I just returned from a trial in Anchorage, Alaska. All of February in the Great White North, and it was a fascinating experience. I had never been to Alaska and, apart from historical facts and its reputation for spectacular natural beauty, I knew very little about Alaska, especially from a cultural perspective. I knew it was a State where Sara Palin is still popular and defended. It is a State with a reputation for being very Republican, which is to say Conservative. I was wrong.
Alaska, at least Anchorage, is not Republican it is Libertarian – a place that is fiercely independent. They are just as anti-corporate as they are anti-government. They just don’t want anyone telling them what to do. There is an individualism that also paradoxically translates into an inter-dependence on each other. For example, the challenging weather creates a willingness to help each other, whether it means pitching in to get a car out of a snow bank or getting groceries for your neighbor.
The most striking aspect of Anchorage was that there was no obvious class or racial divisions. I never observed any racial tension and everyone seemed familiar with each other in a small-town sort of way. Maybe Alaska’s distance and recent arrival to the United States insulated it from the cultural legacy of slavery and racism, or perhaps the physical challenge of the environment has created a place – maybe the only place left – where the American dream is still possible.