Lifelong Alaskan, family won't be visiting Soldotna this summer

Posted: Tuesday, May 06, 2003

I, like most thinking Americans, am appalled and disgusted by the actions and words of Jeff Webster. I am perhaps even more disturbed by the apparent support for Mr. Webster's deeds by many in the Soldotna community. Mr. Webster's assault was a classic hate crime, as it was meant to intimidate not just those that he assaulted, but anyone who dared to publicly express an opinion that he opposed. It is no different than the burning of a cross in the yard of an African-American family. The physical damage is minimal, but the message is clear.

I am a fifth generation Alaskan nearly 50 years old. The pre-pipeline Alaska I grew up in was a tolerant community filled with many colorful characters. People showed respect and acceptance for one another so that they could expect the same in return. There was no room for antagonism or animosity since the neighbor that you disagreed with just yesterday might be the same person whose help you need today.

I have a large family. My better half has complained for years that we don't use the RV often enough, so this summer all five of the kids are taking a break from sports and music lessons so that we can spend the summer traveling around the state. Every time we stop at a restaurant I spend $100 or more. Boat trips, tours and shopping cost considerably more. People like us are the life-blood of Soldotna. Judging by the license plates on the cars, RVs and campers on the Kenai Peninsula, most of your tourists are my neighbors here in Anchorage.

This summer we have decided that we will not spend our time or money in a community that has so many who support the hate, intolerance and small-minded behavior of Mr. Webster. To those of you who do not condone Mr. Webster's actions, I apologize. Since I don't know which businesses you own, I choose to pass you all by. Until Soldotna can show the world that the "Alaska spirit" is the prevailing attitude, and that behavior like Mr. Webster's will not be tolerated (by punishing him with incarceration), we will just be passing through.

John Farleigh


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