he said, "Great! Should we give you the nuclear codes? Are you ready to take over the presidency if anything happens?" I now try to not say anything without thinking it through!

    Why do people get involved in politics? Someone like JC will probably never run for office or do much more than write a few letters to his or her legislatures. Is his or her involvement social? Is this person up for a position in their church or a job and trying to show a public support to appease someone? Or do they genuinely want to educate and talk to others? Do they have a specific agenda?

    Having jumped parties, I have to say that Democrats are more well rounded and they seem to get their information from more sources.


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