Sunday, February 28, 2016

Time for the Definitive "NO"

For the first time in my life I find myself genuinely scared for the future of our country. Despite my predilection to read dystopian sci-fi, I never before lived in fear that any of those things could come true here. I never actually believed that I would be compelled to select the lesser of two (or three or four) evils when I went to the poll. If I honestly didn't like one of the two candidates most likely to win, I felt safe casting a vote for a third party, writing in a name, or even in choosing not to vote. I believed that I should vote my conscience, even if that candidate was not likely to win. I accepted that even if someone with whom I profoundly disagreed got elected president that it was not the end of democracy as we know it. They were not likely to actually be evil incarnate and even if they were, our system of government would keep them from doing too much damage. I believed that our system of checks and balances and that mutual respect for the processes of government would keep things functional.

I no longer feel that way. If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, I feel a moral obligation to vote for whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination. I feel a sense of disgust that I must use my vote to vote against someone. I am not a party loyalist. I have voted for candidates I respect from a variety of parties. I have a problem with Hillary Clinton's atrocious interventionist foreign policy. I also have a strong suspicion that she is going to continue the status quo with regard to economic policies that favor Wall Street based on the amount of money she has received from Goldman Sachs. A few months ago, I swore if she won the Democratic nomination that I was voting third party. But that was until I saw the absolute nightmares that the Republican party has put forth as prospects for becoming president. I realized with horror that going nowhere is better than going backwards. And when I say backwards, I mean back all the way to a time before this country became a constitutional republic.

What I find absolutely terrifying about Donald Trump is not actually any of his despicable ideas. In fact, it is absolutely pointless to have a discussion with his about the particular merits or lack thereof about his proposed policies. This is because he has a complete inability to receive feedback in any meaningful way and also possesses utter disdain for the processes of government itself. These two character flaws alone should disqualify him from being elected to anything whatsoever. And these two character flaws are what make him a very threat to the stability of our country.

A president has to have the ability to select a cabinet of trusted advisors that will speak up and tell them when they might be wrong. That means that a president has to be able to set aside their ego and listen to feedback they might not want to hear. They can't just say, "you're fired," every time they hear something they don't like. If someone's ego is so fragile that they cannot remain in relationship with people with whom they disagree or receive criticism in any meaningful or thoughtful way, then they have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are going to fail to select a cabinet that will make their administration effective. No matter how high or how white their horse, they will have an abysmal presidency. Donald Trump has such trouble with feedback, that he even threatens freedom of speech by wanting to make it easier to sue newspapers that say things he doesn't like. More on just how frightening this could be will come later.

 A president also can't be so certain that they are doing the will of God that they start to confuse their ideas with God's ideas. Confusing one's will with God's is certainly easy to do if you've never actually had to ask God for forgiveness. Donald Trump has also almost thrown money in the Communion plate, hasn't been to church in so long that his professed church can't even find evidence of his that he was ever a member, and reads the Bible so little that he actually said "Two Corinthians" in front of a group of Christian prospective voters. I'm certainly not of the belief that being a practicing Christian is a requirement for assuming the Presidency. But when Donald Trump tells a group of deeply religious people that he will protect them from persecution and abuse by the state and then proceeds to demonstrate such ignorance of that religion's beliefs, practices, and holy texts if not downright contempt and mockery for them while at the same time showing a complete and utter disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law, you have to wonder if what he means by "protect Christianity."

Trump already wants to completely ban one religion from entering the country and even shut down some of their existing places of worship, a blatant violation of the first amendment. If he were to actually succeed in closing mosques, then what checks and balances could possibly exist to keep him from shutting down Christian places of worship that don't conform to his completely warped misunderstanding of Christianity? What checks and balances could possibly exist to keep him from even silencing and closing the churches of the growing number of Evangelical pastors including Max Lucado, Jim Wallis, and Russell Moore who have started to speak out against the possibility of his presidency? Donald Trump brought up real examples of Christian persecution in Syria in his speech at Liberty. Yet the very reasons, those cannot occur at the hand of our government is because we have a constitutional amendment protecting religious liberty coupled with a system of checks and balances. If you threaten that amendment or eliminate the system of checks and balances, you fling open the door to real and genuine Christian persecution.

