A resolution for 2012 – become more involved
“Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze.”
— Carl Sagan
Since the Mayan calendar ends in December 2012, I’m glad that I have my own calendar — you know, the one I presented several weeks ago that features a three-month winter and a six-month-long summer. And despite what the Mayans said long ago, I believe 2012 will last all the way until 2013; 2013 will last until 2014, and so on. With that assumption, I thought it timely and appropriate to put forth one of my New Year’s resolutions: Become more involved in issues of the day.
At my stage in life, perhaps for many of us, it is easier to become insular and detached from the daily issues and events that shape our society. My brand of escapism is quite literally “mountain echoes,” as the title of this column implies. If you have read this section for any length of time, you’re aware that I spend a lot of time out hiking and climbing in the back country.
Over the years I’ve developed a deep bond with nature that has bestowed a sense of inner peace and answered a lot of questions for me. But over time I’ve come to realize that my sojourns into the mountains are not helping address the important questions and issues of the day...issues that need attention. I’ve always voted and I’ve often written letters/emails to my elected officials. But to date, my efforts to communicate with them have been limited — a weak voice from afar. I’d like to change that.
In past years I was involved in some local issues with the Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission that underscored former U.S. House Speaker Tip ONeil’s comment that “all politics is local.” By joining forces we stopped an Anchorage developer from jamming multi-family housing units into a subdivision that he promised would have only single family homes. And as homeowners at Thunderbird Heights Subdivision, we stopped the planned development of a dirt bike race track directly across the highway and less than a mile from our homes.
I’ve written quite a few columns and letters to the Anchorage Daily News over the years, but I could have done more. It’s much easier to take critical pot shots from a distance, citing problems, rather than getting down in the trenches to work for solutions.
On the bigger issues at the state and federal levels, I’ve mainly sat on the sidelines, thinking as many people do that it’s hopeless to affect any change. When we look at the abysmally low voter turnout at elections in recent years, it is apparent many people feel this way.
While I am in no position to lecture about what makes a participatory democracy work, I still believe in its merits. I believe it is a system that has worked in the past and can work again, provided a lot more of us participate.
I’m reminded of the typical dance when I was in high school. The same people raised funds and organized the dance, decorated the gym and cleaned up afterward. It was always the same people.
But when I see the success of local fundraising efforts such as United Way and scores of vital community projects and services, I know that we can also make positive changes at the state and federal levels. We just need to become involved in some way, whether it’s learning about the candidates and issues, turning out to vote, or researching specific legislation and contacting our representatives to determine where they stand on that legislation.
I won’t use this space as a pulpit for furthering my political involvement. I think we sometimes need a break from the crush of hard news. From the beginning of this column about two years ago, it has always been my intention to provide that relief in the form of outdoor adventure, humor and commentary on everyday life.
Nothing can keep me out of the big back yard we all enjoy, Chugach State Park, and other backcountry areas. But as we turn the calendar on 2012, I have made a pledge to take a more active interest in the goings on in Eagle River, Anchorage, Juneau and Washington D.C. I know there are many people who have always been involved and that this resolution is nothing new. Yet I’m sure there are others like me who have been tentative—people who now feel it is time to step forward.
I tend to think the late Carl Sagan’s ‘stirring of a breeze’ is a reawakening among Americans – a growing realization that it is time to take our country back. For too long, too many of our voices have been silent.
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.