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March 11, 2013: Expatriates

I have this theory that many who live in Alaska are what I call “American Expatriates.” They weren’t happy where they were living, so they elected to live elsewhere. These individuals might have elected to live in Italy, Paris, or France, but didn’t, and for two reasons: The first was that they couldn’t handle having to learn another language. And the second was that they had no interest in living in a place where the majority of the conversations centered around literature, art, and culture.

Instead, they came to this place, where most everyone, with the exception of Natives (who they say are “out there,” in villages), speak English. And most came

here with the belief that they would finally be able to do those things that they were not allowed to do in the Lower 48. Their lengthy list includes using motorized vehicles to make trails where trails ought not exist, and dumping trash where it ought not go. Using guns in an indiscriminate fashion is also high up there in terms of priorities. Furthermore, the expatriates were secure in their belief that because this is such a large state, that no one would ever call them on any of this.

For a while, the expatriates had a leader. This was Sarah Palin who was their supposed moral guide. Rough, tough, and rugged, she epitomized the current Alaska spirit. Her rationale (and that of her followers) was, and still prevails – the word Alaska is synonymous with the word freedom, so I can do whatever I want. The very worst are the long-time expatriates, who fail to understand that for the wellbeing of the immediate environs, that population surges and laws must go hand-in-hand. Furthermore, they assert that laws (which are enacted by Big Government) are unfairly being forced upon them.

There are still others who see Alaska as a place that is ripe for large-scale resource development. This is an offshoot of the boom and bust economy, a factor that figures into a country’s being resource-rich. Making as much money as one can, that’s what living here is all about.

I am, of course, an expatriate, but of a differing kind than the above-mentioned. Like many, I was motivated to move here because I had strong environmental leanings. Yes, I wanted to live in a place in which was the antithesis of where I grew up – Rochester, New York. This was a blue collar town, then populated by those who worked for Eastman Kodak, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb, and the like. The local expressway was called The Can of Worms and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper routinely ran a photo feature called “The Pothole of the Week.” Not for me, I decided.

A long story short. I made my way here, mainly via bicycle. I took numerous jobs. I moved to the Interior, left, and later returned, settling in Southcentral Alaska. I presumed that I’d be living amidst people who wished to protect this area. I presumed wrong. The minority are concerned about things like habitat management, green infrastructure, and trails management. There is most decidedly an “it’s all about me” attitude here.

It pains me to see what’s happening here on a local level because I know what’s going on here is also going on at a state-wide level. I have to call it what it is – land rape. A case in point – The local borough assembly recently voted 6-1 to allow the use of weaponry in the nearby Jim Creek Parcel. (The one dissenting vote belonged to Assemblyman Warren Keogh, who represents District 1, where ironically, the parcel is located.)

And so this area is going to remain what it’s become – a quasi-war zone. Some have been calling it a playground, but this is not an apt enough descriptor. Real playgrounds are not dangerous This war zone is most decidedly a very dangerous place. The area is going to remain unsafe for those like me, who are silent sport users. I’m not going to horseback ride there, for I’d be taking my own and my horse’s life in hand.

The sad state of affairs here in Alaska has me waffling. (And by waffling, I’m referring to going back and forth rather than eat at I-Hop, which is an anti-gay restaurant chain.) I sometimes think I should throw up my hands and move back to the east coast, where I’d be likely to spend my remaining days as a driver, dodging potholes. And I sometimes think that I should plant my feet, and remain here, where I’d be likely to spend my remaining days as a horseback rider, dodging bullets. This is a tough call. However it’s one that I obviously have to consider.

Next: 71. 3/12/13: Wind, Again