The cult of ‘not our responsibility’ isn’t Alaskan

Alaskans are generous.

At any given moment, I know at least 15 people who would be willing to drop what they’re currently doing and come dig my car out of my driveway. Or better yet, be the random stranger who stops to help dig me out of the ditch. Or in this heat, lend me a paddling pool and some frozen moose steaks to ease my flaming sunburn.

And these aren’t just people with whom I share bits of DNA. To be Alaskan is to be family in the best sense of the word. It’s bigger than blood. Bigger than surnames. Bigger than bumper stickers and vehicle models.

We love our communities. We love our mountains. We love our fish. And we all collectively hate mosquitoes and road construction.

In a lot of ways, we’re odd. We can’t help it. Near-constant daylight and then darkness for months at a time does weird things to our priorities. Like how many slices of spinach bread can we eat before the vendor thinks we’re stalking them, or is it reasonable to drive to Glennallen just to pick up Thai food?

We’re stubborn. We’re independent. We build our own homes; sometimes shabbily, sometimes in phases that last forever, sometimes, although rarely, with an actual plan.

We’re also kind. Everyone I know has worked on something for someone else: a deck, a snowmachine, a garden plot, an unruly lawn. We’ve crawled under a truck to release an oil drain plug, brought beer to build a gazebo, cut trees and stacked firewood. We lend out our prized possessions: skis, chain saws, snow pants, books, kayak paddles, filet knives, boats, toddler hiking packs, cars, those sweet snowboard boots from seventh grade and super-safe homemade Visqueen slip-n-slides.


We’re generous.

Which is why I know that the cult of “not our responsibility” isn’t Alaskan. Sure, there are curmudgeons who came to Alaska to get away from everyone, but they’re usually the first ones to help us find our dog. And of course there are generous people outside of Alaska. People who care about their cities and their neighborhoods. Who show up at council meetings and budget hearings. But do they give you a rack of smoked salmon when they’ve heard you missed the big run on the Copper River? Or give you a lift between the Anchorage airport and the Valley at 2 a.m.? Or plow your driveway because they know you have a new baby at home?

The Alaska I grew up in and the one I want to live in, is a place of bounty, not scarcity. It’s a place where we may put up different political yard signs, but at the end of the day, we not only remember that we are generous, we act like it. We prioritize our generosity and the services that enable us all to thrive.

There are four generations of my family ranging in ages from months old to more than 90 years old, living in Palmer. The state I want to live in will ensure that all ages, from my infant and toddler to my eldest grandparent, will be valued members of our community. That we will look toward their futures with innovation, creativity and generosity, not disdain.

This means funding public services and entities that an individual $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend check alone will not replace. I can’t maintain a public bike path with my PFD. I can’t singlehandedly replace a ferry. I can’t offer higher education and technical training degrees out of my basement. I can’t build bridges or roads. I can’t oversee that cruise ships are doing their due diligence. I can’t teach Head Start to children at my picnic table. I can’t offer behavioral health treatment from my front yard. I can’t broadcast public news across the state. I can’t provide agricultural loans from my backpack. I can’t act as a public defender or a Village Public Safety Officer.

But our state can.

Take my dividend, eliminate outrageous oil tax credits, and tax my income. I want to live in a generous, collective society, not a freezing (or maybe not, I’m not conducting Arctic climate science) “Mad Max” future.

We Alaskans can’t help but be generous. It seeps into the volcanic soil that grows the sweetest carrots and biggest cabbages in the world. Think big. No one needs a 100-pound cabbage all to themselves. Turn it into sauerkraut, coleslaw, kimchi, soup and let’s share our generosity with our neighbors.

Kenni Linden was born and raised in Palmer, where she is often found eating berries out of her backyard with her husband and two little mischief-makers. She’s on the board of directors for Big Cabbage Radio and Alaska Family Services.

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