Artist and activist Robert Shetterly, president of the Union of Maine Visual Artists and creator of the “Americans Who Tell the Truth” portrait series, repeatedly stressed the need to remain mature and respectful in tone when he began preparing a press conference to express opposition to Gov. Paul LePage’s order to remove painter Judy Taylor’s history of Maine labor mural from the Department of Labor.
I found this extremely noble, given the fact that a total lack of respect is fast coming to characterize the LePage administration. By my count, LePage’s disrespectful behavior has now made national news four times and he’s only been in office three months.
LePage’s surly disrespect began even before he took office when he promised to tell the president of the United States to “go to hell.”
Shortly after he took office, LePage insulted the NAACP, the state’s largest civil rights organization, by declining its invitation to a Martin Luther King Day dinner and saying it could “kiss my butt” when NAACP leaders complained.
In his proposed regulatory reforms, LePage demonstrated a lack of respect for environmental protections, science, women, and children, joking that the only bad thing about the toxic chemical BPA was that it might grow beards on a few women.
When we place LePage’s words and actions in the context of what his peers in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan are trying to do, we see a larger pattern of disrespect for American working people. In his budget proposals, LePage has been disrespectful to public employees, especially teachers, seeking to give rich people tax breaks by raiding public pensions.
And in his seemly simple order to remove a painting from a state building, LePage has hit the Disrespect Jackpot. His order demonstrates a lack of respect for working people, organized labor, art, artists, the process by which the mural was commissioned and created, history, and the truth.
It is high time that someone teaches the governor a little respect, but apparently it is not going to be leaders of the labor and art communities. LePage said he would just “laugh at the idiots” if they tried to prevent the mural from being removed.
Ultimately, LePage has demonstrated a lack of respect for the democratic process and for the people of Maine. It seems he has never gotten out of campaign mode, acting as though he only represents the interests of the minority that elected him. If a couple of supporters want the mural gone, that trumps the will of the people. That’s why LePage is unfit to govern. That’s why people are starting to display bumper-stickers that disavow him.
Personally, I see no hope that LePage is suddenly going to become reasonable, considerate, and respectful. We should be prepared for him to embarrass Maine on the national stage until we either vote him out or his own recklessness propels him out of office.
Either way, it can’t come soon enough.