Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

How Sarah Palin Ruined Alaska

The Sarah ShowThe new Vanity Fair Sarah Palin profile is enthralling: rage-fueled breakdowns, domestic violence (is there a battered spouse center for First Dudes?) and Madoff-worthy financial manipulation. Equally fascinating is the climate of fear and confusion that Michael Joseph Gross discovered in Wasilla, where townspeople are terrified of discussing their former mayor/governor, and deeply uncomfortable with the world-famous media creation that she has become. "To appreciate how alien Palin has become in Wasilla, how inscrutable to her own people, you have to wrap your mind around the fact that Sarah Palin is more famous than any other Alaskan, ever," Gross writes. "It still does not quite seem real to most Alaskans that there are all these thousands of people in the Lower 48 turning out for … Sarah."

But if they want surreal, they should travel to the Lower 48. Because it's not until you leave Alaska that you realize it no longer exists – only Sarah Palin exists.

Born and raised in Anchorage, I caught rainbow trout before learning multiplication tables; I camped outside in the middle of winter with my Cub Scout troop; and I once heroically saved my dog (a friendly 135-pound Newfoundland) from an (unfriendly 1,000-or-so-pound) moose. It wasn't strange to me that the sun barely set half the year and barely rose half the year, or that enormous snow-capped mountains surrounded our cityscape-it's just how the world looked. But at college in D.C. I'd get asked every day, as if I were from some exotic fantasy land: "Did you mush dogs instead of driving a car?" "Did your family live in an igloo?" "Did you have a pet polar bear?"

No, no, and no, but I loved these asinine, naive, wonderful questions. Saying "I'm from Alaska" was the best conversation starter imaginable, and on countless occasions instantly made me the most interesting person in the room unless there was someone around from, like, Tanzania. (Fun factoid: Jewel used to yodel in the hallways of my high school.)

But it was never the same after August 29, 2008. As soon as John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his VP candidate, suddenly no one asked about months of darkness or snowboarding to school-only about her. Whenever I boasted of my birthplace to new acquaintances, expecting to become the glorious center of attention yet again, I instead became some random guy indistinguishably whining about politics. Nobody cared anymore. And to this day, nobody cares-it's been two years since anyone asked about gearshifts on dogsleds. Like it or not, America's most hideous politician has ruined America's most beautiful state.

Palin doesn't merely represent the Alaskan archetype in the national consciousness; she is Alaska. The rest of us are stars in her constellation, fish in her sea, decapitated trophies mounted on her cabin wall. I'll always be proud of my homeland, but if I reveal this to strangers I get snide, collective punishment responses such as "I hate your state!" (Seriously… maybe I should spend more time in Real America instead of at NYC media cocktail hours?) Whereas Alaska used to enter my every conversation, I now rarely bring it up-if I've had enough whiskey and someone asks, I'll grimace and mutter "Palin country."

But as much as I'd like to avoid the subject, I'm probably stuck with it forever. Recently, while I had my hair cut in the East Village, the immigrant barber asked where I'm from.

"Alaska?" he replied in a thick Russian accent. "I used to see it from my house."

Marty Beckerman is the author of Generation S.L.U.T. and Dumbocracy, and online features editor at Esquire.

Photo by asecondhandconjecture, from Flickr.

27 Comments / Post A Comment

doubled277 (#2,783)

So, you're from the state that Palin is from, am I reading this right?

iantenna (#5,160)

if it's any consolation there's absolutely no way that bitch will ruin alaska for me. i drove there from california in 2004 and it still stands as my greatest vacation ever. the homer spit, hope, backpacking outside of seward, goddamn what a state.

C_Webb (#855)

Shouldn't a dog that size save YOU from a moose?

Multiphasic (#411)

Therein lies the rub. The dog that size firmly believes it is saving you from the moose that is now thundering down on the both of you. Dogs, you see, are extraordinarily noble and also fucking retarded.

moose are ridiculously mean and actively try to kill dogs. they'll literally go after them from miles away and try to stomp them to death. dogs don't stand a chance.

Not that I feel any affinity toward this woman, but that VF article was nothing but unnamed sources and anecdotal evidence in support of the thesis: "politician has temper and possible psychological issues." This is not news beyond the fact that politician in question is Sarah Palin.