Donald Trump is a threat to our existence as a constitutional republic because of the way he is able to convince his followers that he is better suited to run our country than the very processes which serve as a foundation for our government. For America, our foundation is the Constitution. Now, there are varying disagreements as to how to interpret the Constitution and when and if it should be amended. That's okay the Constitution actually has a process that makes amendment slow and difficult, but certainly not impossible. However, if we cannot submit ourselves to the process of government outline in the document that is the source of its legitimacy, we could very well experience the complete breakdown of society including chaos, violent revolution, civil war, a military coup, or dictatorship. I fear all of these things if Trump is elected president. Some military leaders have already declared that they would be unable to follow some of his orders as commander in chief should he follow through on his campaign promises. If those are not the seeds for a military coup, I don't know what is.

Donald Trump's most damning act of hubris is that he has claimed that he could stand in the middle of a crowded street and shoot someone without losing supporters. Trump has declared that he could commit murder in public with witnesses, the most flagrant disregard of any law that there could possibly be and the response from his audience was to laugh. While, I sincerely doubt that Donald Trump would actually commit a murder in broad daylight, that statement still conveys how much power he believes he has. The terrifying thing is that poll numbers and election results appear to be proving that statement far more true than we might think. It does not matter if Donald Trump coughs up even some good ideas, there is absolutely no policy no matter how sound or needed that is worth throwing away our entire system of government.

The idea that someone who has such a disregard for the Constitution that he would ban an entire religion and assert that he could still maintain his support if he shot a random person in public could select three to four Supreme Court justices, let alone even one should deeply terrify all of us. He could effectively remove the checks and balances by selecting puppets who would vote only his way. However, the Republican party has managed not only to turn out a populist demagogue who can sway crowds of people to think that it is okay if he commits murder, but then also has the unmitigated gall to obstruct the current constitutionally elected president doing his constitutional duty of appointing a justice to the Supreme Court. Obama has stated that his criteria would be select someone who recognizes their role is to interpret the Constitution and not make laws. Not only is this a violation of those senators' constitutional duties, it is the very betrayal of conservatism itself, since conserving our existing form of government against any possible assault of a populist demagogue should be a conservative priority. Instead "letting the voters decide," by blocking the president from doing his constitutional duty until after the next election is the very philosophical justification for the kind of populism that gives Trump power.

But then, the behavior that many Republicans have demonstrated is that it is completely alright to shut down the government and oppose everything the president does on the basis that you do not personally like the president. Like most presidents, Obama has made a mixture of good and bad decisions. Yet, the attacks against Obama have been increasingly vitriolic and based on him as person. The inverse message this behavior sends is that if you happen to like the president and agree with them, then it is perfectly okay for the president to trump the rule of law if they're doing what's "right," fixing what's "broken," or "making America great again."

In order to change libel laws, Donald Trump would have to petition the Supreme Court. In order to ban Islam as a religion or close mosques, there would have to be cases that make it all the way to Supreme Court. The best case scenario for a Trump presidency is that he is so ineffective and has thought through his plans so poorly that he fails to enact any of his campaign promises and that the tide of popular opinion turns against him as quickly as he gained it or else that he gets impeached. The worst case scenario is that he actually manages to appoint several justices to the Supreme Court who betray their duty to Constitution to enact the will of Trump. Furthermore, if libel laws actually get changed, we could see regular Orwellian rewrites of current events since Donald Trump has a consistent history of denying what he said or even outright saying that he said the opposite of what he actually said. Trump has a way of normalizing his outrageous statements and behavior, while we all watch curious to see what he will do next.

If Donald Trump wins the popular vote for the presidency and enough electoral votes, there is one more constitutional check to prevent this absolute travesty: the Electoral College. It is entirely possible for the electors to choose someone else. Of course, the consequences of them doing so would no doubt be a Supreme Court case as well as unprecedented hostility towards the president who did assume office in Trump's place. Despite these dire consequences, if Trump wins the election, the Electoral College has a moral obligation to use their power to prevent a Trump presidency. This is because a Trump presidency is a threat to the Constitution itself. The Electoral College is beholden to the Constitution and not popular opinion when they select the next president. The Electoral College is our last line of defense against a populist demagogue. In fact, one reason we even have an Electoral College is because the Constitutional framers thought the common people might be "too easily duped by promises of shenanigans."

