I recently wrote an open letter advocating for reopening our businesses and refocusing our city’s resources on helping both the employees and employers hurting from the shutdown.
When I first read some of the comments in the ADN, I wondered if the letter I wrote had actually been published, or if it was some other very different one that people were responding to.
So I read it again and yes, the ADN did print my words faithfully and even added a title which, if I had been a better writer, would have chosen for myself.
I then realized that my letter had, for many readers at least, been a failure. The message had been lost. For nowhere in my writing did I believe there to be hate but instead truly a call to greater, more effective, compassion and cooperation.
Do I think we should reopen Anchorage? Yes, I do. Do I think it is possible we may close again? Yes, I do.
More importantly though, whichever course we choose, I strongly believe that as a city we must refocus on our neighbors who are hurting. It is the duty of a government to help all of its citizens, not just the ones in hospitals.
I also learned that I was ignorant of the importance of shamanism, both past and present, to our indigenous neighbors. No more ignorant, I dare say, than those who assume that any race has a monopoly on shamans.
In fact, every culture, race, and ethnicity has practiced – and in some cases still do practice – shamanism.
When I wrote the line about witch doctors, shamans, and quacks, the faces framed in my mind’s eye were coincidentally white, peering into a cauldron or selling snake oil from a Conestoga wagon, perhaps because I happen to be white.
Just as Europeans have not had a monopoly on violence, imperialism, or any of the other heinous barbarities of history neither have Alaska’s Inuit or Yup’ik enjoyed a monopoly on shamanism.
In this ignorance I realized that I had given offense in a way that my upbringing makes me particularly sensitive to, as I too am proud of my heritage.
With this understanding in my heart I sincerely say I am sorry.
Finally, I am reminded that when we see something new – a new idea, a new person, anything – we can choose to judge it or be curious about it. It is easier to judge but, by being curious, we can learn something new. For me this time it was new knowledge about a part of Alaska’s Native heritage.
But even more than that, by being curious, I realized that I have an awful lot in common with the folks who have commented on my letter, even the angry ones.
Perhaps if more of us can take a moment to be curious about a new idea, assume the other person is sincere, we can take some small steps to building a better city together.
John Morris, M.D.