And… "Madoff-worthy financial manipulation"… really? Rrrrreeeeaaaallllyyy? Madoff-worthy?

doubled277 (#2,783)

fight that hyperbole! with a stick!

KenWheaton (#401)

Sarah Palin turned Wasilla into District 12!

Abe Sauer (#148)

Maybe Palin will prove VF more correct than it ever could have known with the Clinton comparison. Today, who associated "Clintons" with Arkansas? NOBODY (except old people who remember when Rock the Vote wasn't yet exposed as corporate shill piece). Today, the Clintons are New York ('s problem) baby! Similarly, Alaska can hope Palin moves on and runs for greater office elsewhere, forever tarnishing that locale and erasing the Alaska legacy. Hey, find your hope in the deliverance of Wisconsin from its Brett Favre plague thanks to exactly this kind of strategy.

hockeymom (#143)

Oh, ya….thanks for that Favre thing. It was GREAT to have helicopters buzzing the city and live trucks running all over the place. It was like our own little OJ.

Abe Sauer (#148)

You KNOW it's out of hand when Gary Eichten breaks into his show with an update that the Vikings jet having left Mississippi carrying Favre. THAT HAPPENED!

Jim Demintia (#1,815)

OR someone equally embarrassing supplants the dumbass your state used to be famous for. For example, after 'Forrest Gump' came out, nobody really asked me about George Wallace anymore.

On the other hand, I will probably have to deal with that goddam Lynyrd Skynyrd song for the rest of my life.

bb (#295)

seems very unlikely that Palin will shake off/discard the Alaska schtick. The 'Man from Hope' thing notwithstanding, Cljnton never defined himself THAT much through Arkansas. Plus, haha.. compare Todd and Hillary's geographical connections..

bb (#295)

ps. I do think Alaska will be rehabilitated over time, however.

barnhouse (#1,326)

You have already begun to restore the lost glamor of Alaska in this reader's mind, at least, so thank you for that. When I hear the word "Alaska" I want to be reminded of a moose, a heroic rescue and a 135-lb. dog. Jewel yodeling is okay, too. So please, say on, with details.

Idahoj1 (#7,229)

Palin went to university here in my hometown in Idaho.
Nobody in the area claims her for her local ties, nor does anybody seem to remember her. Haven't heard her mention the town or school fondly either, lol.
Anyway my question for Alaska:
Do people really talk like that up there? She didn't pick up that dialect or accent or whatever it is here- unless she got through college watching the same Fargo cassette on her VCR over and over.

scrooge (#2,697)

Better check her credentials. Maybe she didn't go… Come to think of it, has anyone ever seen her birth certificate?

Lynne (#7,230)

Nobody else talks like that in Alaska…unless they're from Fargo I guess. We wonder where she came up with it too.

i can tell you people in SE make up words ALL THE DAMN TIME. it takes me a good minute to figure out what they might mean from the 3 different words they've cobbled together.

dado (#102)

Haircut in the East Village…whaddya expect? If you want to hear glowing platitudes about your state and it's favorite daughter get your haircut in East Jibbit.

David (#192)

New GRE test question: Sarah Palin is to Alaska as John Berendt is to Savannah, GA.

A) no she (Berendt) is not!
B) I know you are but what am I?
C) The publication of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is not the real reason people in Savannah always indicate the page number(s) where they are mentioned or referred to in that book.
D) Before Lady Gaga, there was Lady Chablis.

Drew Habits (#6,193)

Why would you shift gears in a dog sled? Does one of those things even have gears? I had been under the impression that they had dogs instead

scrooge (#2,697)

They meant Cog Sled.

apollo (#2,805)

Wow, deja vu! People are snide to me too because I'm from Bush country! There is bound to be a meet-up group for both of us.

vancat (#6,271)

You're from Connecticut?

WarriorLemming (#7,287)

I think you're right, Marty, because for as long as I can remember the one place I dreamed of visiting was Alaska but after Palin I though there's no way I want to spend time with people who would be suckered in to vote for Governor such a fake *wink, wink* kind of person. Sadly, I lost a lot of respect for Alaskians and grew concerned for the wildlife after hearing about aerial killing and bounty on wolves. :(

Jenilee Hulme (#8,043)

I'm a Wasilla girl myself- I tell people "Up north" when they ask where I'm from… If I say Wasilla I get "you must love her" and then I want to vomit.

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