Reflections on “Sarah Palin’s Alaska”

By Jedediah Bila

Jedediah Bila

When I first heard about Sarah Palin’s eight-week documentary series on TLC, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” I thought, “Perfect. I finally get to see Alaska.” But I had no idea how much of a glimpse I’d get into a landscape and lifestyle so different from the one I see and live each day. Or how inspired I’d be by it all.

While I may have plenty of survival skills when it comes to dealing with the left-wing New York City elite, it’s clear that I may need some help from the Palins in the brown bear/fishing/campfire departments. Here are some things I’ve discovered from watching the show: 

  1. I must climb Mt. McKinley ASAP. When the first episode aired, I received a call from my mom saying, “Let me guess. You’re jealous.” And I was. My weekly runs through Central Park, annual roller coaster escapades, and Saturday fitness challenges suddenly looked strikingly lame. Advice from mom: Make sure you bring someone who can yank 115 pounds out of a crevasse.
  2. Watching mama brown bears defend their cubs is a beautiful thing. Sarah Palin wasn’t kidding with that whole mama grizzly theme. I walked away thinking the following: 1) I want a baby brown bear. 2) The fact that the Palins sat in a rowboat fifty feet from two angry mama bears is awesome. 3) Piper Palin has a pretty hefty growl for a little person.
  3. I went fishing once when I was twelve. My cousin and I sat in a boat in our swimsuits while a boom box blasted 90s tunes. I think I was holding a rod, but who could remember with all the dancing? Let’s just say that fishing with the Palins is a tad different. You better be ready to sweat and get your hands dirty, as it’s all about hard work, cooperation, and persistence. As I recall, the only things my cousin and I got out of our fishing “trip” were sunburns and a fish that was likely the size of typical Palin bait.
  4. Halibut are gigantic. And they’re feisty suckers. Not to mention that the process by which they are processed is pretty fascinating. Watching Sarah and Bristol bond over a day of catching and cleaning halibut reminded me that a family that works together grows together. I was even able to convince my mom to hit the gym with me after that one, which is no small task. P.S. – Halibut really is that delicious. Even with my awful cooking!
  5. Caribou hunting north of the Arctic Circle isn’t something I’ll likely be doing anytime soon. However, the diligence, patience, and survival skills embodied by Chuck Heath are inspiring. Chuck appears to be a natural-born teacher and a natural-born leader, and he seems to represent what my grandpa used to call “good people.” More than that, he epitomizes what it means to be an American. If this Manhattan girl is ever stranded in the middle of nowhere and is granted one phone call, I hope Chuck is listed!
  6. When stripped of the finer things in life like a warm bed, a TV, and a kitchen full of goodies, you’d be amazed just how resourceful some can be. A Palin campout where Sarah, Chuck, and Todd taught the Gosselin kids how to build a fire, fish, and work together to achieve common goals, sent a powerful and wonderful message to America’s children. Teamwork is invaluable. Time with family is the best medicine. Hard work feels good. And smores are an absolute necessity.

I’d like to thank the Palins for sharing Alaska and their family with America for these eight weeks. I’ve always wanted to see Alaska in person, but now I know that I must.

I often speak and write about the founding American values I cherish – personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, and self-reliance. But seeing those values brought to life each week by a regular American family makes them so much more real and tangible. It reminds me what’s worth fighting for.

Looks like dog sledding and whitewater rafting are up for the Palins next week. Yes, mom. I’m jealous!

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