However, the time has come to give Donald Trump a resounding, big fat "No," to the presidency. His campaign has ceased to be funny and entertaining and has crossed the line into horror. This means committing to go to the polls and voting, even if we don't like any of the candidates. Our constitutional system of government is far more valuable than any single idea or policy. We have a moral imperative to use whatever power and influence we have to ensure that Donald Trump does not become president, even if that power is only one vote. The time to give Donald Trump the definitive and unequivocal "no," is not in the Electoral College. It is not at his impeachment trial. It is not when he runs for a second term. It is not when he attempts to abolish freedom of speech and/or freedom of religion. The watershed moment for "NO" is now. If we miss this moment the damage to our nation and rest of the world could very well be irreparable.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

a straight girl's closet diary

When I was twenty-three, young, angry, and ready unleash my venom onto the world, I packed my car full of all my earthly posessions and drove it from Oklahoma to Boston to start a new life and find adventure. At that point in my life, I had way more spiritual doubts and questions than I had answers. I decided though, that I would give God a second chance and that we would start fresh in our relationship without any baggage. So when I got to Boston, I randomly visited churches near where I lived, which at the time happened to be Central Square in Cambridge. I didn't pay attention to denomination, other than to make sure that they were not Southern Baptist, because I was still so angry at the whole Southern Baptist culture that I wanted nothing to do with it. However, living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it was astoundingly easy to find a church that met my criteria.

So one Sunday, I walked into First Church UCC in Harvard Square. From the moment I entered, I felt at home. They read more scripture during the service than any church I had previously been. The choir sounded like it could have been at my Southern Baptist church growing up and we sang the same hymns and prayed the same type of prayers. I think I came back for only a few Sundays until they announced who they were going to call as a pastor. The pastoral search committee had finally found a pastor and "her name was Mary." I was delighted at this news because I still hadn't actually heard a woman preach and I wanted to believe that God could use women too. I knew I had found the right church - until the speaker continued that Mary and "her partner Ann" would be coming soon to be voted on.

At this point in my life, I had never earnestly thought about homosexuality. Okay, so in college, when I got really mad at the Southern Baptists and decided to become a full fledged Democrat, I might have supported gay rights just to play devil's advocate. But I hadn't actually known a real live gay person, at least not one who was out. And I knew that this was the sort of thing that would make everyone from my Southern Baptist college think I was going to Hell (a place I also doubted). I knew my parents would never approve - so I just didn't tell them. However, this was a decision I had to make not on other people's opinions, but what I earnestly believed. I searched my heart for a prejudice I could not find.

Instead, I felt that a part of me understood what gay people go through. I remembered what it was like when my parents got upset that I wasn't sure I believed in God anymore my senior year of college. And I realized then that my worst fears hadn't been what God would do to me, but what they would think and the separation that would come in a relationship with them if I didn't share the same cultural context. I cannot think of anything more normal or human than to struggle to be yourself against what the world tells you that you should be. I cannot think of anything more Christ like than succeeding. I felt that the Jesus I knew would accept everyone for who they are and have them over for dinner. I could not then and I cannot answer today what changes Jesus might make in someone else's life, but I know that it always begins with acceptance for who you are as a whole person. I also felt convicted that if God made someone a certain way, He wouldn't turn around and limit what they could do, but want them to serve Him fully in their wholeness. So I found a home and I joined that church.

If you want to know how I got this title, it's because I realize that there are many closets, boxes, and chains on most people's identities. I'll confess to you that I briefly wondered if I was a lesbian for awhile when I was younger and it's because I felt different from everyone and didn't know where my place was. To be a lesbian, you have to actually find women attractive in a certain way that I do not. But to be a human being, you just have to struggle with feeling different and not knowing where your place is. Even when I was a little girl, I used to lie awake in bed at night and wonder "if my parents were as devout of Hindus as they are Southern Baptists and the missionaries came to visit me and then I wanted to believe in Jesus instead, what would it be like to have to tell them?" And then I would ask God if He were really there or if I only believed in Him because my parents told me He was there. Then, I would try really, really hard to imagine that I was alone in the universe and that God wasn't there. I couldn't do it as a child and I couldn't do it as a twenty-two year old agnostic wannabe.

