Sunday, April 30, 2006

We are not unique snowflakes

Date: April 29
Mileage: 16
April mileage: 493
Temperature upon departure: 43

Today I read an amusing editorial in the Anchorage Daily News, addressing the grand delusion of many Alaskans - that we are unique, special, not like other Americans. Set apart by latitude and buffered by a rather large foreign country, I guess it would be difficult not to feel separate-but-equal.

But ever since I moved here, I've been more than a little bugged by the sense of entitlement at large. The state pays people just to live here, and still people whine about a 3 percent sales tax, they whine about paying for education, they whine about pesky federal mandates like wildlife refuge designations, but then beg the federal government for more road money. Alaska seems to have a serious case of youngest child syndrome, which of course bugs me because I come from an oldest child background. I'm the one who had to deal with a 10 p.m. curfew and had to begin working at age 11 to support my teenage lifestyle. So I can't stand to see an entire state act like the family princess, crying about the unfairness of a midnight curfew while Daddy doles out another 20 for a trip to the mall. You get my point, don't you?

So it gives me great joy to see someone tell Alaskans that they are, in fact, not unique and special snowflakes. While there is a small percentage of the population, mostly Native, who still live a subsistence lifestyle in remote villages, most of us are middle-aged, white-collar, suburban working stiffs with 2.3 cars and a lifestyle dominated by climate-controlled buildings. The only difference between us and some guy in Cleveland is that we can go skiing on glaciers in our backyards or drive to the closest body of water and catch a king salmon. But how many of us actually do?

Sure, there's a definite distinct culture in Alaska. The scenery is beyond amazing. The history is certainly on the interesting side. Latitude gives us the whole daylight thing and, economically speaking, we still have youth on our side. But does that give us a mandate to demand respect from the lower 48 while we cry to Daddy because Big Brother wouldn't give us bridge money? I may be an older child, an outsider looking in and looking out again, but I don't think so.