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Posts Tagged ‘Democrat’

A phenomenon unique to Fairbanks, at least in my experience, is the hand held street corner sign. It isn’t rare to see the sign bearers out in every Fairbanks’ season; braving the ice fog throughout our 8 months of winter, dodging splashes from passing cars during the 1 soggy week of breakup (commonly referred to as spring by outsiders), basking in the continuous daylight over the next 2 months of our precious summer, and finally waving politely to all the armed hunters during that 1 golden week of fall. (I know, there are least six weeks of the year missing, rumor has it they are hiding out somewhere between fall and spring.) Year after year, the sign bearers are out there, lobbying for car dealerships, furniture stores, or the long overlooked issue of jury rights.

Before I go any further, it is worth noting something about these sign bearers. Local Fairbanksans already know this, but for the benefit of all you outsiders, the summertime sign bearers are certifiable. Insane. Anybody Alaskan that would waste a seconds time during the summer standing on a street corner breathing exhaust fumes from the only people left in town, tourists, has got serious priority issues. Winter sign bearers make more sense. Not much, but some. At 20 below, there isn’t a whole lot to do, so why not stand around on a street corner breathing exhaust fumes, at least they are local.

In recent years, the most prominent sign bearers have been anti-war protesters and their counterparts, the pro-war protesters. Personally, I sympathize with the anti-war movement. It generally makes sense to protest death and destruction. On the other hand, I have a hard time taking on the viewpoint of the pro-war camp.

I mean, what are they yelling at passers-by?

“More casualties, yea!!!”

“10 more dead, yea!!!”

“Children left fatherless (or motherless), yea!!!”

“Saddam hung by the neck until dead, see it on you-tube, yea!!!”

“No end in site, yea!!!”

“Tour extended 6 more months, yea!!!”

Haliburton gets billions more in no-bid contracts, yea!!!”

But they are out there cheering, none the less. Go figure.

This year promises to give us some new signs, and maybe some new sign bearers. Like the hot air that blows in from Juneau and Washington, these signs and their bearers make their most notable appearances during election years. And if you hadn’t noticed, this is one of those years.

Already, we’ve been seeing Ron Paul supporters picketing for months. They’ve been all over the Cushman Street Bridge, before some even knew who Ron Paul was, and those were Republicans. Just for the record, Ron Paul is a perfect fit for the libertarian/Alaska Independence Party mindset of many in Fairbanks. He may even have some sway with the far left, if for no other reason than his anti-war stance.

Personally, I view the political spectrum as more of a circle than a line.  Maybe a sphere, like the earth. You can only go so far west before you end up in the east, and vice versa. If you go far enough to the right, pretty soon you will find yourself hanging out with the far left. So, somewhere between the far west and the far east, you might find Ron Paul. And for those of you looking at a globe, that’s pretty close to Alaska.

Last week, as I was heading home, there was a large group of the sign bearers gathered around the intersection of 3rd and the Steese. There were signs for the constitution re-writing Huckabee, maybe a Romney sign or two, a plethora of Ron Paul signs, children forced to prostate themselves by packing signs for the presidential candidate of their parents’ choice (also Ron Paul), and maybe one or two of those ‘other’ Republican candidates. I didn’t see any McCain, which would probably be the only Republican I would consider (however briefly) a vote for.

The Democratic candidates, oddly enough, weren’t represented at all at this gathering of picketers. This could be a sign of several things. One, Democrats may realize spending time or money promoting a candidate in Alaska is a waste of time. We have too few electoral votes and the likelihood of the state swaying from the recent trend of Republican voting is, well, unlikely. Two, that liberals are smarter than conservatives and know that standing on a street corner in the cold won’t sway any informed voters, and all the uniformed ones are voting Republican anyways. A recent study provides evidence of this difference in intelligence. Of course, it is based on SCIENCE so it undoubtedly has a liberal bias and should, and will, be ignored by the conservative faithful. Thanks to “daranee” for pointing that study out to me.

Oddly enough, if you go back a little ways in Alaska history it was a Democratic state, around the time when the state constitution was written, at least from what I understand of Alaska’s political history. I wonder if that is why the radical conservatives dislike the state’s constitution so much. So far it has worked well, keeping them in their own bed, though often alongside an oilman (or women, I didn’t mean to indicate any same-sex hankypanky going on here by our moral leaders), and out of the private citizens’ beds. But, I do wonder how long that will last.

Which returns me to this post, and how long it will last, given its tendency to stray from the subject. Not much further, I promise.

Despite the jests above, I enjoy most of the sign bearers and their signs. Protest and political activism is alive and well in Fairbanks. They create a lively, interactive, personable street presence that we don’t often have in Fairbanks.

However, I do wonder why we see such a stronger street side presence of conservative picketers than liberal ones. I would venture that, in general, liberals have more of a live and let live attitude. As long as someone is not hurting someone else, literally, then they should be allowed freedom of opinion and action. On the flip side, conservatives are more dogmatic. They believe there is a right and a wrong, and not much gray matter in between (their ears, I say). Sorry, that was uncalled for. But seriously, when an individual or group believes they are right, and that there is only one right choice, it places them in a position where they are more likely to impose their will on others, because, for God’s sake, they are right.

