Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Saturday, March 14, 2015

Since little Bubba passed I have received sympathy cards from people with the kind of personal note in it that tells you they truly do understand what a well-loved pet can mean to your life. And one wonderful couple… thank you Joanie and Paul… even made donations in her honor to animal charities. And then, out of the clear blue comes a package from my cousin with a giant Hershey’s bar in it to comfort me in my loss and remind me of the amazing aunts and uncles who surrounded us as we grew up. My heart is still sad at Bubba’a loss but the sadness is tempered with the joy of knowing that there are still some pretty wonderful people in my life.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:38 AM •
Friday, March 13, 2015

Every time a WalMart employee gets public assistance or food stamps, we are subsidizing the profits made by the Walton family. They pay their employees a non-living wage, the government has to subsidize it so they can survive, and the Waltons can buy a few more yachts thanks to your tax dollars. Talk about federal welfare going to the wrong people!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:50 AM •
Thursday, March 12, 2015

I was watching the Nightly Show when the topic of discussion was the recent Justice Department’s report on the systemic problems of racism within the Ferguson police force.  The panel had both black and white participants. One white participant was noted for the fact that he walked over the Selma bridge thirty years ago with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He received a large round of applause when this was announced. That applause died away to a dribble when another panelist, an African-American, looked at the man and said, “Yeah, but when you got to the other side of that bridge, were you still white?”

Rude as it may sound to say that to someone who risked life and limb to participate in a march that ended in such horrific bloodshed and violence, the point was that at the end of that march, this particular marcher could have gone into a nearby store for food or medical supplies and been helped. No one would have told him to use the “colored” entrance, no one would have said to him that he couldn’t be served because of the hue of his skin. Once he left that march, he was again a white man with all the privileges attendant on that designation in the south in 1965.
Most of America would like to think we’ve moved way beyond that world and into a world that some persist in calling “post racial” despite all evidence to the contrary. And my, oh my, is there ever evidence to the contrary. We’ve probably all seen the statistics by now. One hundred percent of the times a police dog was used by Ferguson police, it was against African-Americans, including once against an unarmed 14 year old. I have to assume that Ferguson never got the message about how ugly it looked to use police dogs inappropriately. Maybe they should review some of that footage from Selma.
In Ferguson, a community that is 67% African-American, 85% of vehicle stops, 93% of arrests, and 88% of use of force involved African-Americans. Top that off with the fact that being black made you almost 100% more likely to spend more than two days in jail for any given offense and you can see where blacks might be just a bit paranoid about their police.
And these statistics just keep getting worse. Despite the fact that black drivers were stopped and searched exponentially more often than white drivers, statistics show that white drivers were 27% more apt to be carrying contraband. But you wouldn’t want to stop and frisk white drivers based on that because, after all, that would be profiling and you wouldn’t want to be accused of doing that… at least, not if it involved white citizens.
Perhaps the one thing that blew my mind more than anything else is the fact that Ferguson actually has a law that allowed the police to stop you for the way you were walking down the street. How is that even tangentially constitutional? And are there videos somewhere that you could watch to alert you to the wrong way to walk down the street? Or was simply being black considered the wrong way? 
I wish I could say I can relate to this in some way but honestly, I’m an old white lady and so I simply can’t. For the most part, except for some early youthful experiments in social protest during the sixties, the police are a group I have always viewed as honorable professionals who have my best interests and safety in mind.  I am not frightened or concerned when I see them. I am, in fact, mostly comforted by their presence since for me it indicates safety. So trying to put myself in the shoes of people of color, whether black, brown or some variation in between, is almost impossible. The idea of seeing the police as scary or oppressive faded with the fading of my protest days, and it honestly wasn’t all that strong then.
I still believe, or at least I want to believe, that most cops are better than the examples we are seeing in Ferguson and places like it. I want to believe that in the majority of this country, all our citizens enjoy equal protection. But every time another unarmed young black man is killed by police, it becomes harder and harder to keep that belief alive.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:30 AM •
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How much of a life do you have to NOT have if you plan to actually read 55,000 pages of e-mails from Hillary Clinton? The very thought makes my head ache. My sympathy to the reporters, print and otherwise, who will actually have to plow through them. I’m guessing that the majority will be about such mundane matters that within hours of starting to review them, you’ll want to run screaming from the room. But you can’t. You must persist. Such is the way democracies survive.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Don’t forget to get your tickets for the Bird TLC auction on April 11. And if you don’t want to have to get dressed and put on makeup and drive somewhere, you can always just go to birdtlc.net and give us money. Remember, we’re the organization that puts the “non” into non-profit.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 07:26 AM •
Monday, March 09, 2015
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Can you guess which of these pictures comes from Atlantic City, New Jersey and which come from Anchorage, Alaska?  What a weird winter.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:36 AM •
Sunday, March 08, 2015
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She was sweet and loving and followed me around like a shadow until her great big wonderful heart could no longer contain her spirit. And so I let her go over the Rainbow Bridge to a place where she can breathe with ease, run with the wind and never be in pain again.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:10 AM •
Saturday, March 07, 2015

