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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Alaskans Choose Respect

I attended the Alaskans Choose Respect Rally at the Capitol on Thursday, March 31. Usually, I attend political rallies there. This time, it wasn't a political rally. It was instead a cultural rally, a rally to change the culture in our state around domestic violence and sexual abuse. We have extremely high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska and from the start, Governor Parnell has made it a priority in his administration.

At the rally, Dr. Walter Soboleff spoke from his wheelchair. One hundred and three years old, a Presbyterian minister and Tlingit Elder, he spoke briefly about how respect has always been a part of Tlingit cultute, not only respect for people but for creatures, land and water. It made me think of the current tragedy playing out in Japan where the water is being poisoned by radiation, and how that is not only disrespectful to the water, but also to the air, the fish, and the people affected by it.

His grandson, Sgt. Chris Burke, also spoke from the perspective of his work as a 15-year veteran as a Juneau Police Officer and, one would assume, many calls of distress. I liked what he said about the police not causing trouble, but "creating peace."

Although it was cold and wet, the group marched down Main Street to Marine Park to finish the rally. Lots of umbrellas out that day.

Although Alaskans are a diverse group of people, ethnically and politically and every other way, I'd venture to say that we share an appreciation, maybe even reverence for this land and for the animals, and now we have the potential to share something else: feelings of respect that could become reverence for all that surrounds us.

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