Perhaps I should conclude this entry with one more tidbit. When I was seventeen years old and a high school senior and I wanted to know what to do with my life, ever so certain God would have an opinion, I remember getting a call one Sunday morning in a Southern Baptist church. I felt like God wanted me to be a pastor. I will never forget what I said back. I said, "I can't do that because I'm a girl and girls can't do that." I had never heard a woman preach before. It was so far outside my cultural context, I didn't even know who to talk to about it because I didn't think any pastor or youth minister or even my parents would believe me. So I settled for the things I was taught women could do and kept trying to find my closet.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's 40 below what outside?

I swore that I was not going to turn my blog into a bitch session about the weather in Fairbanks. For my next post I was going to write about something meaningful or at least controversial, like religion, politics, or both. Weather is something that we usually talk about when we are trying to be polite and avoid offending anyone, but still wish to engage in conversation with other human beings. And perhaps that is because in most places, the weather can be largely irrelevant to the way that western culture and civilization are carried out. My problem with Alaska has always been that I liked it except when it intruded on my otherwise normal life. Of course, if you read my previous post, then to understand Alaska, you have to realize that the people here love it precisely because it makes day-to-day life exotic and challenging in such a way that it is not "normal" and can never be "normal."

Adventuresome spirits like me appreciate and relish 40 below the first time we experience it because it is something that human beings in most of the world seldom observe. There is something beautiful and enchanting about the first ice fog one sees. We will gladly go outside and embrace the cold, especially so that we can get on the phone and gloat to our family and friends in the "lower 48" about how tough we are and how life is great here. The air feels profoundly still and peaceful. Even if you are a city dweller like me (Fairbanks being considered "urban" for Alaska), it feels like the Earth has stopped spinning and that each individual is alone in quiet solitude with God and no one else. But 40 below weather gives me the overwhelming urge to sit inside my warm house and be grateful that I have shelter from the world and to snuggle up with a good book and a cat in my lap while drinking a warm cup of cocoa. That is what I expected from Fairbanks - that the winters up here would bring closeness and unity with the Divine as well as respite from the business of the day-to-day concerns and worries with which we humans fill our lives.

That, of course, is vacation Fairbanks - the Fairbanks to which Japanese tourists venture in the middle of winter to experience what it is to feel 40 below, gaze upon the northern lights, and go swimming at Chena Hot Springs. I too, did this when I first moved to Fairbanks. It is amazing how immersing oneself in scalding hot water in the midst of subzero air temperatures can actually feel comfortably balanced. For the locals though, Fairbanks is not a place of rest - it is a place of work.

Travelling to a place and living in a place are two different things. And when it is obscenely cold out and it is darker than midnight, the winter becomes a cruel slave driver. This morning, I wanted to cry when I had to remove a sleeping kitty from my lap and then go through through the chore of putting on a heavy parka and heavy boots just to venture from my house to my garage. It hurt to take breaths of air and even with long underwear and a parka, it was miserable to feel the cold against my bare face, as well as my back and legs that were bundled. That, of course, is with no wind, for we do not have much wind in Fairbanks. And it is pure misery to try to stand outside the car long enough to try to disconnect it from the extension chord. Then, of course I had to get in the car and drive the 8/10ths of a mile to work, to once again brave the cold long enough to get into the building.

I realized that I have never lived in a place in which I must personally rely on a vehicle as much as here - a place where I live less than two from the grocery store, half a mile from church and less than one mile from work and the city has actually deigned to put in sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks. In Texas and Oklahoma, I could walk at least a few places if I wanted, even if some people looked at me strangely for it. When I lived in Boston, walking was even fashionable and chic. I do not even want to contemplate my carbon footprint and I ashamed to tell you that I burn more gas warming up my vehicle for my personal comfort than I spend actually driving it. I'm ashamed to say that I've paid out the wazoo for full service gas so that I could stay inside my car and still complained about the cold from having to cut the heat for a few minutes while the attendant pumped. I am ashamed to tell you that I spent more time breathing fresh air and being "outdoors" when I lived in Boston than since moving here - a place people come to bond with nature and get away from city pollution. But these few days of 40 below require an inhuman sacrifice to be good to the Earth that I find myself unwilling to make like so many others here. So the EPA comes after us because the cold, still air makes the pollution stick around for us all to breathe and the cold, still air makes us not want to get into a car that has not been warming up for half an hour and to not really care how we are heating our homes as long as we are warm and it doesn't cost too much and eat up that "go somewhere warm for a week or two" vacation fund. All I can say about that, is "aloha."

