As someone who has worked for over thirty years in the field of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, I cannot express how thrilled I was when Governor Sean Parnell put his money where his mouth is and launched an offensive against these heinous actions.
What you need to understand is that in this field of work, we are used to getting a lot of blathering and bleating from politicians but little in the way of real commitment. When the camera lights and microphones go away, so does the interest of most elected officials as they turn their minds to the more “important” topics that bring better press – topics like ACES and gas pipelines and revenue streams. I’m not saying those aren’t important topics. I’m just saying so is the horror of family life in way too many Alaskan homes.
So here we were with a governor who actually believed that this was a topic worthy of his personal attention. In fact, here was a governor who actually faced a camera and spoke about a subject that is the unspoken secret of way too many families – drunken abuse and violence perpetrated by a family member who should be ensuring the family’s safety.
I don’t know how many of you caught Governor Parnell’s ad before it was yanked but I found it fairly powerful. His message is one that needs to be heard. And it needs to be heard coming from one of the most powerful people in our state because that too is part of the message. That tells people suffering in homes full of violence that things can change, things can get better and – probably most importantly – you don’t have to follow in the violent footsteps of your history. Because your father hit or your uncle abused or your mother was too drunk to ever protect you, you don’t have to re-create that history in your own family.
This was the governor’s message – you can actively choose not to repeat your parent’s mistakes. You can actively choose to create a better life for your family. You can give so much love and stability to your children that one of them can grow up to be governor no matter how badly you were treated. This is a message that needs to be heard because it so rarely emanates from such lofty heights.
So, of course, it was inevitable that this would somehow become a political hot potato that was pulled by the sponsoring agency, the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. They claim they did not pull it because it became a controversial ad in an election year. Maybe. On the other hand, the last thing they need is to get caught up in the middle of a political dustup that could potentially endanger the funding they use to combat this epidemic in our state.
I just have to wonder if Ralph Samuels, the candidate for governor who objected to what he viewed as free publicity for the Parnell campaign, couldn’t have just this once considered taking a higher road.
While I am very aware that the higher road is not one that most politicians are familiar with or often travel down, what a breath of fresh air it would have been if he had just considered a stroll on it. If, instead of crying unfair, he had said that the cause was so critical to the state he wants to run that he could only offer his support in whatever way possible to this campaign against the violence and abuse that is destroying the families one assumes he hopes to lead as governor.
But instead, the ad was pulled, politics trumped compassion and hope and a wonderful chance to show Alaskans from every economic and social strata of our state that the past does not have to be the only blueprint to their future was lost.
Samuels may have won this round in getting the ad pulled so that whatever advantage he thought it gave to Parnell in the way of free publicity was halted. But ultimately, in my mind at least, he lost any belief I might have had that his concern is for this state and its people and not simply his political future.