Columns 2015

Take that, PETA!

Last week was one heck of a week, wasn’t it? The Affordable Care Act got upheld, marriage equality was extended to all people in this country, Obama sang Amazing Grace a capella and actually pulled it off and Bristol Plain proved the efficacy of the abstinence program she advocated for so long as they were paying her a lot of money. Yep, what a way to begin the summer.  Alaska’s fires stopped making national headlines. Our earthquake was lost in the fog of funerals. Even Donald Trump’s insane rantings couldn’t get him front page coverage in the face of such formidable other headlines.

I’m not sure what else can be said that hasn’t already been said about the happenings of the past few weeks. I feel as though all the words have been used and all the emotions exhausted on both sides of every issue. It’s summer. We’re supposed to be thinking about smoking salmon, picking berries, going outside without four layers of clothes… you know, things important to Alaskans. We have just lived through one of the most embarrassing legislative sessions ever and want nothing more than to relax and enjoy the sun and heat.

But before we leave all those headlines behind, I think that there are a few points to be made that are very specific to Alaska. First and foremost, a big shout out to all the people in Willow and surrounding areas who are helping their neighbors rebuild their lives after losing almost everything. Next a big shout out to PETA to get their attention. Alaskans mushers did not lose any dogs to the fire despite that fire being in the heart of mushing country. Most mushers made it clear they would not leave without their dogs no matter the danger to themselves. That, PETA, is what real love and devotion to your animals is all about.

And it wasn’t just the mushers. Friends and neighbors and strangers alike opened their land and hearts to our own local sports heroes and made sure the dogs had a place to be safe until the danger had passed. Once again, PETA, that’s what a real commitment to animals looks like. I’m not saying that all mushers are great or that all Alaskans are great pet owners. But most of us respect and love our animals and do what’s needed to keep them safe no matter the cost.

To all the fire fighters who came from around the country and from our own towns and villages, who risked their lives to save ours, you deserved to be in the headlines way before Donald Trump and his running mate. Oh, hadn’t you heard? He’s nominating that thing on his head as his vice presidential candidates. Don’t anger it. I understand it can be quite vindictive.

My brother spent his adult life as a volunteer fire fighter. He fought structural fires. It scared our whole family that he was one of the people running towards the fire as others ran from it. I can’t imagine the courage (or insanity, take your pick) it takes to run towards a forest fire. I mean did you see those pictures that were all over the papers and the Internet?  Positively frightening. But because of our firefighters, those flames were beaten back and the destruction from the flames contained.

You can define heroes in many ways. Some say Caitlin Jenner is a hero for publicly showing a side of society that has hidden in the shadows for millennia causing pain to those who felt different and could not express that difference. Certainly those nine people killed in South Caroline are heroes for living the Gospel of Christ that calls for peace, for turning the other cheek, for not courting violence in the house of their Lord. And all our mushers who thought first of their dogs and then of themselves are also heroes as well as their neighbors who rushed to help instead of running to safety. And every firefighter who put their lives on the line for us, who deliberately walked towards those blazing infernos are heroes.

You don’t have to make headlines to be a hero. Everyday heroes are all around us. And in Alaska, we seem to be blessed with a super abundance of them. Way to go, Alaskans. Thanks for making me even prouder to call this state my home.