Community Forum: Speaking truth and humanity

by Caroline Pryor


Last week, I hit the wall in the marathon of resistance against the political civil war underway in our country. President Donald Trump, who has 19 counts of sexual misconduct to his name, to date, leads the charge.

The sexual assault testimony of Blasey Ford sickened me, as did the combative, lying, volatile, and shameless behavior of Brett Kavanaugh and the subsequent actions of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Where was the voice of Sen. Collins, our senior, so-called moderate Republican? Here was a legacy moment for her to stand tall and protect the rights and dignity of millions of women, children and men.

Along with tens of thousands of constituents, I called and wrote Sen. Collins, almost daily, even before Kavanaugh’s three sexual assault allegations became public, begging her to vote no for many reasons.

On one day alone, 5,000 personal letters from Mainers with concerns about his views on reproductive health care, assault and other issues were hand-delivered to her office.

Kavanaugh’s judicial record demonstrates hostility to the rights of women, to accessible health care for all, the rights of indigenous peoples and workers, and regulation of the most toxic greenhouse gas pollutants.

The last point is particularly important to Mainers because we’re downwind of dirty coal and oil-burning industries; we’re the tailpipe of the U.S. The more pollution is emitted, the more of it we breathe. Maine’s childhood and adult asthma rates are among the nation’s highest.

The Gulf of Maine is warming fast. Kavanaugh regularly sides with corporate polluters, not the public. What good is a Harvard and Yale education if you use it to allow more pollution and add to a warming planet?

I marched, rallied, sent contributions, urged others to speak out, wrote a letter to the paper, made posters. I asked her to please, please speak out against the undemocratic and dangerous process taking place. It’s being led by an emperor without clothes, whose presidency appears more fraudulent and criminal each day (remember the FBI-Mueller investigation?) Sen. Collins was unresponsive to constituent calls, her phone lines often unanswered.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. On Monday, Oct. 1, I participated in a call to action with about 50 others at Sen. Collins’ Portland office. Our group included survivors of sexual assault, mothers of survivors, mothers of young children, priests, a rabbi and a Muslim student affect by the travel ban and DACA, as well as Republicans and Independents who previously voted for Collins.

I spoke as a woman, mother of a daughter and son, and professional who has devoted my career to earth stewardship and making our world a better place. We protested, and continue to protest, the war raging against the most vulnerable: children, the working poor, indigenous people, students, immigrants, refugees, people of color, LGBTQ people and women.

Three of us were arrested for trespass, for refusing to leave Sen. Collins’ office until she voted no. We exercised one of our most important rights, the right to civil, peaceful disobedience, like the students on MDI and across the nation who protested gun violence and inaction with a walkout. Our bail was $60. We were released two hours later, with a court date of Nov. 1.

I put my body and safety on the line because I didn’t know what else to do. But this I do know: this is not simply politics; this is about our daughters and sons, granddaughters, grandmothers, sisters, friends, classmates, neighbors, and millions of people we’ll never know.

Women must be believed, never shamed, just like victims of a priest’s or coach’s sexual aggression who also tend to come forward decades after they’ve been preyed upon. Speaking truth and humanity to power and privilege is always the right thing to do, and it’s empowering. The strength and power of women must never be underestimated. In this crisis of our democracy, we each face a moral and ethical choice.

What side of history will we be on?

Now we know why Sen. Collins was so quiet. She had apparently already made up her mind. The FBI investigation into Kavanaugh was a sham.

Collins constructed a heartless, partisan rationale for why she supports Kavanaugh and his nomination by the emperor who has no clothes. She cited legal cases and Kavanaugh’s statements, but avoided the bigger picture of his inappropriateness, volatile temperament, lies under oath, unthoroughly investigated sexual assault charges, and the clear and imminent danger to her constituents.

Sen. Collins’ vote added a second predator to the Supreme Court, joining Clarence Thomas. Sadly, she proved herself a partisan hypocrite, previously denying due process to Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland in 2016, and quickly calling for Democratic Senator Al Franken’s resignation immediately after an allegation of sexual misconduct.

She demonstrated a lack of humanity and objectivity, especially for and about women. Her Planned Parenthood award is forever tarnished and should be withdrawn.

Here’s the good news: when this issue of the Islander is published, 25 days remain until Election Day, Nov. 6.

This is our moment. Blue Wave? Blue Tsunami? Oust Bruce Poliquin, lapdog for Trump, assailant of our right to choose and access to affordable, accessible health care, champion of the one percent.

Elect Jared Golden as our Representative to Congress.

Say no to what would likely four more years of dysfunctional, racist, and misogynist politics in the Blaine House if Shawn Moody is elected governor.

Elect Attorney General Janet Mills as Maine’s first woman governor. Maine and the nation have record numbers of qualified, terrific women running for office.

We have excellent local candidates like Representative Brian Hubbell running for the House, and Louie Luchini running for the Maine Senate.

We have 25 days, let’s make each one count. We need to deliver. Don’t wait for a campaign office to call you. Call them and volunteer. It’s not hard.

We must take the long view as our sisters and brothers in the black, brown, indigenous and other vulnerable communities know too well.

Thank you to the millions working to call out and vote out an out-of-touch government dominated by white, entitled, rich, heartless men and a few women. Thank you to all who’ve given me and other protestors love, support, and camaraderie.

With peace, love and a call for action — let’s get out the vote. See you at the ballot box!

Caroline Pryor is the former chair of the Mount Desert Elementary School Board and former member of the MDI High School and AOS 91 school boards.

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