On Quilt Squares and Life
By Kellie Coulson
Several years ago I was a single mother going to a church where a founding family was getting ready to leave the state. Several months before their departure, a committeewoman gave me a 10” square and a cardboard heart with instructions to do something with the square and to create a heart on it however I wanted, as that square would be part of a quilt to represent my family on a church quilt. I went to a local fabric store with my little daughters and was directed to an area where women were poring over books and the clerk gave me some books to peruse for ideas. Within minutes, my daughters and I chose patterned corduroys, some bits of chiffon and frilly fabric. When the church quilt was put together, our square got a lot of compliments for how it represented us, “quirky but classic!” with some crazy stitches holding us all together. Every square represented each family in a unique manner and the departing family had a beautiful legacy to take with them to their new home several states away.
Last Tuesday evening I went to the Alaska Railroad Depot to attend a meeting where Alaska Right to Life’s endorsed candidates from the Mat-Su district were invited to mingle and speak. Unlike the church quilt that I had been a part of twenty years before, what I saw on Tuesday was essentially squares with the same heart on each one. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the dearth of different ideas within the group was obvious. This was a pro-life meeting, they all are against abortion, life begins at conception, and they are united in protecting that life. What I found notable was that in addition to the obvious, they all have similar ideas on business, unions, taxing, and resource development. I didn’t see anyone who wanted to stick his or her neck out with a dissenting idea. I am not certain that this fabric would stand up to rigorous, individual wear.
All of the candidates were against abortion, even if the baby was conceived in a rape. There was some delight when a volunteer at one of the candidate tables asked me if I wanted to see the difference between an invitro fetus conceived by rape verses one conceived in a stable marriage. I knew it was a trap, but OK, I’d bite. She was delighted, she would show me, but there wasn’t one! That was fair, but there were not a lot of answers for me when I asked about funding for post traumatic counseling for these mothers, with the ball being passed to charities because they didn’t want the government being saddled with the bill.
Alaska Right to Life’s chosen candidates in Mat-Su are David Eastman, Shelley Hughes, Mike Dunleavy, George Rauscher, Lynn Gattis, and Wes Keller. Mike Dunleavy mentioned Hollis French as being the most powerful man in Alaska for holding up any and all right to life bills.
While I appreciated the candidates for their beliefs, I did not have the impression that any had given a lot of thought to population changes and the resulting needs should abortion be made illegal. Why would they have to consider long term solutions when they intend to shift the solution to the hands of another organization? It is obvious in some cases (multi generations on the dole) that the present government safety net is not working for all people who need to use it, but the overall suggestion that the government, not churches, provide for people’s needs makes one wonder what safety net will be there if the churches, which at this time, are very resistant to being told who to help, don’t or are unable to distribute help to people who they deem ineligible? The blanket statement on charities with the religious groups allows the politicians to pass the buck and not have to worry about possible problems and children not getting fed.
“The mission of Alaska Right to Life is to protect and defend innocent human life…from the moment of conception until natural end of life.” I liked this but I wonder how far reaching this is and what and who it excludes. So far most people have seen Right to Life only discuss babies. Can it be accurately predicted that in the future, Right to Life, obviously no fan of the Hemlock Society, will be influencing law makers, many who are presently for it, to be against capital punishment? Will they fan out into other areas, and could they, should the present solutions being offered by their chosen candidates also not work, start advocating for a better quality of life?
Mat-Su is very conservative and it is likely that at least several of the Alaska Right to Life’s chosen people will be flying to Juneau in January. I wish that there was a greater mix in it, even with someone who wasn’t adhering to the same set of beliefs. The answers that the politicians shared seemed too simple for their complex constituency where the blanket solution might not work for everyone.
Shelley Hughes reminded me of the humor with which my youngest son shortens her name to Miss Shoes (I think he sees “Shughes”) whenever he sees her signs. When speaking of political issues, she speaks very strongly of her faith before presenting her ideas, and even in discussing such political hot points as resource development, she very much shows her heightened feelings for the Bible and science.
I did not have the opportunity to speak with David Eastman, a man for whom the phrase, “not afraid of the truth” was used in practically every other sentence. It was said many times that he’s not afraid of it, but that wasn’t why I did not speak to him. Every time I went to talk to him, he was surrounded by like-minded conservatives discussing his mission. This homeschooled West Point graduate’s web page features a formidable photograph of himself in his Class A uniform, and few words. He didn’t get back to me in an email, but he is quite close to the end of the race and may just be busy.
Wes Kellar and I kept missing each other at the meeting, but I’ve met Wes at previous events and he is easy to communicate with via email and pleasant in person. He is not afraid to state that he hasn’t given a certain topic (not to be voted on) much thought and that he will get back to me—and he has. When it comes to voting issues, his delivery is direct.
Mike Dunleavy’s background in education shows because as far right as he is ideologically, he appreciates that other people come from different backgrounds and is willing to listen to what they have to say. They may not convince him of other ways of thinking, but he is willing to listen. Of course listening is a two way street. Mike and I have very different ideas on politics, but when we have mutual time, I respect his well thought out opinions. He explains his views of the other side without snark and without put downs. I have never sensed a power trip with him. As a teacher and school administrator, he has seen lots of students and parents come through, and he has seen good and not-so-good parents. He is pro-life and against choice in abortions, but is strong on parental choice in education.
George Rauscher was not there because he was speaking to a group in Glenallen, but I recognized his wife, Elizabeth, from a weekend that I spent at Hiland Correctional Facility. In case this has all kinds of ideas running through your mind on how we both got there on the same weekend, I am sorry to disappoint you by stating that it was at a weekend where we were working with convicted offenders! I have yet to meet George, but he and his wife live lives of service and truly reach out to all people. Aside from being an NRA member and being active in his church, he has served on the Sutton Community Council, he’s been a volunteer firefighter, and been an EMT and on the Mat-Su Rescue Team.
Lynn Gattis, like her counterparts, is also pro-life. She is quite interesting having been raised near Gulkana on a homestead, something that she explains has made her resourceful. She is very much an advocate of school choice, and wants a gasline now. She started out in aviation and is a pilot. When it comes to Right to Life, Lynn said that she doesn’t think that anyone likes abortion but that she is against government funding for it. She strongly believes in post trauma therapy in cases of rape, and for helping women make choices, but she doesn’t feel that government should fund abortions. She said that it’s not the place of government.
Mat-Su is very conservative and it is likely that at least several of the Alaska Right to Life’s chosen people will be flying to Juneau in January. All of the candidates have put a lot of work and thought into their campaigns for what they believe in. Whether or not you agree with them, you know where they stand. Go to the polls and speak with your vote.
Kellie Coulson is a visual artist in the Valley and constantly has nine irons in the fire.