Sarah Palin is America's real Bridge to Nowhere

Posted: Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm sitting on my bearskin chair beside the stove, in Kotzebue, while outside the ocean freezes over. Inside I have 49 things to say to you, America.

I'm an Alaskan - born in an igloo, enjoy whale muktuk, all that - and in case you aren't sick of our state by now, I'll start with an apology for one of our residents: Sarah Palin.

We Alaskans are not generally so magazine-pretty like her, nor are we so confrontational and vapid. Most of us don't have peachy cheeks - we have sunburn, windburn, frostbite. Our fingernails are dirty from actually gutting moose, our hands chapped from picking thousands of salmon, not holding one up for the camera.

Having said that, here in Alaska we are accustomed to getting jobs we're not qualified to fill. In our far-flung villages and towns we have big money surrounded by big wilderness; the combination causes warped career opportunities. Sort of an Edge of Nowhere phenomenon - cousin to the Bridge to Nowhere one.

For example, in the village closest where I was raised, I remember standing in my friend's cabin when his dad got a call: "People are writing you in for mayor."

"Nope!" my friend's dad said. "Tell 'em no, I ain't doing that." He peered out at his generator, idling rough, an extension cord running under his door, to power a rerun of "Dukes of Hazard."

If he'd lived in Wasilla 25 years later, he could have responded, "Call Sarah, she'll want it."

Similar stories abound. Jimmy: who got the dogcatcher job by telling the interviewer, "I can shoot a shotgun, .30-06, .308..." Or my friend Ian, who this summer worked with computers, until he was named CEO of a $45 million corporation.

Tougher in Alaska? Not necessarily. Here you can be dogcatcher, city planner, governor, with little or no experience. That's one beauty of our state, although, often the only thing keeping it all working is money.

Sitting on this worn-to-the-hide bearskin chair, scribbling, I glance at an old newspaper before I stuff it in the stove. Lo! There's another photo of Palin; she's sitting in a glass office, with a bearskin, too, draped across her expensive couch. Palin's wearing heels. The bear's wearing a fake head. In the foreground crouches something with pincers - a taxidermied king crab!

I'll have to show this crab photo to my Eskimo friends I grew up with. We never contemplated such wanton unAlaskanness. Why not eat the damn thing? We ate this bear I'm sitting on, including the paws and jaw and fat.

By now the world knows Palin is an expert at swishing around, color coordinated, with her makeup and mooseburger and mean-spirited commentary. We can only hope people realize she's a pretty atypical Alaskan, one who is simply skimming the gravy off our hard-earned Alaskan mystique to mix with her varnished nonsense.

Here where global warming is melting our world regardless of Palin's lone charge against reality, her alleged appeal leaves many of us cold. With long winters and tough trails, we still value a beaver hat and common sense more than high heels and fancy clothes. We don't want another leader less intelligent than we are.

Eight years with the cowboy and copilot Halliburton has been hard on our land. Too much polluting, an unnecessary war, and both men too cool for global warming. We can't afford to turn now to a beauty contestant and an old guy acting like he's run the Iditarod too many times without winning.

Come on, people. Our polar ice is melting. Your jobs are turning to dust. Everyone's bank statements are on the verge of being firestarter.

John McCain's answers to these problems? Heck, I honestly don't know what he stands for this week. But his running mate, we've heard her answers: She's already sued the polar bears, now she's chanting, "Drill, baby, drill!"

Wake up, folks. Palin is America's bridge to nowhere.

From up here in the Arctic - not left or right but north of the campaign trail - the reality is clear and cold: When McCain chose Palin he wrote America out of his will. It's time for us to write him out of our future.

• Seth Kantner was born and raised in the Arctic and is a commercial fisherman in Alaska's northernmost salmon fishery. He is the author of Shopping for Porcupine and the bestselling novel Ordinary Wolves.

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