When I was a kid, my Aunt Adeline had a magic ring. We’d get to her house for a visit and she would rub the ring and intone, “Magic, magic, make chocolate appear”. She’d then point to a drawer and sure enough, when we opened it there was a (usually Hershey’s) chocolate bar siting in it. We bought this act long after we should have figured out that she was putting the chocolate there before we arrived. We bought it despite the fact that sometimes the chocolate was already opened and half eaten. We bought it for as long as we could carry out the charade because at the end of the rainbow was a chocolate bar. Why mess with a good thing.
I think this is how Fox News viewers watch Fox. They know it’s all an act. They know it’s not true. They know Fox is simply catering to what they already believe. And they maintain the charade because at the end of the day, they have a chocolate bar that confirms all their already deeply held beliefs and suspicions. Truth is not even part of the equation. Their chocolate bar is the confirmation of what they already believe to be true even if all facts clearly show it’s not.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:40 AM •
Friday, March 06, 2015
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:18 AM •
Thursday, March 05, 2015

A report from an Alaskan village last week detailed a violent incident that included a man shooting four bullets into the wall next to where his sister was standing. She has two children who he also threatened. Here’s the relevant paragraph, “Jennings then held a .40-caliber handgun to the man’s head and threatened to kill him, troopers said. Jennings turned the gun on another occupant of the house, his sister, and told her he’d kill her and her two children if she called law enforcement, troopers said. Before he, Kelly and Jimmy fled, Jennings fired four rounds. The bullets struck a wall near his sister.”

When I first read this, I shook my head, thought to myself that it was business as usual since alcohol was involved and moved on to Dear Amy. But then something stopped me and I went back and read the story again. It seems as though TV has so habituated me to the idea that people get shot at all the time, shrug it off and just go have a cup of coffee when it’s over, that I had to make a conscious effort to realize this wasn’t TV. This woman wasn’t going to be able to just shrug it off anymore than any of us could. Think about standing there terrified while your brother shoots a gun towards you and there is nothing you can do but remain frozen with fear.
You don’t just walk away from that moment unchanged. You don’t just forget it and continue exchanging witty banter with your team. It sears into your soul with a force beyond description. It’s one reason why so many of our villagers suffer from PTSD.
In this particular case, the woman’s children were also threatened by, of all people, their uncle. The biggest threat my Uncle Joe ever made to me was that if I ran barefoot through the house one more time without putting slippers on, I’d truly regret it. I never thought that threat came with any real potential for violence. He was my uncle. He was a person I ran to for safety, not away from in fear.
This incident once again brings up the potential terror of life in a village where public safety is not always available but store bought or homemade hooch almost always is. It brings to the forefront the feelings of total helplessness felt when your very life is threatened by someone who should be protecting you. It makes the causes of continued village dysfunction stand out in stark relief. If this woman’s children were either in the house when the incident happened or have heard the threats made, then they too are now proceeding along the path to lifelong PTSD problems.
Common sense tells us it is always easier to prevent this problem than correct it after it becomes part of a person’s emotional baggage. But common sense boggles at the thought of trying to come up with a solution that includes prevention and treatment at a cost society is willing to pay. The fact that society will eventually pay one way or the other is a hard sell. We are a people famous for putting off until tomorrow anything that isn’t really causing us discomfort today. Think about America’s crumbling infrastructure if you have any doubts about that.
The start for any solution to this level of violence and dysfunction bleeding down through generations can only come from those people who are still healthy within these villages. Solutions brought in from the outside are always going to be expensive, dependent on yearly funding that may or may not materialize, and are not necessarily very culturally relevant. All of which is a succinct explanation as to why, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into social services and counseling programs over the years, we still have what seems like insurmountable problems of violence in our villages. And for each generation that grows up with some level of PTSD as part of their emotional heritage, the prospects for a healthier and happier future grow dimmer and dimmer.
We can’t enforce a healthy way of life on anybody. We should do all we can to support their efforts towards that goal. But first, they have to make that effort and that means taking a stand about what will and won’t be tolerated in their own communities. The healing has to start at home.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:17 AM •
Wednesday, March 04, 2015