There are people who say that you can put on enough clothes to be warm enough to walk because there are places in Alaska that do not have roads. And there are people like me, who think that suiting up with enough clothes to be an astronaut is acceptable for that once in a lifetime chance to see something exotic no human has seen before, but who find the idea of putting on that many clothes to take a walk outside on a street you've seen a thousand times before to go to a place you've been a thousand times before to be uninspiring drudgery. And I realized that if I lived on the moon, that eventually it would lose its magic and become an old, tired place with the view of the Earth becoming obscured by the monotony of day-to-day life.

At about this moment, I am ready to curse my life and think that I loathe my job. Of course, if I were a taste tester at a chocolate factory, I don't think I would have been any more enthusiasm for coming in today. When people describe the early sourdough's life - it was all work. They went to work to earn the money and came home and did chores to carve out a life in this harsh environment. When the old folk of the deep south reminisce, they might talk about front porch sitting, Sunday afternoon hymn sings, or even *gasp* drives in the country for leisure. It was not that they were richer - it is that it takes far more effort to live a human life in the arctic. Those early sourdoughs did not have much "free time."

There are a few places on this Earth with harsher climates in which people live. I suppose I can be thankful that I don't live in "the bush" or our sister city of Yakutsk. It is 40 and 50 below much of the winter there. This is the Siberia to which Russians were exiled for punishment. I read a fascinating article about life in Yakutsk, which I will post a link to at the end of this blog entry. The hardest part for me to wrap my head around was the following quote:

"Of course it's difficult to live here," says Fyodorov of Gazeta Yakutia. "But the people here were born here. It's our homeland. What can you do about it?"

Maybe they share the same connection to the land and nature that Alaskans share. Or maybe like all human beings, they have a difficult time stepping outside their "comfort zone," for I have heard Fairbanksans too, say that they could "not live someplace windy." As for me, I do not think my problem is stepping outside of my comfort zone, so much as it staying there. I have been to Russia - to St. Petersburg and Moscow, but I have not ventured to Yakutsk. And perhaps someday, I could be persuaded to visit, though only in the summer. Fairbanks has given me more than a sufficient feel for arctic temperatures. But deep down, my problem is that no matter where I live, I can always imagine living somewhere else - it's how I ended up in Alaska in the first place and it's how I can easily imagine living elsewhere now that I've experienced 40 below zero.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Postmodern Reflections on Alaska

The craziest thing I ever did in my life was sell all my stuff and move to Fairbanks, Alaska to marry a guy I met on the internet. I say, the "craziest," and not the "stupidest" because Brian are still together and still in love with each other. As for Alaska, I can say that it is a place that I approached with an open heart and mind. I wanted very much to settle down and live here and love it the way that Alaskans do. But I came to Alaska with the same attitude as a woman who is in love with the idea of being in love, but understands neither her lover nor herself as individuals. When I finally got to know Alaska for what it was, I realized that I couldn't love Alaska while at the same time being myself. I could respect it and understand it, but I could not love it in the exclusive way that it demands.

Alaska and I do not get along because of winter. If you want to embrace Alaska, you have to embrace winter as an old, familiar friend. I wanted so desperately to love winter and I was certain that all of those tales about how awful it was from the mouths of those who shunned it for sunnier climates were gross exaggerations. I'm originally from Texas so I always had this romantic fascination with this strange, rare, beautiful substance known as snow. I believed that it transformed our dull, dreary world into an otherworldly, unfamiliar place. However, I have learned that when fresh, white snow becomes old and familiar, the world feels tired and in need of renewal.

But there is more to an Alaskan winter than the snow. There is the darkness. By the time we get to winter solstice, the sun doesn't rise until 11 in the morning and it has set by 3pm. The days rapidly get shorter before solstice and they will soon rapidly get longer. Then there is the extreme cold. For instance, since moving here, I have learned that it is possible for it to get too cold to snow. Yet years go by between school cancellations. The world goes on in Alaska. You are expected to defiantly go about your life anyway as if this is normal because it is normal for here. If it is 4o degrees below zero, you must boldly go out into the world and prove yourself as a better human being because you willingly embrace this challenge so many refuse. And intellectually, I knew this to be the case when I moved here. Yet I didn't expect it to matter, for I thought that living in Alaska might somehow be a little like living on the moon. I wanted to believe that someday we could be free of our need for the Earth to carry on with our lives. And perhaps this underlying assumption of mine explains better than anything why I will never make the transition from cheechako to sourdough.

