OPINION: Dear Alaska, let’s learn from past mistakes

Dear Alaska,

I’ll admit that recently I worried about our relationship. You seemed to be unravelling in 2018 and 2019. You let budgetary issues loom large, made some silly political choices that would later decimate higher education here, and in late November 2018, in a somewhat predictable move, attempted to cover those mistakes up by getting angry and shaking the hell out of us.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, a pandemic would hit and you’d at first act like you remembered the past viruses that devested your people. You would lead the nation with science and successful mitigation measures. But ever one to fall prey to crazy political antics, you reverted to your old ways and listened to some blowhards Outside and let them lead you astray. You vilified those same doctors and nurses and scientists saving our lives and helping fight the virus. Too many people died. I admit this broke my heart. I pondered quitting you.

You learn hard. Perhaps that should have been the state motto.

“Don’t learn from the past” could be the other state motto.

Earthquakes: It won’t happen again!

Epidemics/pandemics: Can’t be that bad!


Snake oil salesman/woman: Will you please be our next political leader?

Honestly, I love you, but your head has been buried in the sand of Kincaid Beach or the Kobuk dunes from the days your state constitution was written. For too long, your focus has been in the wrong direction, and you’ve been trying to impress the wrong people. It’s always about getting the attention of outsiders and thinking the one and only answer is to offer up the treasures we have here for them to take back home, in hopes that they’ll throw us a gold coin or two. Why buy the moose when the antlers will fall off in the winter anyway, right?

But seriously, this is not a breakup letter. After all that, as strange as it sounds, I must tell you that I’m proud of you. Despite all your failings in the past few years, in August you did something special. You elected the first of the “Real People” to represent you in Congress. The significance is as big as statehood itself. For the first time, a voice that is from an actual Alaska culture with real knowledge of the land, animals, fish, and for the people will be heard. You’ve made so many of us proud. We’re feeling a sense of hope that most of us who have grown up in rural Alaska can say we’ve felt before. We still have a trail as long as the Iditarod itself to bring equity to Alaska Native women in our state, but this finally represents a meaningful and powerful shift toward a more just and equitable state.

Please, repeat this performance again in November. We’ve had enough of the charlatans and the partisan cheerleaders.

Alaska, I’m in love with you again. Your election of our first Alaska Native woman to the U.S. Congress, this perfect choice of Congresswoman Mary Peltola is, like so much of you, beautiful beyond words.

Don Rearden, author of the novel “The Raven’s Gift,” lives and writes in Anchorage, but often pretends he’s still back somewhere on the tundra outside of Bethel.

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Don Rearden

Don Rearden, author of the novel "The Raven's Gift," lives and writes in Anchorage, but often pretends he's still back somewhere on the tundra outside of Bethel.