Friday, October 31, 2008

Seward's Folly Revisited

Only four more days until the U.S. presidential election. I know people are watching this around the world, and some are doing even more than that--I saw a newscast the other day about an Australian who felt so strongly about it that she came to the U.S. to volunteer on the Obama campaign, and I've gotten notes from people in other parts of the world, as well. The U.S. still casts an incredibly long shadow, and our choice here really matters.

So that I could volunteer on Election Day, I filed my absentee ballot a couple of weeks ago. I also helped my dad with his. Although he understands very little, I still went through the process of showing him, and trying to explain, the ballot. I got the shock of my life. This is a man who can say "I love you" , "I love everybody" and very little else--he certainly can't carry on a conversation (though at times he tries). But, when I showed him the ballot, pen in hand, and said, "Dad, are you still a Democrat?" he looked right at me and replied, his eyes flashing, "You're damn right I am!" Well, I guess we know his vote.....

This election has consumed most of America for the last couple of months, and a lot of the people I talk to will be relieved when it's over. The daily polls, campaign speeches (we went to see Joe Biden when he spoke here several weeks ago), the ad campaigns, exhaustive commentary and analysis, and the political satire--it's gotten old, and enough already (especially "Joe the Plumber"). There is one impact of the last few weeks, however, that I didn't expect, and it's a little odd--maybe it's something I will get over in the fullness of time. And that is my sudden and visceral aversion to Alaska.

The press and bloggers--not to mention Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show--have commented on Sarah Palin ad infinitum. Think of her what you will, you have to give her credit for providing endless fodder for comic relief in what has been a very high stakes, high tension election. But as a candidate for the second highest office in the land, she has also added noticeably to many people's stress level--as unimaginable as it seemed that anyone could top the hubris of George Bush, she has done so. A very scary lady indeed to have in a position of power.

I didn't realize quite how I had been impacted by this ongoing saga until the other day when I came across a beautiful 2009 calendar of scenic Alaska that I picked up when Marty and I went on our cruise earlier this year. I looked at it and found myself thinking, "nah, I really don't want to hang this anywhere--maybe I need to look for another one." Then, a day or so later, we got a promotional flyer from Princess Cruises on Alaska offerings next year. While we didn't plan to go back for another four or five years, I now found myself thinking, as I pitched the flyer onto the newspaper recycling pile, "I don't EVER want to go back." Of course, this is just unfair--Alaska boasts spectacular scenery and there were places we didn't get to see that we thought we might enjoy next time. But, at least for now, I'm completely soured on the place.

In American history, the acquisition of the Alaska territory was known for many years as "Seward's Folly" --for William Seward, Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln/Andrew Johnson, who negotiated the purchase from Russia of what was widely considered a frozen wasteland. That moniker got submarined when gold, and then later oil, were discovered. Sourpuss that I've become, I'm thinking maybe it's time to bring it back...

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