Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rep. Gatto Discusses Culture, History, and Change

In the House State Affairs committee this morning, discussing SB 43 on adding a verse to the Alaska state song, Rep. Gatto, at the end explained why he was voting against the bill.  It was a discussion on history and culture and why they shouldn't be changed.  I've transcribed his comments as accurate as I could from the tape.  You can listen to the tape too.  It begins at 64:44 on the tape below. 
[Photo:  Reps Johnson, Gatto, and Seaton after the meeting.]

Rep. Gatto often points out his interest in words and how they are used.  Bear that in mind as you read his words. 

(64:44) Gatto: I don't want anyone here, and I don't think anyone does, believe that I don't have a lot of respect for my state and the Native culture and all cultures here.

I want you to know that's is exactly why I object.  Because I believe we have a certain  history in the state.  And that we don't need to modify the history for any reason I can see.

We have named . . . I don't know that we have anyone in the room who can probably name the state insect, the state flower, the state bird, the state mammal, describe the flag and do all of those things.  But we accept it as part of our history.

And I believe our  history should not be changed. And that's what we're doing.  We're taking something 20 years old, I'm not sure how old it is, 20 years old and saying,  'I'm ok with what was done  20 years ago and I think we need to add something to it.' Which, Mr. Chair, is a change.  There is, and as the sponsor spoke, no reason why a person could not simply sing this song in its entirety, by itself as a second verse you can add a third, fourth, and fifth verse. You can take the first or second. All of that is allowed and no one would object that you can sing it anyway you like. Or not sing it.  But what we are doing is something entirely different.

We aren't okaying a person "now you can sing this song if you like, but you can't do it unless we vote you can." You can sing it.

No one sings this song and says you know it's the Alaska song and then have to stop and say "by the way I'm going to continue my singing after I tell you that the second verse is not the Alaska song.  But just sing it if you want to sing it.

So I am here, really, to protect our culture; more so than anybody who votes to change it.
And that's why I have to vote no on this.  

Is that if you want to change our culture get out there and change it all.  Make this a 2010 Alaska culture if you want to.  But I don't want to do that.  And I would hope no one else would want to do that.  I'm ok with the culture as it exists.

Because it is the written history.

And no one goes back and decides to investigate the Bible and say, "You know what?  I'm going back to that verse?? over here.  I think I've got some new information .

You can do that but you can't change the bible. It is what it is.

And if you want to change it, it better be a new edition. Not the old edition with some added language, because we're not making this a new edition.  We're not making this a 2010 Alaska Song.

We're saying we're going to keep the old one and change it. Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I'm not for changing it. I'm not for changing the  insect or the bird or anything else.  Although we could have some people offer to do do that.  and say, "You know, the seal itself,  our state seal. does not have an issue of Alaska Natives on it. It doesn't. Maybe it should have, but it doesn't.  I've been here the whole time.  Those issues of changing things have always failed. I don't think this one will fail, I think it will pass,  but it won't pass with my vote.

This begins at 64:44 on the audio.  Give it a minute to load.

As forcefully as Rep. Gatto makes his argument against changing history, it still seems a bit slippery to me and I still have some questions.  For example:
  1. We can't change the bible, but if we do it has to be a new edition.  Does that mean if the bill renamed this the 2010 edition of the State song it would be ok? 

  2. So, what people have done in the past, for better or worse, is our culture our history, so we must live with that and never change it.  Does that mean Rep. Gatto is against amending the Constitution? 
    Alaska used to belong to the Russians.  Should the US not have changed that?  It used to belong to Alaska Natives?  Should we have not changed that?  What things are ok to change and what things aren't?
Other posts mentioning the second verse of the flag song.

      1 comment:

      1. Opposition to adding the second verse is NOTHING but bigotry, pure and simple. The author of the second verse, Carol Beery Davis, was a pioneer Alaska music teacher and poet, and a dear friend of Marie Drake, the author of the original verse. During her lifetime, Carol said that Marie would have approved of her second verse.

        And after we add this second verse to the song, we need to modify the state seal so that it also has some reference to Alaska Native culture, which it has never had.

        FYI, Carol Beery Davis was my piano teacher, as well as my mother's and my sister's teacher.


      Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.