A blog by Bill Hess

Running Dog Publications

P.O. Box 872383 Wasilla, Alaska 99687

 

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Wasilla

Wasilla is the place where I have lived for the past 29 years - sort of. The house in which my wife and I raised our family sits here, but I have made my rather odd career as a different sort of photojournalist by continually wandering off to other places to photograph people and gather information, which I have then put together in various publications that have served the Alaska Native Eskimo, Indian and Aleut communities.

Although I did not have a great of free time to devote to this rather strange community, named after a Tanaina Athabascan Indian chief who knew Wasilla in the way that I so impossibly long to, I have still documented it regularly over the past quarter-century plus. In the early days, my Wasilla photographs focused mostly upon my children and the events they participated in - baseball, football, figure skating, hockey, frog catching, fire cracker detonation, Fourth of July parade - that sort of thing. 

In 2002, I purchased my first digital camera and then, whenever I was home, I began to photograph Wasilla upon a daily basis, but not in a conventional way. These were grab shots - whatever caught my eye as I took my many long walks or drove through the town, shooting through the car window at people and scenes that appeared and disappeared before I could even focus and compose in the traditional photographic way.

Thus, the Wasilla portion of this blog will be devoted both to the images that I take as I wander about and those that I have taken in the past. Despite the odd, random, nature of the images, I believe they communicate something powerful about this town that I have never seen expressed anywhere else. 

Wasilla is a sprawling community that has been slapped down hodge-podge upon what was so recently wilderness of the most exquisite beauty. In its design, it is deliberately anti-zoned, anti-planned. In the building of Wasilla, the desire to make a buck has trumped aesthetics and all other considerations. This town, built in the midst of exquisite beauty, has largely become an unsightly, unattractive, mess of urban sprawl. Largely because of this, it often seems to me that Wasilla is a community with no sense of community, a town devoid of town soul.

Yet - Wasilla is my home and if I am lucky it will be until I grow old and die. Despite its horrific failings, it is still made of the stuff of any small city: people; moms and dads, grammas and grampas, teens, children, churches, bars, professionals, laborers, soldiers, missionaries, artists, athletes, geniuses, do-gooders, hoodlums, the wealthy, the homeless, the rational and logical, the slightly insane and the wholly insane - and, yes, as is now obvious to the whole world, politicians, too.

So perhaps, if one were to search hard enough, it might just be possible to find a sense of community here, and a town soul. So, using my skills as a photojournalist and a writer, I hope to do just that. If this place has a sense of community, I will find it. If there is a town soul to Wasilla, I will document it. I won't compete with the newspapers. Hell no! But as time and income allow, it will be fun to wander into the places where the folks described above gather, and then put what I find on this blog.

 

by 300...

Anywhere within a 300 mile radius of Wasilla. This encompasses perhaps the most wild, dramatic, gorgeous, beautiful section of land and sea to be found in any comparable space anywhere on Earth. I can never explore it all, but I will do the best that I can, and will here share what I find and experience with you.  

and then some...

Anywhere else in the world that I happen to get to, such as Point Lay, Alaska; Missoula, Montana; Serenki, Chukotka, Russia; or Bangalore, India. Perhaps even Lagos, Nigeria. I have both a desire and scheme to get me there. It is a long shot. We shall see if I succeed.

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Tuesday
Apr202010

What I saw as I wandered through last week's Wasilla Tea Party rally


I see that I have done it again. I have spent too much time writing too many words and so have created a document that few will likely read. I should cut at least two-thirds of those words out, but to make it short and concise would take even more time than it took to make it long and rambling and I can't take that time. Those who wish only to read my direct followup to yesterday's post could skip everything else and go directly to photos 6 and 8.


I pick up where I left off four posts ago, with the three vehicles of the four-wheeler caravan, their flags flying as their drivers race toward Wasilla's Tea Party rally. After spending the day in Anchorage, I was tired. I thought I might just skip the Tea Party altogether, except to shoot a frame or two of the smiling faces of those who would wave their signs at me as I drove by on my way home and then let it go at that. At heart, I am a peace-loving man who prefers to avoid confrontation.

Yet, when I saw these three charging so gallantly to the rescue, it looked so exciting that I decided that I should stop by - but not right away. First, I needed to go to the Post Office to check my mail. Then I wanted to drive back up to Machaus and check out the new iPad. I wanted to pick one up in my hands, manipulate it, see how it looks and functions.

Maybe one day I will be making iPad books, or customizing an iPad version of this blog.

And that's where I found the Liberty Tax Service mascot, on the corner by the little mini-mall that houses Machaus.

This was a very hard tax day for Margie and I.

Yet, according to news reports that I kept hearing and reading, on the whole, it was the lightest tax day most middle class Americans had experienced in years. This year, I heard it reported on the radio, Tax Freedom day had come after 99 work days, as opposed to the 104 of the recent past. Elsewhere, I saw it reported as 100 days this year, 104 in the past.

After I played with the iPad for a bit, I headed back toward the rally, and passed these people working together to get this Dodge rolling again. Elsewhere, substantial amounts of snow still lingered but here, in this cleared out, windswept area, it was all but gone.

