Elise Patkotak

Remember 9/11? Of course you do. It’s not a day any of us are likely to forget. Soon after it, American flags showed up on everyone’s porch and people were spotted wearing T-shirts that said, “These colors don’t run” superimposed over the red, white and blue. Sure is embarrassing to remember that now as our esteemed Republican presidential candidates and multiple governors tuck their tails between their legs and run in fear of refugees. I guess in their world, the colors do run. A certain segment of America insists on their right to pack heat in visible sight everywhere they go, from Starbucks to Wal-Mart. They act macho and tough. But you have to wonder if that gun on their hip is just a substitute for something else they have that isn’t as big. Just saying, for a group of people who...Elise Patkotak
Back in my misspent youth, I was a registered nurse for a nanosecond. Then I realized that real nurses had something I didn’t have ... a desire to be a nurse. So I got out of the profession. But before I did, I spent more than my fair share of nights in the emergency room of Long Island College Hospital, a hospital that handled some of the meaner streets of Brooklyn. Overdoses were pretty much a daily routine. On the weekends, overdoses became something close to a marathon. We could hardly push some Narcan into one overdose patient before the next was carried in. Narcan (the brand name for naloxone) is an instant cure. Within moments of injection the almost dead overdosed person is sitting up and mad at you for dumping the rest of their stash while he or she was out. Yeah, that was the...Elise Patkotak
I’m guessing that by now there are few in Alaska who haven’t seen or read about the incident in Sitka where three police officers are shown repeatedly tasing a drunken teenager . It’s pretty tough to watch. It’s even tougher for those of us brought up to respect the police as the ones we should run to when we feel we are in danger. While the teenager in question is clearly being less than cooperative, the idea of directly tasing him more than 10 times to convince him to take his clothes off is just horrifying. The young man’s name is Franklin Hoogendorn. He was, at the time, a student of Mr. Edgecumbe. He’s since left the school but did manage to graduate before returning to his home village of Koyuk. In an interview with Alaska Dispatch News , Hoogendorn said that watching the video was...Elise Patkotak
Many, many years ago, a dentist I had hired to start the North Slope Borough’s Dental Program came to my house to ask me to have a cup of coffee with his wife. He told me she was feeling very alone and down. It was her first winter in Barrow and the darkness was not helping to raise her spirits. So I invited her over for coffee and we’ve been best friends ever since. If I hadn’t told you that story, no one would ever have known about it except for the three people involved. That’s because the story occurred before the Internet, social media, Twitter and whatever the heck Snapchat is. We live our lives publicly in a way that would have horrified our parents and grandparents. If it isn’t online, did it really happen? So when friends tell me that they aren’t on Facebook because they value...Elise Patkotak
There was a time when America’s endless war was the Vietnam War. Like our current wars, this war was a quagmire of deception, obfuscation and tragedy. We achieved nothing, which is not surprising since our stated goal of stopping communism came smack up against people who were sick and tired of colonial powers using them as pawns. When President Nixon was questioned about just how far our war in Vietnam went and whether it now included the neighboring state of Laos, he unequivocally denied the presence of any American troops on Lao soil. And for once he was telling the truth. What he neglected to mention was that we were bombing Laos on a daily basis despite the fact that no state of war was ever declared between our two countries. This war must seem like ancient history to young people,...Elise Patkotak
It was a pretty horrible week, one that even the distribution of dividend checks couldn’t save. After all, we know the state is broke, our checks are likely to never be bigger than this year’s, and we will probably soon be using the Permanent Fund to keep state government afloat. So while our legislators pondered how two minus four somehow equaled plus zero, the rest of the country looked on in horror at the latest school massacre. And a vast majority of liberals who thought the pope was in their back pocket found out, to their extreme dismay, that he is still very much a Catholic. Yep, it was a helluva week. I could go on at some length about gun violence in this country. I could go on at even greater length about the sensible gun control legislation that keeps schools safe in most other...Elise Patkotak
There are times in each year when we tend to stop and take inventory of our lives. For many people, this inventory happens on New Year’s Eve. But for me it happens on Oct. 1. That’s the day, 43 years ago, I first set foot in Alaska. I don’t know what expectations I had when I arrived. I’m guessing I was too busy sobbing from homesickness to really articulate any, even to myself. Being a New Jersey-New York-Pennsylvania hybrid, I would assume I arrived with a rather jaded attitude towards this whole Last Frontier shtick being tossed at me from real Alaskans. Of course back then, real Alaskans looked a little different than real Alaskans look today. Real Alaskans, Alaska Natives excepted, wore bunny boots and Carhartts to formal affairs. They wore strange hats and gloves that had actual...Elise Patkotak
I read with interest the recent article about the whale taken in Kaktovik that was found to have an old projectile embedded in its body. But even as I read it, I could feel my stomach tightening. Discussion of traditional whaling often gets caught up in the question of how anyone could kill these noble creatures. Sure enough, last week’s Letters to the Editor contained a letter questioning how subsistence whaling can still be allowed and why those darn Natives don’t just hop into the modern world and leave that barbaric killing behind. I have to assume the letter writer is a vegan or vegetarian because otherwise I’d question her concern for whales but not her concern for pigs, cows, chickens and little baby lambs. So I’m going to proceed on the theory the writer is opposed to the killing...Elise Patkotak
Let’s agree on a few things upfront. For one, Christianity is hardly under siege in America. You can’t be under siege and have your religion’s holy days celebrated as national holidays. That just doesn’t add up. Also, if this Kentucky county clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was Muslim and refusing to serve women whose hair wasn’t covered because it violated her religious beliefs, then announced candidates for U.S. president would not be standing by her side and proclaiming her a hero. Further, most of us do not get to pick and choose those duties of our job we agree to perform. And finally, should a woman with four marriages and a baby produced by a man other than her husband at the time really be the face of Christianity in America today? What really worries...Elise Patkotak
Families who care for members with chronic illnesses often find themselves overwhelmed with the responsibility of making life comfortable and bearable for their sick relative. But when that illness is a mental illness, the difficulty increases exponentially until it flies off the top of the charts. The simple truth is we are no better at dealing with the effects of mental illness on the family and society than we were 100 years ago except for new drug therapies. Of course, those drug therapies require the cooperation of the ill individual and, as anyone knows who cares for someone with a mental illness, cooperation on any given day is not necessarily a given. Families who deal with this problem are often stressed and stretched beyond all comprehension. So an organization like The National...Elise Patkotak