The octogenarian who represents Sarah Palin’s Wasilla in Washington, D.C., Don Young (R-AK), is famous for being a cantankerous old cuss around the halls of Congress. His recent comments to a group of high school student’s who recently lost a classmate to suicide, however, were both profane, and offensively wrong.
On the one hand, this is Don’s schtick — he’s just a hardscrabble, tough-talking guy from a town of 700 souls out on the Alaskan frontier; he wants nothing to do with that ‘namby-pamby, politically-correct nonsense.’ What you see, is what you get.
What students got from their Congressional representative at Wasilla High School was a misguided and wildly offensive suggestion their classmate’s suicide somehow demonstrated there was a lack of support from his friends and family.
People who were there say the room fell silent, and one student interrupted a visually agitated Congressman, to inform him that depression was the most-likely cause for the loss of their classmate the previous week. Representative Young’s knee-jerk reaction to the interruption included profanity (which isn’t the first time Representative Young has used colorful language with students), and he growled to the principal as he was leaving the podium, ‘That boy needs to learn some respect.’
In an effort to clarify his tone-deaf performance with the students and teachers in Wasilla, Don then doubled-down, telling a group of senior citizens ‘if the government would just stop giving assistance to people in need,’ what he referred to as “government largesse,” Alaska might not lead the nation in the number suicides each year.
For the 81-year-old Young, “saying you are not worth anything but you are going to get something for nothing” is the reason people choose to end their lives.
Proving Sarah Palin isn’t the only politician who can toss a tasty word salad up in Wasilla; Congressman Young said
When people had to work and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn’t have the suicide problem.
He then went on to repeat the offensive charge that the Wasilla teen’s suicide might have been prevented if only he’d had the support he’d needed. “Is it his parents or is it his friends who are not supporting him?” Representative Young’s office has fallen into damage control mode, saying in a written statement “In no way did Congressman Young mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message.” He just can’t help himself.
Back at the high school, Principal Amy Spargo refused to add wood to the fire, choosing to turn the Congressman’s controversial comments into a teaching moment for Wasilla High School students, instead. “What I really want to do is just reinforce to the students that suicide is not a function of a lack of support,” she said.
For Alaskans in crisis, or friends and family members who believe a loved one may be at risk of suicide, please call CARELINE, the state-wide help line, at 1-877-266-4357.
H/T: Alaska Dispatch | Image: Creative Commons