Common ground on the Fourth



It is a sorrowful world, but not everywhere. On the Fourth of July, Bar Harbor, the capital of Vacationland, was fulfilling the 240-year promise of our weird and wonderful country.

Spread over the lawns of the Bar Harbor Inn, which has welcomed fireworks viewers since there have been fireworks Down East, were thousands of people lounging on blankets. The night was still, the air mild. Barely a square foot of grass was left exposed.

Residents, tourists, day trippers, dogs and babies were at peace, cheek by jowl in the dark. Dozens, probably hundreds, of nationalities and ethnicities were represented. Urban and rural, native and from away, young and old, we oohed and aahed as one as the fireworks burst in the night sky.

It was the same on the ball field at mid-day. There we were, devouring lobsters, hot dogs and strawberry shortcake together. We shared napkins and bottled water to help clean up sticky toddlers. We helped novice lobster eaters dig into their critters. We explained the lobster races to first-time visitors.

And before that, we whooped it up at the parade, making sure the little people did not get flattened by the Shriners or the fire trucks as they dove for candy. And just when we thought Elvis had left the building, there was Warren in a convertible instead of a mail truck, with license plates that read “Retired,” Hound Dogging it up to the delight of the crowd.

Four Quebecois came down for the occasion, making it to the top of Cadillac Mountain at 4:30 a.m., in time for sunrise, followed by blueberry pancakes. There was a reported sighting of “Tarnie,” Bar Harbor’s own Loch Ness monster. And there was ice cream everywhere. Scoopers, we salute you.

And if that isn’t enough “the way life should be” for you, there was politics the way it should be, low key in the extreme but powerful nonetheless. Ted Koffman, who lost his primary election last month, walked alongside the woman who defeated him, primary winner Moira O’Neill, in a show of Democratic unity that was just plain classy. State Rep. Brian Hubbell walked hand in hand with his wife, Liddy, who carried a hand-lettered sign that just said “Brian.”

Sweet.

Sure, there were Fourth of July celebrations all over Hancock County, and they had a charm of their own. They were truly local events with kids on bikes they decorated themselves and dogs wearing red, white and blue bandanas. But it was in Bar Harbor where a staggering number of visitors flooded in from outside our borders to mingle in all our glorious humanity and in complete peace, proving that it can be done. In today’s world, that’s not nothing.

Deepest thanks to the men and women in the police, sheriff and fire departments around the county who rescue and protect us, and to those who clean up after us, making discarded pizza boxes, napkins and water bottles disappear by sunrise. And to the summer workforce that serves the food, mans the coffee urns, pulls the pints and rings up the T-shirts, almost always with a smile.

Now the coast settles into full summer mode, with only an occasional thunderclap rolling out of Augusta. Will Gov. Paul LePage call the legislature into session?

If he calls, will they go?

Will Attorney General Janet Mills slap the governor with a $500 fine for holding an education meeting behind closed doors?

Will he pay?

What about the others who attended? Democratic legislators grumbled about it, but they went. Shouldn’t they be fined too?

“Give me a break,” was the governor’s reaction to the possibility of a fine, and so say we all. Give us a break. A break from the ill will, from the suits and counter suits, from the daily, breathless emails (“My opponent is ahead! or possibly behind! Send money!” “My opponent does not floss! Send money!”).

Why not take a break from the hysteria? Instead of jumping up, toe to toe, to holler at those with whom you disagree, why not ask them over for an iced coffee? Yes, yes, this is Pollyanna at her finest. But a calm conversation could accomplish a lot more than a confrontation. You could find common ground. And if you are to have any hope of persuading someone that it is you who are right, it is not going to happen when the heat is turned up.

Whatever happened to the fabled “live and let live” philosophy for which Maine has long been famous? We seem bent on making people be like us and think like us. You don’t need to get into the business of others if it isn’t hurting you.

Michael Heath and Paul Madore, we’re looking at you. Making America great again by repealing equal rights protections? Hardly. Said Heath, “It very simply moves something, a behavior that belongs in the closet, back into the closet.” Yep, simple. Agree with him, live like him, or it’s into the closet with you. Is that any way for a Christian to treat his fellow man? or woman?

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill 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.

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