OPINION: Alaskans, it’s time to build the wall — between church and state

In 1987, the movie “Wall Street” introduced us to the phrase, so memorably uttered by Michael Douglas: “Greed is good.” I find myself wondering if that phrase was first heard by the screenwriter in Alaska, because Alaska sure seems to have greed down pat.

We currently have a university that is barely hanging on, a school system that struggles to stay open every day, an economy so old and stagnant that young people can think of nothing they want more than to leave, and a bunch of old-timers wondering what happened to the Alaska they first found when they arrived.

After 50 years here, I feel qualified to say that I am more than a little embarrassed by the Alaska ethic of free money. Used to be that the Alaska ethic involved hard work, caring for your community, making life better for the next generation. That could not be further from the truth anymore. We want a big check from our government once a year no matter what the cost to our society as a whole. And then we want to complain the rest of the year about government and all the money it uses on silly things such as homelessness and hunger or abused children and women. As long as that Permanent Fund dividend check is big enough, we’re willing to overlook little things like the destruction of the independent society that once made this state great. Now we can’t live without those checks, and we refuse to vote for anyone who suggests that this level of greed is unseemly.

As if greed weren’t bad enough, we currently have a governor who is trying to make all Alaskans adhere to his specific religious beliefs, and that is disgusting in a country that once tried to erect a wall between church and state. I say “tried to erect” because brick by brick, that wall is being torn down and replaced by a group of conservative, religious fanatics who think the entire country needs to believe as they do. We might as well be living in Afghanistan. What a woman decides about her health and her body should be between her and her doctor. And if her doctor prescribes a medication, whether it be insulin or the morning after pill, no one should have a say in the matter besides them.

When it comes to offering something as simple as protection for LGBTQ citizens, why the hell does the governor’s religion have any place in deciding those protections? These are simply people asking for nothing more than their right to live their lives and love their loves without discrimination. If you don’t like their choice of a life’s mate, then don’t choose like they do. But don’t deny them the right to their choice or the right to live wherever they want so long as they can pay the rent.

Somewhere in our state right now is a young boy or girl questioning their sexuality and sex. They are scared and have more questions than they ever believe can be answered. As the adults in this state, we owe that child an answer that is true and kind and real. They shouldn’t have to wait until some arbitrary age to get those answers because often, by then, it’s too late to undo the damage already done.

Does Rep. David Eastman scare you with his beliefs? Well, get used to it. At the rate we are going, the Legislature most certainly will soon be seeing more like him as the Christian right pushes its intimidating tactics to get its way. If they don’t like what you do, they will threaten your re-election, and we all know there are no scarier words to a politician.


So come on, Alaskans. Let’s build that wall up again that separates church and state. We need to do it for ourselves and every American who believes our Founding Fathers got it right when they erected that wall in the first place. As for that PFD check, if we don’t change our greedy attitude soon, then I can only hope the last person leaving the state when the fund is exhausted turns the lights off.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska columnist and author. Her book “Coming Into the City” is available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and local bookstores.

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Elise Patkotak

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska columnist and author. Her book "Coming Into the City" is available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.