“One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery.”- Wallace Stegner
Well, it's been a kind of bumpy week on the campaign trail to the Haines Borough Assembly election on Oct. 4. The paper, summing up the field of 5 challengers and one besieged incumbent, gave me a very short sentence: "Lende is the optimist". Which, at least is true.
Friday morning at 7 the candidates were all in the Pioneer Bar as guests of the Alaska Miner's Association, Haines Chapter. The group meets every Friday at 7 in the bar. We were asked to introduce ourselves, and what connection we have to mining, and I said my great grandfather came to Alaska for the Klondike Gold Rush, my grandfather was a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines and a mining engineer in western Pennsylvania, and a great grandmother taught in a silver mine in Mexico. Then I said, and here is where it all sort of went south-- that the thing I like most about mining are the stories of the men who moil for gold- the books-- I said I loved Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose. Then later I said I would support the highest level of protection for the Chilkat River.
I am pretty sure they all thought I was crazy. And maybe I am, to think a writer, a mother and grandmother with a fairly tender heart that she often wears on her face, has the grit for (even) local politics, may be wishful thinking. But on the other hand, shouldn't we who care deeply jump in? Try to make a positive difference? Also, some supporters have suggested I need to be more aggressive about calling out assembly and administration mistakes in the last few years. I think I have been, but I am not going to do it in a personal way. The only reason why it matters how long a candidate has lived in Haines is to calibrate the complicated connections, isn't it?
At 30 plus years now, we all go way back, and have deep associations of the familial kind living in a small town fosters. One of the those miners at the meeting is one of my very best friends, the Godfather of my daughter. I know I made him unhappy with my answers. I gave his father's eulogy just this spring. That all means that we left the meeting on good terms.
What's more, I have written the obituaries of the mayor's husband, a nephew, and several other family members. I have also written the obituary of two assembly members' parents, and one's wife and one's husband, whom I also gave the eulogy for. In other words, even though I may disagree with some of the politics, these are my people, and those relationships alter the way I speak, and the way I campaign. The way I live. I believe that's a strength, not a weakness, just as I believe that the stories we read and write and tell are as valuable as data. I know they last a lot longer, because they share a kind of truth that graphs and spread sheets never will.