That Sarah Palin is one unreal Alaskan SETH KANTNER GUEST COLUMNIST
Seattle Times 19 October 2008
I’m sitting on my bearskin chair beside the woodstove, in Kotzebue, Alaska,
50 miles above the Arctic Circle, while outside the ocean begins to freeze
over. Inside I have about 49 things piling up to say to you, America.
I’m an Alaskan — born in an igloo, enjoy whale muktuk, all that — and
in case you aren’t sick of our state by now, I’ll start off with an apology
for one of our residents: Sarah Palin.
We Alaskans are not generally so magazine-pretty like her, nor are we so
confrontational and vapid. Most of us don’t have those peachy cheeks — we
have sunburn, windburn and frostbite. Our fingernails are dirty from
actually gutting moose, not yakking about it. Our hands are chapped from
picking thousands of salmon out of nets, not holding one up for the camera.
Having said that, here in Alaska we are accustomed to getting jobs we’re not
qualified to fill. In our far-flung villages and towns we have big money
surrounded by big wilderness; the combination causes warped career
opportunities. Sort of an Edge of Nowhere phenomenon — cousin to the Bridge
to Nowhere one.
For example, in the village closest to the wilderness homestead where I was
raised, I remember standing in my friend’s cabin when his dad got a call on
the CB radio: “People are writing you in for mayor.”
“Nope!” my friend’s dad transmitted. “Tell ’em no, I ain’t doing that.” He
spit in a can, peered out the door at his Honda generator — idling rough —
an extension cord running up the hill and under his door, to power the rerun
of “Dukes of Hazzard” he was watching.
If he’d lived in Wasilla 25 years later, he could have responded, “Call
Sarah, she’ll want it.”
Similar stories abound. Jimmy: who got the dogcatcher job by telling the
interviewer, “I can shoot a shotgun, .30-06, .308 ” Or my friend Ian, who
this summer worked with computers — until he was named CEO of a $45 million
Tougher in Alaska? Not necessarily. Here most anyone can be dogcatcher, city
planner, governor, with little or no experience. That’s one beauty of our
state — although, often the only thing keeping it all working is the
lubrication provided by obscene amounts of money.
Sitting on this worn-to-the-hide bearskin chair of mine, scribbling, I pause
to glance at a month-old newspaper before I stuff it in the stove. Lo!
There’s yet another photo of Gov. Palin; she’s sitting in a glass office in
Anchorage, with a bearskin, too, draped across the back of her expensive
couch. Sarah’s wearing heels. The bear’s wearing a fake head with a plastic
snarl. In the foreground on a glass table crouches something with pincers —
a taxidermied king crab!
I’ll have to show this photo to my Eskimo friends I grew up with. We simply
never contemplated such wanton unAlaskanness. Why not eat the damn thing? We
ate this bear I’m sitting on, including the paws and jaw and fat — some of
which we ate raw, while some got rendered for piecrusts.
Out beyond my window, the slush ice is thickening. In the west lie the
Bering Straits. Yes, Vladimir Putin and Moscow are over there somewhere — a
little closer than London. Plenty of us reside hundreds of miles closer to
Russia than Palin ever did down in the big-cities of Wasilla or Juneau. In
the past 40 years, Russians have motored across a handful of times, Russian
Eskimos, in homemade boats. One that I know stayed and married. She’s an
Eskimo dancer and ivory carver, very capable and beautiful, in a real way.
And, I guess like the rest of us now, an overnight foreign policy expert.
By now the world knows our Gov. Palin is an expert at swishing around in
color-coordinated this and that, with her makeup, fake Minnesota accent, and
her mooseburger and mean-spirited commentary. We can only hope people
realize she’s a pretty unreal Alaskan, one who is simply skimming the gravy
off our hard-earned Alaskan mystique to mix with her varnished nonsense.
(And yes, some Alaskans do sell varnished moose turds, also.)
In the Arctic, where global warming is melting our world regardless of
Palin’s lone charge against reality, her alleged appeal leaves many of us
cold. With our long winters and tough trails, we still value a beaver hat
and common sense more than high heels and clip-on hairdos. We simply don’t
want another leader less intelligent than we are.
Eight years with the cowboy and copilot Halliburton at the helm has been
hard on our land. Too much polluting, an unnecessary war draining our
economy and both men too cool for global warming. We can’t afford to turn
now to a beauty contestant and an old guy who’s acting like he’s run the
Iditarod too many times without winning. (Beating his dogs, he’s so
desperate to win.)
Come on, people. Our ice is melting. Your jobs are turning to dust.
Everyone’s bank statements are on the verge of being fire-starter. Your
heating oil is $4 a gallon, ours is $8.
John McCain’s answers to those problems? Heck, I honestly don’t know what he
stands for this week. Talk about a shifting ice floe. But his running mate,
we’ve heard her answers: She’s already sued the polar bears, now she’s
chanting, “Drill, baby, drill!”
Wake up, folks. Sarah Palin is America’s bridge to nowhere. Get off it.
From up here in the Arctic — not left or right but north of the campaign
trail — the reality is clear and cold: When John McCain chose Sarah Palin,
he wrote America out of his will. It’s time for us to write him out of our
Seth Kantner was born and raised in the Arctic and is a commercial fisherman
in Alaska’s northernmost salmon fishery. He is the author of “Shopping for
Porcupine” and the best-selling novel “Ordinary Wolves.”