I remember the first time I got off the plane in Fairbanks, I looked at the cars in the parking lot that all had chords with plugs dangling from their fronts. In my youthful naivete, I exclaimed, "I didn't know that Ford and Chevy made electric cars! I think that is so nice that Alaskans are so environmentally conscious." That was the moment my education about Alaska really began, for I learned that cars will not start at the temperatures we get in the winter if they are not plugged into a block heater. And if it is cold enough to need to plug in your car, it is far too cold for this Texas girl to not complain about having to take the time to be outside long enough to do so. People tell me of the old days before they had plug-ins when you had to remove the oil from your car and take it in to heat it up and then put it back in the car the next morning. True sourdoughs will tell you that 40 below isn't that bad because it used to be 60 to 70 below for weeks. And I wonder about these people who choose Alaska because it is Alaska - these people who came here from elsewhere because they thought it was so beautiful and who now can't imagine why they would want to live elsewhere.

Then there are always people who ask things like, "Do people who live in Alaska actually live in igloos?" I was not one of those ignorant people. Instead, I dared to look at some of the new construction here - the things like Wal-Mart and Home Depot and the rumors that we might someday get a Target or an Olive Garden in Fairbanks and think, "I could live in Alaska. It's not really that different to live here." Even with the car plug-ins and the hours of darkness in the winter and the temperatures cold enough to make me think that surely I was living on a planet other than the Earth from which I came, I still believed that Alaska had modernized enough to be able to carry on the same sort of daily life one might carry on elsewhere, especially since it is expected to do so here. Deep down inside, I believed that Alaska was Texas, but with snow and an exotic set of scenery that could indulge my fantasies enough to make me feel like I had been an astronaut and traveled to live on another planet.

There are some similarities between Alaska and Texas. Both are large, oil-producing, red states in which people have composed a great number of songs about how great it is to live there and proudly declare they like their state better than their country and who also like to own guns. But I knew a large number of reluctant Texans - people who thought they were in temporary exile from another place, but who gradually grew to love and embrace a Texan identity. They don't particularly dislike Texas, per se, they just don't understand why people see it as the promised land flowing with milk and honey, but over time warmed up to the idea. But Alaska is one of those places that quickly demands a strong opinion. And if you think like I did, that the ideal of living in Alaska is to prove that humans are capable of maintaining and carving out a civilization absolutely anywhere and that someday we will be among the stars, then you will find that this is not the place for you. For the people that love and choose Alaska for being Alaska embrace its harshness because they want to believe that there is a limit to human progress and that there are still places one can go where one must respect nature and be connected to the Earth. I don't think Alaskans ever look forward to a day when they get to add another seat to the House.

They come here because they want to get away from "people" by which they mean society, government, rules, rampant commercialism, and an instant connection to the rest of the world. A friend once told me that Fairbanks needed January and February because without those harsh months, too many people would come here and then it wouldn't be "Fairbanks" anymore. Now, I know that every town has its group of citizenry who decry "box stores" as the destroyer of the local businesses, but even that is not what Alaskans really mean when they complain about them. They do not want to ever live in a place where you can forget where it is that you live and feel like it is any town in America. And they are a strange mix of people, who proclaim to want as little government in their lives as possible, yet often work for the government. They vote Republican, but join labor unions and they fear global warming, but want to drill in ANWR.

I think to be a true Alaskan, you have to respect the land. The people here value connection to nature more than connection to human society. They embrace the winters because they hope that the severity will always keep the "progress" at bay. I have met many Alaskans who say that they never want to move from here because they enjoy being able to go out in the dark, cold of the winter and know that they are alone and that no one can see them. I know people who want simple things like going to work or stopping at the store to always hold the possibility of a life-threatening adventure. I have met people here who want to be isolated and know that for the weekend, if they wish, they can still drive to a place where no people are around for miles and miles and experience what it truly is to be alone with nature. I know a great number of people who have moved here from places like Texas because they were tired of cities and crowding and the change that comes with a steady influx of new people. I have met people who don't know what it is to have a next door neighbor that they can see from in their house and don't want to know what that is like. I know many people here who gladly choose to embrace land, trees, and outdoor space over modern conveniences such as plumbing and in some cases, even electricity. I know a great many Alaskans who want to live as much of their lives by their own two hands as possible. They want to kill their own food, build their own houses, make their own clothes, grow their own gardens, and they want to stand and face the harshness of winter repeatedly to prove that they can do it by themselves because they are both strong and independent. And both unbridled capitalism and liberal socialism require a level of assimilation that would take away too much individuality from the Alaskan spirit, but they will tolerate just enough of these to allow them to live here.