I could have driven straight down the Parks Highway to the Tea Party rally, but instead I took my time and meandered down along the frontage side roads. As I did, I saw this man, pedaling his bicycle upon which he carried a sleeping bag, mattress and a few other possessions.

When I came to this corner, I was driving in the right lane. The sign told me to turn right and, by the laws that govern me, I had to. As I did, people waved signs and shouted, "Honk your horn! Honk your horn!" 

I did not honk - but I did wave politely and I did smile.

These are my neighbors, my fellow Wasillans. We can meet in the post office, the grocery store, at a restaurant or an athletic event and be friendly and talk and show each other respect. Indeed, I later saw the father of one of my oldest son's former American Legion baseball teammates. He carried a sign that I disagreed with, but that does not change the fact that in the past he and I have had many good and pleasant visits. In the years since, when we have happened upon each other, we have always engaged in friendly chat. We always ask about the other's children and grandchildren.

On just about every matter that brought, these, my fellow Wasillans, Alaskans, and Americans here, I disagree with them, both as to cause and solution. I see their facts as often erroneous, their blame misplaced. I can't help but wonder where they and their professed anger at government were during the reckless tenure of the Bush years that destroyed our national surplus and drove our nation 13 figures into debt. I wonder why they were silent about the impacts of the deregulation of the financial world that led to such a huge transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes into the pockets of the wealthy - and ultimately to the financial crisis that exploded upon us in 2008 - to no easy, quick, solution.

Yet, I feel it important that I respect my community members, that even when I disagree with them, I do not call them insulting names. I must not throw cheap, gratuitous insults at them. This has become the norm these days on talk radio, cable news and the blogosphere, in the public forum, where so many do it. Debate, drowned out and stifled by insult.

While they alone do not define it, those who gathered at the tea party by the hundreds, certainly totalling more than a thousand strong over the course, make up a significant part of the soul of Wasilla. if I am to meet my goal to find the soul of this community, then sooner or later I must sit down and speak with some among them, ask them why they believe as they do, listen to their stories and pass them along as they relate them to me.

This does not mean that I cannot express my own opinion or ask some uncomfortable questions. One question I would have for any member of the Conservatives Patriot Group, the sponsor of the Wasilla Tea Party rally, is to better explain this quote, prominently displayed on their web page:

"Evil cannot be wished away, it cannot be loved away, it cannot be talked away, it must be destroyed!!!!"

How do you define this evil that must be destroyed? How do you intend to destroy it?

As theirs' is a political organization dedicated to advocating a political point of view, one could reasonably suppose that by "evil," they do not necessarily describe the kind of things that many of us think to be evil, but rather political viewpoints that differ from their own.

Not only can a political viewpoint not be wished, loved, or talked away, it cannot be voted away. Under the US Constitution, political differences are settled at the voting booth - but the outcome never eliminates the differences. They continue, to be reargued and refought at the next election. The more liberal forces may win one election and then the conservatives the next, but sooner or later it will always tip back the other way.

So, if a differing political viewpoint is what you describe as "evil" and you cannot wish it away, you cannot love it away, you cannot talk it away, you cannot vote it away, then how do you seek to destroy it?

Or maybe I have misunderstood and you mean something entirely different than an opposing political viewpoint. I would like to hear an explanation.

Of course, it is always a little bit challenging to remain respectful and civil when right away after you get out of your car and walk into the crowd you come upon the smiling face of a man who is telling you that you have a mental disorder. I know it doesn't really mean anything. It is just rhetoric. Everyone does it. So what the hell. Let him wave his sign.

I wonder, though - why is he wearing Mickey Mouse boots? And why is his friend wearing Bunny Boots? Those boots are designed for 40 below and it was 40 above.

One could develop sweaty feet this way. It still gets pretty cold at night. Maybe they were out all night, setting up.

And you who wave that flag just remember that it is not a conservative flag, it is an American Flag. Yes, wave it with pride, but don't forget that we who see the political situation differently than you do also love that flag - no less than do you.

Never have I felt more proud than I did on that day when I saw that flag draped across my father's casket as he was carried to his grave by six of his fellow warriors. They were much younger than he and I knew that some had fought or soon would fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe one or more would themselves return in a flag-draped coffin.

I looked at those soldiers who carried my father and I felt love - pure love; strong, heart-piercing love. Tears streamed down my face and they were not all tears of grief. There was pride in those tears. Afterward, I thanked them, but I owed them so greatly that I knew my thank you to be vastly inadequate.

Remember after 9/11, how flags few from just about every home, be it occupied by conservative, liberal, middle of the road, unsure? 

And then there was that very chilly January 20 of last year, when I stood with my youngest daughter and wife in the midst of two million others on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Two million people, two million flags, all waving, people smiling, people cheering, tears of pride streaming down cheeks - white cheeks, black cheeks, brown cheeks, yellow cheeks, red cheeks; all the cheeks of a diverse America; an America that had become a place of greater equality and thus greater potential than had been the America that I grew up in.

