When I read, and watched, the remarks Sarah Palin made about rural issues to the Kyle Hopkinns of the Anchorage Daily News, I nearly punched the screen. I had to leave my laptop and go fume for many, many hours - talking (venting) with my parents and grandmother and even brother - before I could return and be relatively sure I would not toss my innocent little laptop into the snow for being the bearer of bad news. Even then I couldn't trust myself to post without liberal use of curse words, which I usually try to avoid.
What got me into this murderous, computer-killing rage? Please read Mudflats and The Immoral Minority for more detail, but let me try and summarize some of Ms. Palin's points as she answered questions:
- Palin thinks youth need to consider leaving the villages.
This one is what really infuriated me. The Native people of Alaska have been fighting and fighting for generations to ensure rural communities thrive, thinking up solutions to get especially the young people to stay and contribute to the community. The boarding school times in which young people left "for a short time" were some of the most devastating to these communities. Did we learn nothing about what this kind of thinking leads to? Is there no thought to a real future? Palin shows a lack of the study of Alaskan and American history. So much time and energy trying to salvage these towns and villages from social and economic collapse, and the governor of our state can sweep them aside with one ignorant comment.
What these communities need is infrastructure, jobs in the communities themselves. Ironically, I just got a look at the Indian country provisions in the stimulus bill, and was thinking how forward we've come in our look at what Native communities really need. Maia of Own the Sidewalk forwarded me a link to a National Congress of American Indians page devoted to the Indian country provisions of the stimulus bill. I haven't been talking about the stimulus package becuase the last thing anyone wants is me commenting on anything to do with money. But I was incredibly impressed with the funding set aside for Native country projects.
Basically, it's all about infrastructure in these communities. Energy projects, building projects, roads and weatherization. Things that will not only create jobs and a viable economy in the short term, but ensure a future community exists at all. I don't know about the rest of the stimulus, but in this, they've got it dead on. Why are the only solutions Palin talks about all about getting out of the community? Helping out the oil companies? She throws out something about becoming VPSO's or teachers in your own community - but how can they when the whole youth of the village is now set on leaving? There's no one left to police or teach.
- Palin's reminder to villages: We're in a cash-based society now.
Does she think the village people are trading beads? Seriously, the amount of times Palin talks down to rural people in these remarks is nauseating. Attention Palin: The people of rural Alaska are INCREDIBLY aware that we are living in a cash-based society! My guess is more aware than Palin. What little money is trickling in has not been spent on Neiman Marcus clothing and $60 phone calls. THERE IS NO INFRASTRUCTURE = THERE ARE NO JOBS.
Regardless of the governor's solution to have the youth leave and find jobs, maybe even a better solution is to get the state working on a viable plan of creating jobs in the community. If we had a little leadership, Alaska could be the most forward, technological marvel of how to get both energy solutions and indigenous populations working to better, not only the state, but the nation. The resources out in rural Alaska are incredible, and instead of promoting that, we are currently squandering it and giving it away. In this case, the human resources are being encouraged to leave.
- As our leader, Palin is not going to make an example of what to do in this situation.
This comes right after she's chastised the leadership of these communities to do a better job of making an example of themselves. The inability of this governor to not practice what she preach continues to astound me. Why invite all these reporters to see you off, handing out food, if it's not to show them how "you" are helping? The only possible wayI can read this is, "I didn't do anything, so don't ask."
- Palin learned about this situation from the media, not from actually listening to the people of her state.
I will say it again - this problem did not just spring up six weeks ago. Not only has this been generations in the making, the whole last year Native leaders, state leaders, corporations, people in the communities have been speaking out, warning about this, and even asking for help before it "hit the web." I've posted this before, but I want to reiterate how far in advance the governor had to prepare for this, and did nothing:
In May, the Bristol Bay Times reported on rural residents calling for emergency relief and to declare an energy diaster.
In early August, the Anchorage Daily News reported prominent Native leaders directly talking to Paling about these problems, and the solutions that including building infrasctructure.
In early August, even USA Today noticed the problem and reported on it, referencing data showing just how bad it could get from a study done in May.
In late August, Sen. Murkowksi held a meeting about the crisis, and urged residents to stay in their communities (report by ADN).
