With an election unmatched for turnout despite the pandemic and a brilliant performance by poll workers of every political stripe, we can give thanks that our electoral system held together. Same goes for the courts, which have cut through the onslaught of election claims and counterclaims with clarity and efficiency.
Yet as the media competes for eyeballs and ears, the most controversial stories rise to the top. Reporters and commentators focus on the outrageous even as they acknowledge with every breath that much of it is untrue. If that is the case, how about giving it a rest? The election was business as usual, but the aftermath has the makings of an American tragedy.
The way an election works is that candidates run, pursuing victory with every fiber of their beings and every dollar they can pry from our fingers, the votes are cast and counted, and we’re done. This year, not only has the loser refused to accept the verdict but he has managed to convince many of his supporters that there was something fishy about it all.
Recount after recount, sometimes of the same race multiple times, have confirmed the results, yet the fight goes on. The fact that all but one of the dozens of lawsuits filed has been lost or tossed does not seem to shake the faith of the conspiracy theorists in their candidate, who is now dictating the terms under which he will leave the White House.
If all that does not take the lead out of your pencil, there’s COVID. The mortality rate is soaring, yet the bewildering resistance to simple precautions goes on. If wearing a mask is all about personal “freedom,” how about stopping at STOP signs? Refraining from smoking in a restaurant? Buckling up a seat belt? All those behaviors make it safer for you and for others, too, and whatever objections were raised to any of them when they were introduced, they have been universally accepted, minus the bellyaching about freedom.
But put on a mask so you don’t contract a fatal disease or give it to others? Oh, the horror! The Maine Policy Center is doing its best to keep the angst going, citing Governor Janet Mills’ “Orwellian mandates” that “get you down.” What gets us down is the disregard of some for the lives of many. A lot of Americans chose to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, though fewer than usual, but many more of us did not. Did the media talk about those of us who stayed put, foregoing precious time with loved ones? Not so much.
Had more people followed the simplest guidelines, we would have been done with this by now. We are nearing the one-year mark since the first cases appeared in the United States and over a quarter of a million people in our country have died, a toll likely to climb to a half million in the next few months. It is a price some say they are happy to pay for “freedom,” at least until that freedom turns around and bites them in the rear.
Maine has never been an “us” versus “them” state. If the topic of politics does not come up, you are not likely to know the sentiments of the neighbors you chat with about the weather, the guy across the street who waves as he jumps in his car, the woman who drops off cookies or a casserole after your hip replacement, or the couple who stop and lever your car out of the ditch in a snowfall.
We’re all at the ready to pick up bread or milk for the single mom or the seniors next door. We’ll go up to the local church and help pack Thanksgiving baskets for people we don’t know, giving no thought to the recipients’ political affiliation. A fisherman will tow a disabled boat in, even if it’s the power boat that just cut their traps off. Those who can are writing year-end checks to organizations providing food, fuel, shelter, clothing and a little joy to families in need.
How is it that we can be so quick to help when help is needed but still get so crazy mad at each other over policy disagreements? It takes a lot of work on the part of political parties to keep us mad enough to send money and support them in the voting booth, but it is time well spent. It wins votes. They are provoking us into being blind to the possibility of any point of view but theirs. We’re being played.
This toxic atmosphere is leaving us estranged from friends and family, the very people who would be first to respond to a call for help. Forget national politics. Put your energy into your community.
ill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.