America's Last Frontier?

The TLC series Sarah Palin’s Alaska gave us a view into a place of wonder most have never seen and experienced.  As one of America’s last wild places, it’s clear that there’s something to be learned by all of us in the beauty of Alaska and the rugged individualism that necessarily prevails among its people.  When Columbus set sail in search of a westward passage to the East Indies, he stumbled upon something wonderful when he found the New World.  What he discovered was a land of nature’s plenty, and a place ripe for the expansion of civilization in which to thrive and develop.  What those who followed him to this this new world realized is that all of nature’s beauty and resources can be harnessed to support our existence and growth.  In October, we mark the time of his arrival in the New World, but many Americans have forgotten its significance.

In our modern era, we’ve become so consumed with the notion of preserving the natural beauty that we’ve hobbled people in their ability to grow.   What Sarah Palin offers are the lessons she had learned as a leader in Alaska.  Because it’s still a largely wild place, vast in every dimension, and largely untouched by human development, she understood the necessity of preserving that natural beauty while recognizing the necessity of developing the resources and carving out a place for people to  produce and prosper.  In this sense, what Palin and her generation of Alaskans have done is to continue the mighty task of taming the frontier, but what she reminds us through her works in Alaska is that the founding, growth, and prosperity of our country had rested upon the idea that we can forge our own destiny.  What Palin’s TLC series offered us was a golden opportunity to learn about Alaska’s growth, but what a Palin presidency offers us is the chance to rediscover America.

This is perhaps America’s greatest challenge:  We have generations of people who have never learned what America had been from its discovery, through its development, and to its eventual founding and growth.  America was the place in which a person could prosper on the basis of individual efforts and ingenuity.  America was a place where their work ethic and their integrity mattered, because merit still mattered.  These traits were critical because reality seemed much more cruel to those who did not exhibit them.  In that sense, Alaska is still such a place.  What Sarah Palin did while Mayor of Wasilla was to begin confronting these issues to the inestimable benefit of the people of that city.  Things most of us in the rest of the country take for granted, such as grocery stores and roads to support the customers who would frequent them had been rudimentary and incapable of sustaining growth, but by the time she left that office, the rational plan of development she had instituted began to pay dividends to every person in Wasilla and the surrounding region, who had previously relied upon a distant Anchorage as the only source of their provisions and the central place to engage in commerce.

As Governor of her state, Sarah Palin continued the trend of development, while working to protect the natural wonders of her state.  A leader must recognize both the beauty and the bounty, and develop a plan to preserve one while fully accessing the other.  That can be a difficult challenge, but in a vast wilderness like Alaska, there are many more difficulties than most of us in the lower forty-eight states know, given the extremes of the climate and all the considerations it imposes.  Few things can be built easily or cheaply in Alaska, yet Palin managed the continuing development of energy resources for which our country now cries out in agony.  What Americans are now discovering is that reality remains as capable of cruelty as it had ever been, but we’re now much less prepared to confront it.  Sarah Palin’s example leads on the path out of our nationally stagnated wilderness.

What Palin may recognize more thoroughly than any other politician is that such development and growth relies upon the commitment, diligence, and industry of those who are to carry it out and ultimately enjoy its benefits.  Few politicians ever really build anything, but the very best among them establish the legal and moral groundwork for those who will.  Sarah Palin knows this, because she learned in her career that spouting politicians promise much, but in the end, it is the people who must deliver.  Nobody can give you lasting wealth.  You must earn it.  Nobody will provide you a life-long prosperity.  You must produce it.  Her recognition of this simple truth calls to mind a memory of an America in its youth.  It reminds one that all we take for granted today had been built by our predecessors, and they had all been individuals trading their labor and their lives for the proposition that their children would live more fruitful lives.  Shamefully, too many have abandoned that idea, out of fear and out of desperation.  It is that philosophical continent which must be conquered anew.

This has been the inheritance of our generation, and yet too many among us seem to think our prosperity appeared one day as if by magic.  Palin knows that none of these things we enjoy popped into existence at the whimsical demand of some politician or bureaucrat in Washington DC, but instead resulted from the efforts of millions, each devoted to their own interests, but trading their labors in exchange for the best efforts of others.   That is the heart of capitalism, and its simplest expression.  Sarah Palin has seen how capitalism cultivates freedom when carefully tended and nurtured, unobstructed by bureaucracy and overbearing government.  She has conquered that ground many times before in her political career, but now the nation needs to see this example and follow her lead.

What Sarah Palin may teach this struggling nation is that our country is still one of plenty, and that we still have our resources, but despite all the wonderful opportunities America still provides, nothing is more important in realizing them than the vast, untapped human potential of its people.  Neither Alaska nor America can be a land of opportunity without people of a mind and spirit to make use of all the gifts they provide.  Many Americans have somehow lost the ability to recognize the opportunities before them, and more have lost the will to pursue them when presented.  One of the key reasons for this depressions lies in the fact that government has now become the main obstacle to opportunity, prosperity, and even the human spirit of discovery and growth.  Palin’s example is that of an entrepreneurial explorer, and if we learn from her no other lesson, this one will have been key to understanding the root of our troubles.  We may always celebrate Columbus’ voyage to the New World, but history may yet record that it had been with Sarah Palin that we finally rediscovered America.

Advertisements