And then, as we waited in the chill for the hour when the man who, under the provisions laid out by the US Constitution had been duly elected as President would be sworn in as Commander-in-Chief, images of Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger appeared on the many gigantic screens spread throughout the the mall. Chilled though they were, two million joined in the song, "this land is your land, this land is my land..." two million flags waved... Powerful! How proud we all were to be Americans. How proud I am to be an American. And how proud I am of the vote that I cast to make what happened that day on our National Mall possible.

Nothing that anyone could say or do or write upon a sign can ever take that pride away.

So wave your flag, but remember: it is not your flag alone - it is OUR flag. 

And when you shout, "Patriot," remember that a liberal can be every bit as much a Patriot as any conservative and a conservative can betray his country as quickly as can a liberal. Liberals also wear the uniform. Liberals also shed their blood for America. They die right alongside conservatives, as Americans.

"I was willing to fight, kill or die for this country and for the ideals that it represents and that has not changed. I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, it had no expiration on it. I remember taking that oath as a young soldier and it said that I would swear to defend the Constitution from all enemies, both foreign and domestic and I didn’t understand that domestic thing. Never in a million years did I realize that the domestic enemies would be our greatest threat and they would come from the highest levels of government in this country, from the highest positions. Today, for me, I have no eligible President in office, I have no qualified Commander-in Chief; that’s my personal opinion."

In my post yesterday, I paraphrased the above quote and expressed some thoughts about it, as I had found it not only deeply troubling, but intimidating. A conservative participant at the rally, whose opinion I respect and who I am certain speaks honestly, responded to tell me that she had been there, that she had applauded the speaker and had interpreted his meaning very differently than did I.

"Not once did I hear anyone preach violence as the answer to the problems we face today with the current government," she wrote. "In fact, the voices of many said don't turn to that, use your voices, your votes, stand up for what you believe in."

This struck me with a fear that perhaps I had misinterpreted his words - particularly as I had paraphrased his words from memory, rather than by quoting from a written or recorded verbatim account. Fortunately, I have found a 47 second clip from his speech that is comprised entirely of that part of his statement that I found so troubling. It is on the website of the Conservative Patriots Group, the sponsors of this year's Tea Party Rally, and I quote it above. You can find the clip here, identified as "Rick." It is the seventh of ten very short video clips to be found on that page. The internet is a fluid thing, so this could change.

I think it noteworthy that Rick spoke for probably five to seven minutes and it is these 47 seconds of his speech that, not only me, but his own organization chose to break out and highlight on their own website. As I stated yesterday, 95 percent of his words were ones that, in a different context, most Americans, be they Republican, Democrat or Independent, could go along with, although many would draw different conclusions from the good words that Rick spoke than he did.

Yet, it is the above statement that his own group chose to emphasize. This is what they chose to promote on their website. I will now break the statement down piece by piece and explain why I found it so offensive and still do. I am open to anyone countering here with a different interpretation.

"I was willing to fight, kill or die for this country and for the ideals that it represents and that has not changed..."

So far, very good. I honor Rick for his service to our nation...

"I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, it had no expiration on it. I remember taking that oath as a young soldier and it said that I would swear to defend the Constitution from all enemies, both foreign and domestic..."

Again, very good. Praiseworthy attitude...

"...and I didn’t understand that domestic thing. Never in a million years did I realize that the domestic enemies would be our greatest threat and they would come from the highest levels of government in this country, from the highest positions..." 

Frightening words. I begin to grow a little concerned...

"Today, for me, I have no eligible President in office, I have no qualified Commander-in Chief; that’s my personal opinion."

Now I am deeply troubled by Rick's words. I think of my youngest daughter and how serious she took the Constitution and her right to vote. I think how hard she campaigned for Obama and how, when he won the vote fair and square, nothing could stop her from going to Washington, DC, to be there for the swearing in. Were it not for her, Margie and I would not have been there.

Yet, Rick has expressly stated his readiness to "fight, kill, or die" to protect his country from a domestic enemy and he has defined that enemy as the President of the United States. He has stated his belief that the President is not eligible to be President and not qualified to be Commander-in-Chief.

If this does not insinuate a threat to future violence against the government of the United States, to a willingness to nullify by force the votes of myself, my wife and my daughter, then what does? And if that day were to come when he were to take these words to their ultimate implication, were he "to fight, kill, or die" to remove he who he has declared to be a domestic enemy, ineligible to be President and not qualified to be Commander-in-Chief, then who would he fight? Who would he kill?

Would it not be we, the American People, those of us who live right here in Wasilla and elsewhere, who, in a Constitutionally held election and under laws and rules that found candidate Obama to be eligible, voted him in as President? Not only would that fight be against us, it would be against many who voted with Rick against President Obama, people who deeply oppose our President and resent his policies, but who are loyal Americans with deep respect for the foundations that hold up the United States and would defend their country. 

While I hope and do not believe that it will ever come to this, should Rick or any others who share this sentiment ever act out the full implication of his stated words, he and they would then literally become the domestic enemy that he swore himself to defend against.

That's what his words say to me. They tell me that, while he was part of the laudable "get out the vote in 2010" message of the Tea Party rally, should that effort fail to achieve their desired goals, he has considered other, non-democratic options and found them acceptable.

