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Last week I was so exercised that I wrote three entire Universal Notebook columns and could have written six. So to get a few things off my chest and clear my desktop, I have decided to combine them into one concentrated gripe session.
Gripe 1: While watching the PyeongChang Olympics I saw an interview with gold medal snowboarder Shaun White, in which he speculated that maybe it was a good thing he had not won a medal at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Losing, he said, had given him a new perspective on his sport.
“I really feel like everything happens for a reason,” the Flying Tomato said.
But I really feel like everything does not happen for a reason. It’s a comforting notion for some and a very popular idea, but it’s delusional at best and cruel in extremis. Try telling someone who has had just had their child shot to death that everything happens for a reason.
Gripe 2: Then, I read where, in his inimically divisive style, President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union Address that “Americans are dreamers, too.” That, of course, implies that dreamers are not Americans, red meat to his anti-immigrant base.
For 17 years, Congress has been trying to pass some form of the DREAM Act to enable people brought to this country as children to stay. The majority of Americans (70 percent) favor allowing dreamers to stay, while that angry minority (30 percent) want them deported.
“The American dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty,” wrote James Truslow Adams, who coined the term “American Dream” in his 1931 book Epic of America. “It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”
That American Dream of freedom, equality and opportunity for all is now everywhere threatened by Trump and his followers, people who would erect barriers to inclusion and enforce a social order based not on common humanity and merit but upon blood and soil, race and nationality. That is not a dream. It is a nightmare.
Gripe 3: Maine Republican gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody was on the radio recently praising Trump for bringing a business-like approach to government. First, if Moody ran Moody Collision Centers the way Trump runs the White House, it would be bankrupt in no time. Second, while it sounds sensible to run government like a business, it’s a terrible idea. When businessmen try to run government like a business, they become petty tyrants like Trump and Gov. Paul LePage. Businesses are not democracies. Better stick to the body shop, Mr. Moody.
All of which brings me to our lame (duck) governor.
Gripe 4: Micromanaging the corrections department, LePage snuck into Machiasport in the middle of the night and shut down the Downeast Correctional Facility. Never mind that the state invests in the facility as an economic boon to depressed Washington County or that legislators were working on a plan to keep it open; LePage thought it cost too much so he closed it without any regard for the 51 people he put out of work. Running prisons like a business is a hateful idea. It leads to for-profit prisons, one of the 20th century’s most immoral inventions.
Gripe 5: Then there was LePage’s proposal to impose fees on electric cars because they don’t use enough gas. His bogus idea is that hybrids aren’t paying their fair share of highway maintenance because those funds derive from the gas tax. But funding roads from the gas tax is a bad idea in and of itself. It suggests that only people who use the roads should pay for them. Everyone benefits from the state highway system, whether they own a car or not. Reducing gas consumption is a good thing, unless you’re an oil-and-coal Republican like LePage and Trump.
Gripe 6: Finally, in his final (phew) State of the State address, LePage delivered more of his tough-love philosophy of helping people by not helping them.
“We are offering people a hand up, not a hand out,” he said, repeating a conservative cliche.
LePage has single-handedly prevented Maine from expanding Medicaid. His GOP wannabees Moody, Mayhew and Fredette would also thwart the will of the people to serve their conservative ideology. But we, the people, voted to expand Medicaid. It’s the law. LePage, a public servant, needs to do what we tell him to do.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.