Living a fairy tale existence



Recently, Gov. Paul LePage held one of his “town meetings” in the town of Mexico. The populace was stunned to hear the governor say that he intends to build a wall along Maine’s border to keep drug dealers out and young people in. And, said he, Mexico was going to pay for it.

Okay, he did not say that, but it would have been funny, no?

Just a little fairy tale. But wait.

The town of Blue Hill is considering a proposal from a local author to adopt an official town fairy tale. Really. Selectmen passed the decision to the citizenry who will take it up at a real town meeting, the kind where actual decisions are made, in April.

It’s an interesting proposal. Maybe Maine, which already has a long list of official stuff, needs a state fairy tale. We already have a bird, a flower, a tree, a fish, a beverage and a cat. Shall we go on? An animal, a berry, a gemstone, a fossil, a soil, a vessel, an insect, a crustacean, a dessert and a treat (the last two separate and distinct). So why not a fairy tale?

The biggest challenge would be deciding which of the many existing, though unofficial, fairy tales we should pick. The one that says there is so much fraud, waste and abuse in state government that we could cut the state budget in half by eliminating it?

The one that says we can continue to underfund public schools but still attract quality teachers and turn out well-educated students? The one that says we should have complete local control of our schools and still manage to get equal results in every town?

How about the one that says we should cut, cut, cut our taxes but still maintain a robust infrastructure of roads and bridges, water systems, parks, dams and solid waste?

The one that says welfare recipients should just go out and get a job? The one that says welfare recipients shouldn’t be “stigmatized” by cutting off the use of state benefit cards for the purchase of soda, junk food and lottery tickets?

The one that says millions of dollars flooding into Maine elections do not influence the candidates elected to our legislature and the issues they support? The one that says it’s okay to elect a governor, a legislator or a congressman with less than a majority vote?

Perhaps the nominee for state fairy tale should be the one that celebrates voter turnout in our state when only about half of us vote in midterm elections. Or the one that celebrates high school student proficiency rates of less than 50 percent in reading and math (2013 NECAP test).

Yes, there is no shortage of fairy tales in Maine. Some depict our state as an Eden made up entirely of clean air and water, low crime, and beautiful lakes, mountains and coastlines. Others call out our dark side of drug addiction, lack of job opportunities, an inadequately trained workforce and underperforming technology.

Our two major political parties each have their own fairy tale about Maine. Republicans think our government is too big, our taxes too high, our welfare too generous. Democrats think government has a role to play in almost every aspect of our lives. In their purest forms, both are fairy tales.

The Democrats’ draft party platform for 2016, to be approved at their state convention, starts with this: “Our American democracy is a powerful and effective form of organization that strives to treat all with dignity and functions for the betterment of the collective good.” If that is an aspiration, okay then. If they think it is reality, it’s a fairy tale.

The preamble is followed by 11 pages of party ideology that addresses everything from “a new economic deal for … all Mainers” to “protection from the repercussions of natural disaster.” Then there is this: The platform “extends to people of all marginalized orientations, gender identities and intersex statuses – such as LGBTQ people – all the same legal and social rights as their heterosexual, cisgender, and dyadic counterparts receive… .”

It makes a reader inclined to support Republicans’ call to affirm English as the state’s official language.

True to their “less is more” philosophy, the Republican 2016 platform draft is just three pages long and frames their view of state government like this: “The government of Maine exists to preserve and protect certain natural, inherent and inalienable rights endowed by our Creator for the benefit, protection and security of all citizens and future generations.”

Among these rights are the right to keep and bear arms, the right to express one’s religious faith in public forums, the enactment of “Right to Work” laws and requirements for mandatory minimum sentencing and photo ID’s in order to vote.

Abolished under the Republican platform are the income tax, “federalization” of the Maine woods, any marital unions other than those between one man and one woman, the use of state funds for abortions, and the Affordable Care Act.

As the song goes, fairy tales can come true. It can happen to you.

But don’t bet on it.

 

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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