I find it ironic that in discovering that Alaska was not my place, I realized that I was more connected with the Earth than I ever wanted to believe. I struggle with severe Seasonal Affective Disorder and winter depression. I have learned that it is impossible to ignore the weather and carry on a daily life and that the seasons and the rising and the setting of the sun are important. I have learned what it is to miss things like fresh air, the warmth of the sun hitting your skin, and gentle breezes. I have learned not to take things like the smell of freshly cut grass or the chirping of birds for granted. I have learned to appreciate fresh fruits and vegetables. And I realize that even though in the darkness of depression, I sometimes wish to be alone, that I really do not want to be in a place where no one could hear me or see me because I cannot think of a more cruel fate than to be cut off from the rest of the world and forced to truly be "alone." Alaska taught me what it is to be human and for that I will forever be grateful. Many people move to Alaska to experience the great outdoors. I moved here because I thought the outdoors were irrelevant. But I promise that when I leave, I will respect the land. I will grow a garden and I will walk as many places as I can and I will pay attention to the trees, the flowers, and the other plants I took for granted. For I know now what it is to be a child of this Earth and to need the community and fellowship of other human beings. And I have learned that while I have been imbued with the western notion of progress to such an extent that I do not believe I cannot be happy without it, I can at least recognize my assumptions and cultural limitations and respect those who yearn to embrace something different.


For me the hardest part about creating this blog was deciding on a title for it. The older I get, the harder time I have fitting my ideas into a neat little box. When I was a kid, my mother used to say that I "danced to the beat of a different drummer." But the truth is, I don't even want to dance - I want to write the music. Of course, like a lot of composers and artists, I have a tendency every so often to decide that everything I've "written" is crap and should be burned. I say that in quotations because I'm still on this metaphor for my entire life as opposed to any actual work.

So here I am, a thirty-something, female blogger baring my soul to the internet, wondering if five years from now, I'll read through all my stuff, roll my eyes, and think, "Did I really write that?" After all, if blogging had been more popular ten years ago, instead of pouring my youthful rage into pages and pages of spiral notebooks, I probably would have posted it all online for the whole world to read and about now, I would regret having said a good seventy-five percent of the things I wrote back then. On the other hand, maybe I'm too full of myself if I think that more than a few people on this Earth would actually want to read pages and pages of my opinions on everything.

I'd like to think that I've finally figured some things in life out. I think your teens and twenties are about trying on a whole bunch of outfits to see which identity really fits. I think your thirties are that time when you actually mix and match all those accessories to create your perfect outfit that's you. You finally know what fits and what you like and you can be yourself without really giving a damn about what everyone else thinks. Of course, I say that as an authoritative thirty-two year old, so maybe I haven't finished shopping yet.

So here I am, undefined. And sometimes I think that's the way it's supposed to be on the human journey. God is "I am what I am," the all-knowing, unchanging one. It has been argued that idolatry is the human attempt to define and label God. God is by very nature beyond our comprehension and understanding. Yet so many times we mere mortals say, "Well I am what I am," as a way to excuse our human shortcomings and limitations. But we are not meant to live life being caged, boxed, or defined by what we think we can or cannot do. It is God's place to be what God is and it is our birthright to be free enough to live undefined. And it is so easy for me to have deep thoughts about God and the nature of the universe at one thirty in the morning. But I wonder tomorrow if I will still have the guts to live undefined, or if I will wake up once again finding my identity in my likes or dislikes or my pain or my circumstances or my limitations. I hope tomorrow that I will live undefined.

I said I never wanted to dance as much as I wanted to write the music. Yet, I have gone through my life never liking what I wrote when I listened to it again. I think it was that I wanted to choose what labels I wore rather than letting someone else choose them for me. But maybe the problem all along was that I thought I needed a label.