So wet and rainy the last few weeks in Sitka, Jan and I beat feet out of town. I'm typing this from the 35th floor of a hotel in Las Vegas. We are going to meet young son Finn and his lovely woman Emily here tonight. He turns 26 on Wednesday and we are going to go to see as many comedians as we can. More about Vegas next time.
I need some laughs. The days have been particularly dark, and when night comes it seems like it just sucks the light right out of our car headlights while we drive the road home... some sort of supernatural darkness created by the rain and the December tilt of the earth. It happens every year and every year it surprises me. I don't even mind it that much, I'm prone to darkness, as you know, it just surprises me when it comes around.
All the news surprises me as well. The elections, and people, as we travel asking me about the elections in Alaska. What does it mean? Who is this new Governor you elected? Who is this new Senator? What does it mean?
"We will have to wait and see." I tell them. "Almost everything depends on the price of oil, it's down now, but who knows for how long?" Mark Begich our Senator lost, and may be the last Democrat we see in the senate from Alaska for a while. His vote passed Obamacare some say, but his vote also scuttled the gun reform bill. He was for opening up the Arctic Refuge like a gutted fish.
Bill Walker, was a Republican, ran as an Independent was embraced by the Democrats mostly because he could beat the Republican incumbent and he wanted to extend the Federal funding of Obamacare to the poor of Alaska, and he won. Labels don't mean much in Alaskan politics. Guns, Oil and Money matter in Alaska.
"Fungible" is a fun word. I like it. It means how a commodity can flow through various markets easily by being swapped for equal units of other commodities: water: for hydro power: for oil: for money, ect... It depends on comparing comparable worth. In Alaska we are dependent on forces beyond our control, we puff and we blow like a big bad wolf but we are still in many ways a colonial entity, trying to act like we are the boss.
In the world economy who is the boss? Of course real power too, is fungible. The argument goes that there is becoming a ruling elite of wealth, but in Alaska who is that ruling elite? Elections on substantial issues are won and lost by relatively small numbers. Is money really deciding these elections? Enormous amounts of money are spent on advertising but is that money effective in such a small market as Alaska? I don't know. Ask me again, if Don Young gets elected next time.
Power is fungible, power when thwarted can expresses itself as rage and racism. Here is where guns come into the equation. When individuals try to equalize, face the rage in themselves or in a community, they turn to their guns. Guns make individuals feel powerful. In the wild west they called the six gun "the old equalizer". Gun people take this as an article of faith, their right to carry a gun protects them from the excesses of Government, but what happens when Government agents use guns against the people in difficult, trying circumstances? Here again is another question that became horribly complicated in the news these last few weeks.
I have no idea what happened at the shooting in Ferguson. It is clear to me from as far away as Alaska however that there is a breakdown of trust between the races in Ferguson both before, during, and after that shooting. I hate to say it but the normal institutions, the grand jury, the local police, the DA's office, were destined to fail, unless they had had some kind of awakening since the shooting. They needed outside help on this one. They needed a special investigations unit and a special prosecutor. They needed community supports as well as an impartial outsider to make a clear eyed judgement that the community could look at together and accept.
Guns, power, the death of a young black man, and the life of a white police officer: money and politics, the cost of oil and the future of a wild and beautiful state: all of this flows through the fungibility of power and the complex determination of the equality of people and things.
How do we know that 1 + 1 = 2 ? We have to agree on it. That's the hard part of the equation.
Clouds in the desert
distant sirens, blue lights flash
thirty stories down.