The inspiration for this column comes from two places. One is that it’s the end of year and the second is from Haines writer and friend Heather Lende. Her latest book, “Find the Good,” is a gem of insightful life writing. Pretending she was on her deathbed and trying to come up with a few pithy words of wisdom just before having her soul whispered up the chimney, she came up with three words – find the good. She writes, “I surprised myself with this pretty great notion. Find the good. That’s enough. That’s plenty. I could leave my family with that.”
Looking back at 2015 to find the good, here are five political events that I am thankful for.
1. Inequality becoming an issue – Democratic candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has made income inequality an issue of debate in the 2016 presidential campaigns, for both the Democrats and the Republicans. Right now, the wealthiest 300 Americans control 50 percent of all the capital wealth generated by the U.S, economy, leaving the other 50 percent to split among the remaining 300 million Americans. Income inequality is a problem long ignored and it’s good to see it emerge as a critical issue.
2. A Governor with a fiscal plan – It’s well established that Alaska cannot cut its way out of our $3.5 billion annual deficit. Doing nothing on the revenue side is not an option, and puts our bond ratings and the general economy at risk. In releasing his fiscal plan, Governor Walker notes, “We cannot continue with business as usual and live solely off of our natural resource revenues. Never before has the state faced a deficit so large that we are draining more than $9 million from savings every day.” While I do not agree with all aspects of the Governor’s plan, I applaud his willingness to put a realistic plan out on the table… the move of a true statesman.
3. Finally, a response to gun violence – Over the past decade in America, more than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence. Many of these crimes were committed by people who never should have been able to purchase a gun in the first place. The President listed the horrific mass shootings that have taken place during his time in office – Fort Hood, Binghamton, Aurora, Oak Creek, Newtown, the Navy Yard, Santa Barbara, Charleston, San Bernardino. Now at last, President Obama has taken steps to expand background checks to include gun shows as well as stepping up enforcement of existing laws. In the big picture of addressing gun violence these are baby steps, to place the safety of our communities first. But even these steps that clearly do not infringe on the second amendment have been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and by political leaders in their grip, making the President’s modest executive action monumental.
4. The Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage – Although the struggle for gay couples to receive recognition of their right to marriage started over 40 years ago when Maryland became the first state to make it legal, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015 still caught me by surprise. I’m awed by the swiftness with which holdout states like Alaska got caught up in the movement. Political historian and editor James Haught tells us that “the arc of American cultural politics bends toward more liberty, not less”. This Supreme Court ruling is testament to that arc in our politics.
5. The outcome of Paris climate talks – Since this was the topic of my last op-ed, I will simply share these words from 350.org Founder Bill McKibben who attended the talks: “This [agreement] didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance at saving the planet.” How’s that for finding the good?
As a writer, it’s hard to resist the temptation of building off another writer’s succinct words of wisdom. Thanks Heather Lende for helping me find the good in 2015. Whether you have a favorite cause or just noticed a neighbor clearing the berm of snow that blocks your driveway, find the good then build upon it. Whatever is within your realm of influence, seek to grow the good that you’ve discovered. Find the good. Grow the good.
• Kate Troll is a City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member and was appointed by former Governor Sarah Palin to her Mitigation Advisory Group on climate change. The views represented are her own.