"I urge you not to give up your way of life, your culture and your connection to the land and move into urban areas. We will find a creative way to beat this," she told Bethel residents...
In September, Sen. Begich (then Mayor) and Anchorage School Superintendent sent a letter to Palin (from ADN) regarding the migration from villages to the city due to high energy costs. Palin refuted high energy costs had anything to do with it, later.
In October, Native leaders continued their call for an energy emergency declared at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention (reported by the ADN). Of course, Palin was busy campaigning and may not have noticed.
In November, Indian Country Today did a story highlighting the Alaska Federation of Natives resolution to the energy crisis and village migration, as well as the incredibly poor response from Palin.
In late December, Indian Country Today reported on the dismal reaction of the Palin administration energy crisis, focusing on the rural subcabinet formed.
"The Rural Subcabinet formed by Governor Sarah Palin in response to what many consider a crisis in rural Alaska has reportedly met, but specific information about their activities has been difficult to find..." "The group has no fixed meeting time and the date of their next meeting is unknown." "...As of Dec. 8, the AFN had apparently heard nothing about actions or meetings of the subcabinet..."
Of course, this is only in recent months. This stuff goes back years, as far as addressing the real problems. Not to mention the other villages that have had true emergencies, including Adak. Once again, I point to the Alaska Native Commission Report done in the 90's that point out both problem and solution. Palin should think about reading it.
- Palin blames the villages for the probem, not the policies, restrictions and initiatives she can do anything about. So don't ask.
After stewing all night, I woke up this morning to a phone call from Celtic Diva. She and Mudflats pointed to an article in the Alaska Dispatch, praising Palin for "speaking from the heart" and being "thoughtful" about solutions for the communities.
You can only be thoughtful if you've met with the people from the communities and listened to them. Palin is calling for a change in leadership - with who? What are these leaders doing wrong? Who are they? When has she talked to them? And she gave NO solutions except to say these youth should think about leaving. So the solution is "leave the village"? She can't be a spark to "real dialogue" when she's never taken part in a dialogue! The dialogue has been going on, but Palin doesn't care to be part of it.
The article was also preemptively defensive about the race card being thrown at Palin. As if Palin needs to be a racist to make ignorant remarks about the state of rural Alaska. Personally, I believe Palin is willing to be pretty racially equal about throwing rural Alaska under the bus. For that matter, she's screwing us all equally in her painfully obvious stab for national attention. I didn't agree with the remarks about Ted Stevens at the time (don't think the guy was racist, just wrong) and it is interesting to note that the only people to bring up racism with Palin's remarks have been the people of the Alaska Dispatch.
To be very clear - Palin's remarks aren't racist. They are ignorant of the real issues, display a willingness to decide what is right having never had the dialogue, and take us back about 50 years in the struggle to maintain thriving rural and cultural communties. But in ignorance, she's being quite equal.
Once again, Palin offered no solutions to these problems. She talks about them getting jobs, but not about training, or the availability of them. Does she think every Native youth has a father on the slope and the governor willing to write a letter of recommendation to get them that job? It's really not that easy. It also displays an incredibly poor grasp of the situation. Some of these families are paying $2,500 a month just for their oil. Getting a job on the slope doesn't fix that problem, and it will continue to be a problem.
Again, she shows us she hasn't really looked at the situation. One of the men who sent a letter from a village just after Nick Tucker's letter was brilliant in displaying what they are trying. From Kongiganak, he talks about three projects that have the potential to help out the community. Yet:
The school project, AMI, told us that they will hire only 10 people from our village and the rest will come from the lower 48...about 20 out of state workers. We have many certified carpenters, welders, plumbers, electricians, and equipment operators that only a handful will work in these projects. What is wrong with this? Our legislators say that these projects are supposed to give our villages jobs and the people from Alaska.
Despite Palin's assertions that this is not the governments problem, this has everything to do with government. Lack of support for energy projects, restrictions on subsistence, laws about fisheries and over-fishing... The short-term problem is hungry kids and no heat. But the short-term problem could have been avoided completely by addressing these long-term solutions that Palin has been unwilling to even look at, much less be part of a dialogue about.