Columns 2006

Alice through the looking glass?

I’d been out of town for a few weeks so you can imagine my reaction when I returned and scanned the headlines of the papers that had piled up while I was gone.  I felt like Alice falling through the looking glass.  The Alaska State Legislature is going to be led by a bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans.  That and a falling sky are the two sure signs of the Apocalypse if I remember my Bible studies class correctly.

For a moment I thought maybe my misspent youth in the sixties was catching up with me and some time bomb that had been left behind in my body had finally exploded into a late life psychedelic trip.  Otherwise how to explain the fact that there is every chance in the world that, if only for a short span of time, Alaska politicians will actually lead America in trying to find the middle where most of us live while giving us the kind of government all our high school civics classes led us to expect as our right.

I say this may only last for a short span of time because, to be very honest, I find few people who have a good feeling that this coalition will make it beyond the first thirty days of the session.  There are some I speak to who are unwilling to make book that it will last for the first thirty hours. And then, of course, there are always those diehard cynics who think thirty minutes is longer than the center will hold.

Call me Pollyanna but I’m hoping it goes the distance, or at least a good part of it. Because honestly, more than just about anything else in government right now, we need people working together.  I know I’m not alone in being sick and tired of the politics of division and distrust that seems to be the only politics available today.

I expect we usually get the politics and politicians we deserve. But I seriously doubt we have been so bad for so long that we have deserved the pandering, self-serving, morally righteous while personally repugnant politicians that seem to have filled our public airwaves the past twenty years.  Too often the people who have held themselves out as our leaders have turned out to be reprehensible scumbags in reality.

Think Bill Clinton and cigars. Think Mark Foley and e-mail.  Think any number of religious leaders from the left and right whose private morals would make a dog blush.  Think of the cynical way these people must have viewed us to assume that they could blather and bleat about what was morally right and good for this country while keeping their dirty little secrets.

Their greatest sin of all, to my mind, was to rule this country through division and distrust.  Instead of uniting us, they strove to point out our differences and then use those differences to make one group hate another.  Simple disagreement was not allowed.

Did people from both major parties question Bush and Rumsfeld’s strategy in Iraq? Why they weren’t just questioning an easily questionable policy. No, they were cut and run cowards who wanted to aid and comfort the terrorists.  As though there was some strange world out there in which these people would have an advantage if the terrorists won.

And now, here in Alaska, in my very own wonderful state, the first steps are being taken to close that divide and bring people together to work towards the common good. Why, it’s as if our politicians have actually read and understood not only the Alaska constitution but the US Constitution as well.

No, I’m not Alice and I didn’t fall through the looking glass. And I’m not Pollyanna either. I know that people will inevitably disagree on how to get there from here in the best way possible for this state. But by coming together for the good of the state, I believe that our legislators are at least acknowledging the legitimacy of varying viewpoints without the need to ascribe evil motives to those who disagree with them.

Considering the political landscape of this great country right now, that’s the best sign of hope I’ve seen in a long, long time. And it’s coming from my very own legislature. Who’d have ever guessed?