Again, to those who see a more positive, non-threatening interpretation to his words, I invite you to express your viewpoint.

Look at that mountain, standing so beautiful above and indifferent to the fray. It is not on your side, it is not on my side. It doesn't give a damn about you or me or our squabbles. That mountain is Alaska, that mountain is America. It is the absolute, real America. When we are all gone and forgotten, it will still stand. Not forever - nothing of this earth does, but long beyond any memory of us.

Other speakers stated that the Heath Care Bill was Pearl Harbor to conservatives and that it would result in the deaths of more Americans than Pearl Harbor and 9/11 combined; that, compared to nature, humans pump one tenth of one percent of the total amount of the gas that climatologists blame for global warming into the atmosphere, so humans cannot possibly change the climate. 

My father fought the Nazis in World War II. Many times, he risked his life. A bullet from a Nazi machine gun once struck him in the forehead of his flight helmet, turned it 180 degrees backwards and knocked him unconscious. His captain thought he was dead and ordered a crew member to shove his body out of the way and take over his spot.

Many of the airmen that he flew with died fighting the Nazis.

Down on the ground, Americans and our World War II allies were killed by the hundreds of thousands in combat against the Nazis.

To use the word "Nazis" as it is used here cheapens the sacrifices they made to rid the world of this evil. To use the word in this way dishonors the tens of millions of innocent men, women and children murdered by the Nazis.

Why not use the word "Nazis" to describe... Nazis? No one else. Why not use the name, likeness and moustache of Hitler to describe just one man... Hitler?

It really lets both Hitler and the Nazis off far too easy to lay these obscene titles upon your fellow Americans because they disagree with you.

This also goes for Liberals who would use the word in the opposite direction.

It truly is a great country that we live in. May it long survive and stay that way.

I have already stated my feelings about this one, two photos above.

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Reader Comments (46)

Thank you, Bill. I felt strongly that you SHOULD make this post and sure that you WOULD do it and now that you did, I THANK YOU.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJerrianne

My dad happened upon a tea party rally and saw someone carrying a sign that said "Everything Sucks."That epitomizes the mindless cynicism at the heart of the tea party movement, to my mind.

Things don't get better through cynical disengagement, which is really all the tea party stands for.

If the tea party wants to wrap itself in our nation's flag and profess their love of the constitution, then they should take a moment and read the 14th amendment of the constitution. It says, in part, that "[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States , and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1959. Hawaii was a state.

End. Of. Story.

His father's residency of Kenya is irrelevant in the context of "jus soil" (citizenship through place of birth) citizenship.

They should quit wasting our time and start talking about issues that actually affect us.

What are their suggestions for helping kids afford to attend college as tuitions skyrocket?

How do they suggest we fix our increasing number of failing public schools?

How should we make health insurance (A) affordable, and (B) actually provide for people?

There are plenty more tough questions to ask. I'm not hearing many solutions from the tea party. In life, you don't make a bad situation any better by simply feeling pissed off. Government isn't any different. At the end of the day, you need to actually offer some substantive, thoughtful ideas. That requires patience. Thought. Deliberation. And most important - listening.

In my opinion, Barack Obama has had the political courage to ask these questions and offer some ideas, without letting his own political aspirations hinder him. He never said he had all the answers.

George Bush prided himself on making "tough decisions," but by and large, all he did was sweep the issues under the rug of the private sector.

That's not good enough any more.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErik

Thank you. Powerful words straight from your heart.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

nice article well worth the read. not every writing should be short. So many writings have no humanity to them, this was a pleasure. thank you.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteroldalder

I have soooooooo many thoughts about the "tea party" movement swimming around my head. Many of them echo your thoughts in this blog. What I've learned since moving to Alaska, is that Alaskans are very vocal about there political feelings. I hear alot of people say the most vile things about the president, his citizenship and there feelings about how much he's muckin it up. I agree with you wholeheartedly.. where were these people when bush was in office??? I don't believe that Obama has made all the right decisions.. but when you hand someone a completely screwed up situation, how do you expect him to automatically fix it? I just dont understand people. I keep my feelings quiet when I hear people talk about things they don't even truly understand... but deep down, I just feel sad.. because I'm not sure where this country is going..

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRocksee

Thank you, Bill. A true patriots words.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

And another thing.. calling someone a terrorist, or a neo, eco, or whatever kind of nazi is a very BOLD statement to make. Neither are words to be throwing around.. and I see them all too much at these tea party rallies.

It gives me the same sick feeling that I get when I see Fred Phelps picketing funerals..

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRocksee

Look at the facts, big government and big corporations are one and the same, and the President can best be described as a corporator. His campaigned received far more money from Wall Street than did the opposition. We are opposed to his policies because we believe in the freedom of the individual. It is wrong to call him a nazi, but I heard a lot more accusations of Bush being called a Nazi from the left than what the right is doing with the current president. Nobody complained about the left when they did far worse than what I have seen from what the tea partiers are doing. There are no plays on Broadway about assisinating the President as there was with Bush. I have not heard of Democrats being shot at and killed when they leave a meeting of democrates as happened last week in Lousiana to two republicans leaving a meeting at the republican head quarters. I agree with the tea partiers when it comes to freedom and taxes, and of course a smaller government. Nobody I know agrees with the right wing extremist any more than they agree with the leftist.