Which takes us back to Ron Paul. By no means am I an expert on his platform, but it would appear his views of the Constitution would be described as constructivist. In Fairbanks, that interprets into the libertarian ideal that the government mind its own business. Which is where I wonder if there isn’t something of a conservative hypocrisy in dealing with constitutional matters, say where property rights are treated as sacred, but a person’s right to privacy in their own life is not. For example, do what you will with your property regardless of what damage it does to the community (safety, property values, aesthetics, environmental damage, etc), but by God don’t think about getting married to your partner if you happen to be of the same sex. (Or the same class of animals we commonly refer to as mammals, as some fear.)

It will be an interesting year to watch the sign bearers, and watch the morphing of the groups and signs as the primaries end and the race heats up. I expect there will be Democrats and Republicans on opposing corners in a few months, likely some of the same anti-war and pro-war people we’ve been experiencing for too many years now will be back. Wouldn’t it be funny to have anti-war Republicans and Democrats bearing signs against the pro-war, well, Republicans.

As to the folly of standing on a corner promoting your candidate, I hope after the debacle of our current president people are taking a better look at the candidates than can be considered in a 5 second drive by, 60 seconds if you catch the light at the wrong time. Hopefully there is a desire from members of both parties to look for a spark of intelligence in a candidates eyes instead of a folksy down home apparition. To that end, we’ll all benefit regardless of what party ends up in the White House.

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Last summer (summer of 2007), in the midst of a run of casualties suffered by Alaska based troops, I happened to travel to Anchorage on a business trip. During that time period it was fairly common for me to go from Fairbanks to Anchorage and back home again in a days time, catching the 6:00am flight down (to Anchorage) and an afternoon or evening flight home to Fairbanks. The meetings and trip down were uneventful, I can’t even recall now what the meetings were for. The return flight proved eventful, putting an exclamation point on an otherwise forgettable day.

I had come to dread the flights back and forth, yet cherished them as well. Over a course of time, and repeated flights, I had started feeling like I’d used all my ‘lucky’ flights up. On those days, I would lay in bed until I had overcome my phobia, then quietly get out bed, and head on out to Fairbanks International to catch the 6:00am early flight. What I enjoyed about the flights was the quiet time. That is, time without phones, children, spouse, or co-workers breaking into my thought process. It was an opportunity to write in my journal, to ponder the future, to read, and yes, to nap. Especially nap.

This day was no different. I checked in, headed down the familiar concourse of the Anchorage airport, to the familiar Alaska Airlines gate and on to the airplane. I took my seat, and started resting my eyes, reflecting on life, work, and how much I would like to nod off before the plane got off the ground.

Soon we pulled away from the gate, and began to make our way across the tarmac to the runway. Suddenly, the airplane stopped. Not unusual, though not a typical stopping point either.

A couple minutes later the Captain came onto the speaker and announced that one of the recently fallen soldiers based out of Fort Richardson would be passing by the plane on the left side in their motorcade. He requested our silence, though needlessly. The plane had suddenly taken on the solemness of a funeral, and rightly so.

Fortunately I was seated on the left side of the plan, by the window. I was able to observe the procession as it crept by. Other passengers unbuckled and looked over the window passenger’s shoulders, anxious to pay thanks to the returning soldier. Throughout this time, not a word was spoken nor a sound made.

For a moment everyone on that plane ceased to be Republican, Democrat, pro-war or anti-war; we were all Americans. It is one of the few times after the weeks following 9/11 I’ve felt this way.

As the motorcade passed, passengers returned to their seats. People began to murmur quietly to each other, clearly affected by the flag draped coffin as it had passed.

Eventually, someone in the plane began to clap. It is one of the most bizarre instances of applause I will ever witness, or participate in. Soon, everyone was clapping. It wasn’t the raucous cheering at a baseball game, or the polite tap-tap after a mediocre performance. The applause was brief, subdued, but intense and heartfelt.

It was nothing less that a communal sharing of grief, and of thanks. Everyone on that plane, though we could or did not exchange hugs or glances, shared that moment; the grief, the pride, the anger, and sorrow of a life ending too soon.

I think often of that solider, and that plane full of people. Every time I pickup the newspaper or check the news online and see more casualties. Sometimes I consider looking up his or her name, getting to know who he/she was, who they left behind. But I don’t.

Personally, I think it is because I like to picture each casualty I hear about as that young man or woman, moving slowly by, forever still beneath the flag. It makes each new death more tangible, more personable, more than a number or name in a paper that is easily tossed out with the daily trash. I fear if this soldier were to lose his/her anonymity, I would lose my ability to transpose that experience.

Then again, it may be as simple as me wanting to avoid feeling the sadness of death, more than I already do. And I know as deeply as it has moved me, what I feel is incomparable to the grief felt by his or her loved ones. What could I possibly do to comfort them?

I know that experience, and the honor and gratitude expressed by everyone on that plane, was possible because someone stood up to the president and insisted that the soldiers be brought home with respect and dignity, not under the cover of darkness. I am grateful to them for giving me that experience.

But mostly I’m grateful to that young man or woman, a fallen soldier, who gave something none of us will ever be able to return to him or her.

Last, I would encourage anyone who has an opportunity to observe the motorcade of a returning fallen soldier, please take the time to do so. It will put your daily worries in their proper perspective, and provide a chance to bond with strangers, your fellow Americans.

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