Thus far I've kept the promise to myself that I would limit the Thomas Friedman style "observational" posts as I drive across the continent. One won't kill anyone though, right? And I promise I didn't interview a cabbie.
The remote parts of the Yukon and Alaska have a lot in common. The distances are vast, the landscape inspires a mixture of wonder and terror, and the people who live in the region practice a kind of self-sufficiency that seems foreign to people in urban areas. When running to the grocery store involves a seven hour round-trip drive, you tend to approach life a bit differently.
People in the region appear to share a lot of characteristics whether American or Canadian. One tangible difference in crossing the invisible line between Canada and the U.S. is immediately apparent, though. Americans have a fondness for warning onlookers to KEEP OUT of their PRIVATE PROPERTY because TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT that their Canadian self-sufficient cousins demonstrably do not share.
It makes perfect sense that the kind of person who would willingly live in such an isolated manner are, shall we say, desirous of privacy. They do not welcome uninvited guests, they do not revel in the company of others, and they willingly disengage from social institutions. Probably not big fans of the government. Alaskans, though, seem to think that someone is coming to get them in a way that Yukoners (??) do not. There's an explicit hostility on the Alaska side that isn't present in the otherwise quite similar Canadian side of the vast, empty north.
On some level this amuses me – the idea that The Government or the Illuminati or anyone else is interested in Randy's plywood shack and rusted hulk of a derelict Plymouth Valiant is almost heartbreakingly delusional but not quite to the point where it can be considered touching. I want to sit these people down and explain to them that having physically removed themselves from society by hundreds of miles of forbidding terrain in a region that experiences nine annual months of complete darkness is enough to convince people that they wish to be left alone. And the rest of us look at their hand-to-mouth existence without envy. In fact, most of us think they are crazy. Nobody is interested in removing the collection of bleached caribou bones from their yard. Of course, they'd shoot me if I tried to have this or any other conversation with them.
Is it a need to feel Important? Do they grapple with their own insignificance by imagining that the U.N. and Obama are plotting to come after them? Are they afraid of ordinary crime, like teenagers stealing things from their tanning shed? Or are they simply reveling in a persecution complex that justifies the level of misery that is their lives?
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The most interesting question, though, is why an invisible border filters out such attitudes as one heads east. If anything, Yukon Canadians (many of whom are Native) would seem to have more cause to be angry at the world than Alaskans who get a check from the State every year for doing nothing. But here we see the folly of applying logic to crypto-survivalists brimming with outward hostility.