Like you, Bill I am in a serious financial situition and not able to pay all my taxes this year for the first time in my life. I shudder to think of what will happen. My business is being chocked by new regulations, All our employees have lost their insurance for the first time since I have been in or been a part of a business. I am not sure we will survive this year. My doctor for the past 16 years Is going to quit his practice because of the new Health care bill, which included hiring about 15,000 new IRS agents. I feel as strong about my positions as you do yours, as you know. We are still brothers, Americans, and believe in the same constitution and feel the same about our parents, I really miss them there is not a day goes by that I don't think of them. The bond we have as brothers is far stronger than political differences between us.

Bill, I enjoy reading your Blogs and seeing your family, they all seem to be doing well, you can be proud of them. I miss all you guys. Even though we disagree about politics and the current adminstration, I admire your restraint when you confront those you dissagree with and the respect you show them. sorry to go on so long, hope you are not upset.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrother Mac

Brother Mac - Your statement about 15,000 IRS agents being hired to enforce health care premiums, etc. is totally incorrect and has been proven wrong. There are so many false things being said about HCR and people really should get the facts from reliable sources and not automatically believe everything they hear. FACT CHECK . ORG is the best and most accurate source. Please do yourself a favor and read this, and correct those who keep stating false things. Thank you! http://factcheck.org/2010/04/more-malarkey-about-health-care/

Here is a brief summary for the website, but you can read even more by going there:

April 19, 2010
Summary
We’ve seldom seen a piece of legislation so widely misrepresented, and misunderstood, as the new health care law. We stopped counting the number of articles and items we turned out on the subject after the total reached 100.

Some of that is understandable. The debate went on for more than a year, while the different House and Senate bills changed their shape constantly. The final law was the product of an awkward two-step legislative dance that first enacted the Senate’s version, then quickly amended it with a reconciliation "fix." No wonder people are confused.

And even now the misrepresentations continue. The new law is no longer a moving target, but some opponents persist in making false or exaggerated claims about it. Our inboxes are filled with messages asking about assertions that the new law:

* Requires patients to be implanted with microchips. (No, it doesn’t.)
* Cuts benefits for military families and retirees. (No. The TRICARE program isn’t affected.)
* Exempts Muslims from the requirement to obtain coverage. (Not specifically. It does have a religious exemption, but that is intended for Old Order Amish.)
* Allows insurance companies to continue denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions. (Insurance companies have agreed not to exploit a loophole that might have allowed this.)
* Will require 16,500 armed IRS agents to enforce. (No. Criminal penalties are waived.)
* Gives President Obama a Nazi-like "private army." (No. It provides a reserve corps of doctors and other health workers for emergencies.)
* "Exempts" House and Senate members. (No. Their coverage may not be as good as before, in fact.)
* Covers erectile-dysfunction drugs for sex offenders. (Just as it was before the new law, those no longer in jail can buy any insurance plan they choose.)
* Provides federal funding for abortions. (Not directly. But neither side in the abortion debate is happy with the law.)

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrannyBea

Thank you, Bill. It was not too long...

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGiGi

If only more people could be as accepting as you, what a wonderful world this would be. Thank you for showing us the respectful way to look at the opposing viewpoint of our neighbors. Your carefully written words matched with your photos is far more effective than a thousand picketers with hate filled signs.

This paragraph is beautiful...thank you for reminding us all what is truly important.

" Look at that mountain, standing so beautiful above and indifferent to the fray. It is not on your side, it is not on my side. It doesn't give a damn about you or me or our squabbles. That mountain is Alaska, that mountain is America. It is the absolute, real America. When we are all gone and forgotten, it will still stand. Not forever - nothing of this earth does, but long beyond any memory of us."

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjust another American

Oh, if only those who run this country could do so with wisdom and respect and mutual desire to render good service to our nation. I fear much as I watch people (of whatever persuasion) advocate anarchy, violence, etc. Truth does not prevail.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWhiteStone

Just the right amount of words, Bill.
Was a long walk but you got somewhere important, someplace very important.
Amen and thank you neighbor.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlaska Pi

In the past few days, I have had more "forwarded" messages from conservative friends and relatives, all of which contained false information. I have spent time and energy researching half-truths and distortions and sending back documented facts. There is so much misinformation out there being forwarded to millions of others, not only about the health care law, but about how we've lost freedoms, and racial hatred, and threats of violence towards and calling those I voted for vile names. No facts can disprove them, no arguments help, families are being split apart,and I've never ever felt this much political hatred in the way it's being expressed now in the name of "Christianity" (and I've lived a long life). What happened to "Love thy neighbor as thyself" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and a philosophy that if we all work together, we can make things better.

So many bad things have happened in the name of religion over the years -- from those who believe their religion is the only religion, and that God is on their side. Listening to Glen Beck say that he thinks that God is speaking through him, and others who feel that God is on their side and that their religion is the only true religion, sounds like two two-year-olds screaming "MY MOMMY" at each other (and they both are right because they each have their own mommy).

