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Alaskans have healthy perspective when it comes to international threats

July 14th, 2017 | Carey Restino Print this article   Email this article  

Once in a while, Alaskans really make me proud. This week was one of those times when I read a story about Alaska's response to national concerns that North Korea now has a missile that can reach the shores of our state. While national media have jumped all over this story, Alaskans, who theoretically should be most concerned about the North Korean threat, have largely been nonplussed, according to a story in the Alaska Dispatch News. In fact, reporters had a hard time finding anyone who was more than vaguely concerned about the threat of nuclear missiles.

Instead, Alaskans are busy — very busy — doing what Alaskans do in the summer — enjoying the outdoors, camping, and fishing, fishing and fishing. If Alaskans have a glassy-eyed look these days, it's not from staying out too late partying, chances are, but rather lost sleep from trying to fish the early morning tides. Call us na?ve if you will, but we have bigger fish to fry than concerns about missiles. It would probably disappoint some foreign leaders, who will go nameless, to know that this group of Americans, anyway, is more concerned about filling their freezers with salmon than building bomb shelters.

Lots of people come through my house in the summer, just like most Alaskans. What seems to impress people the most here is how real Alaska and Alaskans are. The things we do, like filling our freezers and pantries in the summer, and our woodsheds in the fall, have tangible impacts on our immediate lives.

True, this is not a reality television show. If we get skunked on the river, we can always go down to the grocery store. But most of us won't be buying salmon or halibut there — not for the prices those beautiful fish run on the open market. It will be something significantly less appetizing, chances are. So we have a vested interest in the success of our harvests that drives us to get up at crazy times of day, stand in freezing cold water and provide for ourselves and our family.

That kind of reality doesn't happen a lot in everyday America anymore. People are far more removed from their food and fortune, it seems. Coming to Alaska gives them a dose of reality that a lot of people long for, away from the television and the iPad. In that environment, real threats like bears and moose are far greater than worries about foreign leaders with questionable hairstyles and even more questionable foreign policies.

When you think about the things visitors do when they come to Alaska, it's clear to see they want a piece of the perspective we have, away from constant newscasts spouting worries that stretch far beyond our control. Social media hasn't helped us keep perspective. With news alerts of unknown origin interwoven between pictures of our cousin's birthday party, it's easy to get a sensationalized perspective on current affairs with little substance to fill in the gaps in our understanding.

Moreover, there's a balancing point between paying attention and being engaged in national and global politics and letting perceived threats invade our quality of life. It's a balance that isn't isolated simply to foreign affairs — it's about knowing what to focus on, things about which you can have a real and lasting impact, and about how to let the other stuff go for the large part. And it seems that Alaskans are pretty good at that.

In the end, the really important things are going on much closer to home, anyway. Time with our families, enjoying the beauty of the state we live in and making the most of the long days to earn a living, and harvesting what we can. Soon enough, the days will get shorter and we will head inside, catch up on the news of the last few months, and be all the richer for having not spent precious time worrying about things we can do little to impact.


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