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Alaskans Give Peace A 50-50 Chance



April 08, 2011

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska -
I had the pleasure of spending a few days “Outside” recently and naturally Alaska remains a “hot topic.”

Sure, there were the obligatory questions about our former governor, but those seem to be on the wane as folks Down South perhaps have moved on to another “it girl,” maybe that boffo Representative from Minnesota.

What folks seemed interested in, this time around, was all those “reality” shows about Alaska on the airwaves.  Sure there were questions about the “Sarah Palin, Superstar” traveling salvation show, but most were about the truckers, the fishermen, the state troopers, the bush pilots, and the other 710,000 shows about Alaskans (you didn’t realize that every resident of the state has his or her own reality show, what rock have you been living under?).

The general question was “hey, is it really like (insert show name here) up there?”

The automatic answer of course, is “yes.”

Even if the show is wildly over top and bears about as much relation to reality as I do to Sarah Palin, “yes” is the correct and only answer that you can give.

I learned that by answering similar questions posed over the last few years by outsiders about our former governor. The questioner really didn’t want to hear to truth, they just wanted to hear an answer that confirmed their preconceived notions. So the answer remains an emphatic “you betcha” every time a question is posed.

Because these folks truly want to believe that all Alaskans – and Alaskan situations - are larger than life and slightly unhinged. And that’s okay, because most of the time we want to believe that too.

So, it comes as a surprise to us. And to our reality show fans that, maybe things aren’t all that wacky in Alaska after all.

As evidence, I submit another one of those strange “surveys” that are conducted from time to time to determine how residents of each state stacks up.

This one measures which states are truly “peaceable  kingdoms.”

Some organization called the called the Institute for Economics and Peace (they get special points for combining two completely unrelated topics in their name) has come up with the US Peace Index 2011.

The Index uses a complex mix of factors to come up with a level of “absence of violence” and has come up with a rating for all the states in the Union.

The index – which is so danged complicated you wish the Institute had of turned its brain power to something more simple like curing cancer – measures homicide rates, violent crimes, percentage of the population in jail, number of police officers and the availability of “small arms” – people with short sleeve lengths, I guess – to determine the “absence of violence.”

Naturally, based on those factors, I was expecting a “big number” for our state.

But it turns out that – despite the stereotypes of wild, rugged Alaska, and our efforts to foster them – we’re not that “violent” after all. We’re in the middle, more or less, number 30, if you are going from least to most violent.

Fiddlesticks. Our whole self image is based on Alaskan Exceptionalism. We’ve got to be either the worst or the best at something or it’s not worth even tabulating.

So what state is the least violent, Maine. Which tells me that the Institute has never read any of Carolyn Chute’s books.

To be honest, during my time as a New Englander, I did find Maine to be pretty peaceful place, with the exception of the one time I got caught up in a 70 percent off sale in the L.L. Bean store in Freeport.

In fact , it was such a peaceful place that when I accidentally locked myself out of my car at a lobster shack in Bar Harbor one evening, it took me several hours to find a locksmith because everyone in the entire state had gone to bed at 6 pm that night.

In general, the Institute found New England to be a pretty mellow place overall, with five of the most peaceful states (Maine, New Hampster, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island). I spent enough time on the “crime beat” to know that Massachusetts ain’t no Garden of Eden. Perhaps, they just surveyed the Berkshires?

Minnesota (no crime out when it’s cold), North Dakota (Fargo, anyone?), Iowa (it’s only a misdemeanor to ‘whack’ someone with a corn cob) and Washington state (these folks have not spent time on I-5 at rush hour) also made the top 10.

Another surprising placing – as the sixth most peaceable kingdom – was Utah. Sure, it has a low crime rate, but the fact that every resident is issued a protective hand gun at birth has to cause the “small arms” numbers to skyrocket.

And what about the other end?  Where are things a bit dicey as far as “peace” goes.

Well, hot sauce, hot tempers and the yearly battle for Mardi Gras beads has taken a toll on Louisiana and it is the least “peaceful” state in America.

The south generally fared poorly in the survey , which shows that the Institute is merely a pawn in the continuing War of  Northern Aggression. Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina also made the bottom 10.

The only non-southern states to make the bottom 10 were Nevada (48) and Maryland (41).

I understand Nevada because “what happens in Las Vegas makes the police news” but Maryland, that august , peaceable blue state, home of the long-running “Campaign for a US Department of Peace?”

Go figure.

As I noted Alaska is either the 30th most peaceable state or the 20th most unpeaceable one.

That puts us in interesting company, bracketed on one side by New York  (You talkin’ ta me?) and the other by Michigan (Detroit had a 100 percent homicide rate last year).

Looks like we have our work cut out for us.

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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