Thank you, Bill, for posting. I hate trying to make sense out of nonsense, but I am grateful that I am not alone. God bless.....

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Nancy

Thank you Bill. That was beautiful. Wish everyone in America could read your words. You make us all proud to be Americans.
Mrs. Gunka

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn Mueller

Very well said, Mr. Hess. Every word was worth the reading, and it would have been a shame if you had edited out any of them. Thank you for being you.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDianne

Thank you Bill, very much.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Bill - excellent post and very emotional. I wonder how you manage to stay calm when you are being called names right in your face with the signs. I went to check them out too. As I read the signs, I got as angry as I have ever been in my life. I pay taxes, I was in the military, I don't hurt anybody, I vote, I co-exist with people who don't agree with me, I clean up my own trash. And for that I'm not an American? I'm some kind of Nazi-like character? Screw them. I'm tired of giving them the benefit of the doubt. I don't get anything in return.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBS

Finally a website from Alaska that isn't full of hate. Now I have a problem I hope one of you can help solve. My Republican sister and I have both lived in Alaska. She attended a church and that's where all her old friends are from and where she gets all her I Love Palin info. Her thoughts, not mine. Palin is a trouble maker with a smile.
She was telling me that Palin got rid of all the corruption in your government in her short term and that is why so many people resent her.
Would someone please put together a rebuttal for me. I've read most of the Gates on Palingates and can hardly believe Palin could have been all that wonderful.
I'd be so grateful for your help. Bill will have my email address.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterferob

THANK YOU, Bill Hess, Photojournalist. Job well done! :')

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFunny Face

Saw your blog referenced in a blog over at LittleGreenFootballs. You make me proud to be an American.

Thanks for the power and restraint you showed in this piece, in equal measure.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterObdicut

Well said! I'm glad you posted. I should have known that no matter what the subject, you would discuss it in a way that any gloom would be dispersed with a positive attitude. Since I do not have a way with words, I'd like to offer some words from a speech by Abraham Lincoln about "domestic enemies" or as is often misquoted "enemies from within" the country...

"......At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us....

...I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts…

…..The question recurs, "how shall we fortify against it?" The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others...

...As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American …..

...There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law ……as for instance, --- one of two positions is necessarily true; that is, the thing is right within itself, and therefore deserves the protection of all law and all good citizens; or, it is wrong, and therefore proper to be prohibited by legal enactments; and in neither case, is the interposition of mob law, either necessary, justifiable, or excusable....

....Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence.--Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws: and, that we improved to the last; that we remained free to the last; …

...Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis…..

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLynda (AK CDA)

You used your alone time very, very well.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkathleenpalingates

Just want to add my voice to the others - wonderfully written. Thank you Bill.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterManxMamma

Thank you for writing this Bill. Strong words written in an uplifting and positive way.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermocha

Thank you for this important and calmly reasoned post. It was not one word too long. It was just right and you said things that need to be said and said again and again.

You, sir, are a fine and talented photojournalist. I appreciate every visit I make to your blog.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremilypeacock

A heartfelt Quyana Cakneq Bill, thank you very much for sharing this sad and alarming day with us.

We are patriots, we are Real Alaskans and Real Americans too.

They can peaceably assemble and utilize our first amendment rights, they can even carry and conceal, but since the Health Care town hall meetings and the sexual orientation discrimination ordinance meetings this summer where they have blustered, shouted and threatened any dissent (or in this case, the majority will they don't agree with) they have lost our view that this is a respectable movement.

Go Obama, we are with you as you stand tall amidst all the ugliness that you inherited from a blameless and squeeky clean grown government.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentericvillages

Well, Bill, the first thing that I need to say is that apparently people did think that your post was important enough to wade through all your many, many words. I'm glad that you wrote it. I thought that I was going to have to get a small posse together, come to Wasilla and kick your .... um... Wasilla tail.

Yes. What you saw was wrong. All of those things. The mindless hate and name calling and the blaming. It's wrong, and it's what children do when they are throwing a tantrum. The Tea Party man that spoke with me at the store was civil. Not all of them are. They are big on blame. We are all to young to remember it, but have you read about Hitler's rise to power? He was big on blaming, he was big on calling people to rise up. He made a scapegoat of a religion. The mistake of those days was that good people fell into thinking that he was a madman and would certainly never amount to anything. Meanwhile, more and more people began to align themselves with him. NOT BECAUSE HE WAS RIGHT, I hasten to add...because they saw an opportunity to grasp power in their own hands. They saw a chance to have more, to be more. Suddenly there was no way to stop him. This Tea Party business is no different in my opinion. We are a nation of diverse views. In the minds of the tea party folk, the only opinions that count are their own. This is about as un-American as you can get. We all need to speak up now. We all need to take our pictures, and post them. We all need to air our thoughts. We all need to act.