So I’m in bed asleep and I hear barking that eventually wakes me up. I come too enough to figure out that the barking is coming from downstairs. But a quick count of bodies shows me that I have my two faithful companions in bed with me and the sound of their sister’s snoring in her bed nearby is loud and clear. How, I think in my sleepy fog, did another dog get into my house. I sit up and listen more closely while looking at the clock. It’s 8 AM. My parrots are up downstairs and one of them… Abdul… decided apparently that if I didn’t wake up when he kept calling out “Good Morning”, he’d try barking instead. Clearly it worked.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:21 AM •
Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Is it only me or do others think that the big election last fall has left us with nothing more than the same old, same old. I expect more from a kindergarten class than I do from our senators and representatives. How sad and pathetic is that?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:19 AM •
Monday, March 02, 2015

I just realized how long it had been since I posted. Sorry about that. But I have a bird with a bum leg and I’ve spent most of the past few days hand feeding her since she can’t hold the food with one foot while standing on the other. Today we go to the vet. Wish us luck!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 10:25 AM •
Friday, February 27, 2015

I keep telling them this is a false spring and they should stop budding but they won’t. They are going to be so disappointed when it snows again. And it will. It will snow just enough to make our real spring another bloody horror of wet mud breakup and icy driveways because going through that once a year is just not enough.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:47 AM •
Thursday, February 26, 2015

I was more than a little surprised at the reaction to last week’s column citing the survey showing Alaska to be the most violent state in the union. The most amazing reaction came from the person who claimed it was a liberal survey meant to pave the way for taking our guns. Considering guns were not even mentioned in the piece, I’m not sure where that came from. Also, the survey was done by the FBI, not a group known for being a bastion of liberal thought.

Then there were the people who claimed that no survey probably ever existed since I didn’t quote extensively from it. They apparently are unable to find the referenced survey, so let me do it for them. According to the statistics published by the FBI, Alaska has a rate of 602.6 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 people. Some readers claimed we’re number one only because we have such a small population. They apparently feel that the number looms much larger than it would in a bigger population. But given it was based on a “per 100,000” basis, the statistic holds up. Chicago may have more murders but with their higher population, it works out to a lower number per 100,000. And if you can’t understand that math or those statistics, you should go back to your high school and demand a refund on your diploma.
Perhaps most disturbing were the people who simply denied that Alaska was a violent place because they felt safe here. I’m sure they do. So do I for the most part. And this is probably why another survey found us number one in residents feeling fulfilled and good about themselves. One does not preclude the other.  But we need to remember that these statistics on violence were not conjured out of thin air. They are based on crime statistics and are real. Theses crimes are happening to other Alaskans if not to you. And that should concern us because diminishing the quality of life for even one Alaskan diminishes it for us all. We can either do something about it before it reaches our homes or suffer the consequences.
Another survey (ADN 2/20/15) recently released and done in-state shows that over fifty percent of women in the Nome, Bristol Bay, Anchorage, Y-K Delta and Juneau census areas have suffered physical or sexual abuse or both at the hands of their intimate partner. This statistic simply backs up other surveys that consistently put Alaska at the top of the charts for domestic violence and sexual abuse. We seem to have grown so numb to this problem that the statistics don’t even faze us anymore. But think about this for a minute. In 2010, a survey was released that showed that 59 out of every 100 women in Alaska have experienced some level of violence from their intimate partner. All those people who object to Alaska’s violent reputation should probably get their heads out of the sand and look around because they know a woman who has experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
So what’s the answer to Alaska’s violence problem? It’s been studied to death. Every survey done shows us leading in all the worse statistics. Even more disheartening, we have maintained our position at the top or near the top of these statistics for decades. What has to change to make our state safer for everyone, including the most vulnerable? Given the responses to last week’s column, I’d say the first step might be convincing people these statistics are real and happening in a home very near to where they live. Because the statistical violence making us number one is less about drug deals gone bad and drunken driving that leads to massive injuries and death and more about a husband punching his wife in the privacy of their own home. It has more to do with one partner forcing himself on another partner and creating both pain, violence and fear around the very act that should bind them most intimately.
Alaska is a great state. This is why we should be so angry that these crimes are repeated over and over and over again in every neighborhood at every income level. We need to aspire to be as great as the state in which we live. And that means doing something about the violence so ubiquitous here. Step one is acknowledging it.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:11 AM •

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