I'm posting a link to this blog post on my blog. It is important, Bill. Don't you ever forget that. Not ever.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

Bill,

I hope you don't mind but I had to re-post the part of your article about the mountain. It was beautiful. I linked it back to you.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGermanGoodness

I do find it ironic that some claim the Tea Party is all about blame. And those who support the man in D.C. dont blame? That he and his followers have not made ANY bad decisions, heck, it was all Bush, that evil, evil man and his supporters. I said it before and I'll say it again...how quickly we forget. There are those who comment here looking down on myself and others when not so long ago it was them out there waving their signs and protesting the events in this country,spewing their hate towards supporters of Bush, veterans of the Iraq war,etc.

That quote you posted....I stated the other day that I appplauded for him and his words, and I stand by that today. Like him I refuse to accept that man as my president and every day my husband and I are thankful that he is now retired from the military, as that is NOT the commander-in-chief we want to see over our military. I too took the oath that is mentioned in the quote and I will stand forth with him and say that I too will stand by that oath as long as I live when it comes to protecting this country and doing whats right for her. I dont take that quote as a call to gather your arms and bring physical harm to the current adminstration.However, if such harm was threatened to us by those who do not want to hear our voices than I would have no problem doing what was necessary to stand up for my rights as an American. I will not be bullied by those in D.C. that do not agree with me and those who feel like I do, just like I will not be bullied by those who comment on your blog about having respect but yet write some pretty disrespectful things in regards to those who think differently than they do. One comments that "In the minds of the tea party folk, the only opinions that count are their own.". I could easily say the same thing about those of the opposite belief. You say our words mean nothing and that we should be silenced...as another one of your blog readers commented we are "wasting oxygen". Yet they state we're all Americans and people need to speak up, stop this, say something. So why does your(general your) opinion mean more? Just because its different than mine and you feel its right?

How do I intend to destroy the evil that I feel sits in D.C.? I plan on using my words, my votes, to get those that do this country no good out of her govt. I do not advocate violence towards anyone and I wont support it.

Thank you for your post Bill and for stating your thoughts on everything. Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing isnt it? I am sorry we missed each other that day, I would have loved to talk with you....and we dont need to talk politics. Just Alaskan to Alaskan, American to American :)

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisaJ

Lisa J. I did not agree with everything that Bush did. I did not agree with everything that Reagan did. Or Clinton. Or Bush. And so on. And so forth. But I did not gather in large groups and call them vulgar names. I did not refuse to acknowledge my government. I did not vow to fight them with my life. You may not support violence, but you are hobnobbing with a faction that does. It's wrong. Not meaning any disrespect, but that is MY opinion on it.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

Thank you for your observations. Please be sure to let us know when you get an answer to your questions about what is evil and how are the so called patriots going to destroy it.
I plan to keep reading your blog.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatsy

Thank you for this heartfelt and thoughtful post. Many Canadians find it confusing that while some Americans say they believe in free speech, what they really mean is "I believe in it only when you agree with me, otherwise shut up." To us, Teabaggers just look crazy. (And before some commenter jumps down my throat, most Canadians are well read when it comes to American politics.)

My uncle fought the Nazis in WWII when he served in the Royal Air Force as a navigator. He flew over 40 bombing missions and made it home safely. I don't like hearing Nazi and Hitler comparisons thrown around either.

I have friends - he is a surgeon and former naval officer and she is a retired social worker. Both are black, both were raised in America and still live there though he works and teaches and volunteers in Canada part of the time, and both old enough to have lived through segregation in their schools. They said something that really stuck with me, and it was said with pride, yet also profound sadness.

They said America doesn't deserve Obama.

It's scary to see the great divide in your country. It makes me wonder if another civil war is brewing when there is such animosity.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Using the word "evil" to describe a democratically elected government is so very troubling.

Must be based on religion, that's all I can think of.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

"While digesting Reader's Digest
In the back of a dirty book store
A plastic flag with gun on the back
Fell out on the floor.
I picked it up and ran outside
And slapped it on my windshield.
And if I could see ol' Betsy Ross
I'd tell her how good I feel.

But your flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore,
It's already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin', no matter what the reason's for
And your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore!"

Nothing has changed since John Prine wrote this great song back in the early '70s . . .

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPrine Fan

I haven't read all the comments. I just want to say "Thank You!" A thoughtful, heartfealt post that expresses so many of my own hopes and concerns for this beloved country that is, yes, all of ours.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCGinWI

I come to your site quite frequently, and I have to say you out did yourself on this post. Wonderful! You captured every feeling, and emotion I have felt from day one. There is no reasoning with people who are too set in their ways. I worked with this gentleman for over 15 years. He is very stern. He served in the military(officer) for many years. We never talked politics in all the years we worked together. I volunteered and canvassed for candidate Obama. Being from a small town, word got out and I was bombarded by co-workers. They called me every name in the book. I heard them criticize President Obama on a daily basis. To this day they continue to spew lies and hatred. This gentleman I mentioned walked up to me and said "They are the ignorant ones! No one in this workplace should consider themselves Republican, This job doesn't pay enough. Republicans only look out for the wealthy." Hearing those words from him made me realize I was not alone, and understand why I had the utmost respect for him. I guess I assumed he was Republican because he was military. My late husband was military and a diehard Republican at that. In a nutshell, not all those present at the Tea Party feel like their alliances, they only participate to not create waves. I don't blame them for staying silent. I live in Wyoming. I rest my case.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChickapee

Excellent post, and I agree with you. I was so proud of our nation after our last election. Had such high hopes for the progress we had made. But now.....now all I have to do is look around at many of my neighbors, read the negative emails I receive from friends who are furious that Obama is our President. Emails with incorrect information about health care and more. Information that can easily be fact checked, but wasn't. I've saved them because of many reasons. One of which is often denied, but boldly stated in the messages. Obama is disliked, even hated because of his color. People wish him gone. And they don't care how that comes about. Not all who oppose him, but many.

Thank you Bill for having the courage to put feelings forth.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Love the pictures of your Granson's and watching them grow. Thank you for posting your thoughts and pictures of the tea party rally., you are a true American.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlillibird

First time I linked over to your journal - very moving

When I see the news with the hate and nastiness spewing
from these "patriots" I remember that each person l
bleeds red blood, regardless of skin pigment, religion,
ancestorial country, or hair color. I also remember the cheers and
tears of joy when Hawaii made Obama the President.

I wonder where the t-baggers were when Former
President Bush wire-tapped Americans without a
warrant, when Habeas Corpus was suspended,
when the President himself ordered torture. When
the VP ratted out a CIA covert operative, when on-
line communications are re-routed for "code word
searches" Where was their hate & anger when
the constitution was shredded?
Is the Bush/Cheney version of the constitution
they want to defend?

Thank you - I'll come back again.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEnjay in E MT

Brother Mac - you are sorely misinformed.

First, Liberals did not call Bush a Nazi. He may have been called a buffoon or an idiot, but I can't remember a single time, especially from a major news network, calling Bush a Nazi or putting a Hitler mustache on his picture and plastering it all over the place on rally signs and internet blogs. I tried and tried to find something referring to the incessant use of the word Nazi when referring to Bush, because I don't like to speak without the facts, but couldn't find anything except for his family's relationship to the Nazis. GW Bush's Grandfather had the assets of the family business seized by the US Government under the Trading With Enemy Act of 1941. Much of the Bush family fortune was made by dealing with Nazi Germany - both before and DURING WWII. Also, Bush Sr. practically helped Sadam Hussein with information on how to acquire nucleur weapons and how to overthrow Iran. ALSO, Bush Jr. had ties with the Bin Laden brothers through an oil company called Carlyle Group. I'm sorry, but you have to call it like it is. How is that not being a corporator (as you call it) - looking out for their bottom line and more oil profits?

The Broadway Play you are referring to, is not about President Bush. The actor doesn't even look anything like him. The directive of the play was to protray a President in crisis, which points to a similar scene in Julius Caesar. The Act in that play was just a few minutes and Broadway is a far cry from the MSM, as the right has currently.

Yeah, so Obama knew William Ayers - he was only 9 years old when Ayers was an active member of the Weathermen. Ayers has a completely different agenda from that time almost 40 years ago. Yes, his preacher said some hateful things about America. Obama has denounced those words. Do you believe and agree with EVERYTHING your preacher says?

I have searched and searched for something mentioning the shooting and killing of Republicans by Democrats and cannot find a thing. Do you have a reference you can provide? Or did you say that hoping that no one would do the research?

What are these new regulations that you speak of for small businesses? How are they "choking" you?

Someone else covered your misinformation regarding the 15,000 IRS Agents (FALSE!!!), so read that post about that one.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE for the health of our country in this currently divided nation, get your "facts" from a reliable source, not the MSM.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJodi

There's such a big difference in the mentality coming from the Wasilla area compared to the rest of the State. Why so much anger and hate? Where have all these people come from? I, as well as many other born and raised Alaskans have such a different view (literally) of our great State and our country then those that are pictured in your blog regarding this day.

When reading some of those signs, it's like they were born in the backwoods..them-thar-tar-hills.. McCain unleashed something very terrible that came out of the bowels of Wasilla...we may never recover from his cowardly hail Mary pass, that proved to be a total disaster and to this day, Alaska has paid dearly for her ruining our States reputation.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSoutheast

Not being one that misses a chance to say 'I told you so', I'd like to say it now. Bill? Do you think that there are many like minded people, folks like you and me, people that would love the chance to speak their feelings on the subject? People that are just waiting for the opportunity to do it? Look what happened when they had the chance to do it here. The comments left make me proud. We're not alone in our concerns about our country. We aren't. We've spoken clearly and eloquently and here in your humble comment section, reason has triumphed over rhetoric. Good job, photojournalist Bill.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

Bill,
I must add my thanks to you for taking the time to make this thoughtful and important post. Many have said it better than I am able to, yet I want my voice added as I echo your feelings and concerns.

Thanks Photojournalist Bill, well done.

Mike

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Great Job Bill!

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDustinn Craig

Bill, this post has stayed in my memory since the day it appeared. I came back to re-read it, and to bookmark it. A very strong post.

Then I notice I'm posting below Dustinn Craig. I hope you are all doing OK.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

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