Uh oh…he’s done it again. Maine’s governor, Paul LePage has had another attack of foot in mouth syndrome, also known as asshole disease. Since landing the highest office in Maine a couple of years ago, LePage has had a series of high profile flubs. They include telling the local NAACP chapter (yes, we really do have one in Maine) to kiss his butt after he was criticized for not attending annual MLK Day celebrations as his predecessors had done. There is also his infamous “little beards” comment; removing a mural from the Maine Department of Labor offices that depicted the history of the state’s labor movement and playing hide the mural. The list of flubs is pretty extensive and to say that LePage is a man suffering from a lack of tact, would be one of the kindest things we could say.
However LePage’s latest bout of foot in mouth syndrome has made the national news (I personally think this guy likes being known as the boob of Maine) when it was reported that LePage told a group of Republican Maine lawmakers at a private function that President Obama hates white people. Now there is a lot of speculation about whether or not this is true but considering LePage’s track record, if he said it I wouldn’t be surprised at all. LePage is a man who seems to court controversy.
Of course the usual suspects are groaning and moaning over these allegations, after all LePage is making Maine look like a backwater of bigotry. He is but the truth is that we also aren’t nearly as evolved as we like to think that we are. Sure, Lepage’s winning was a strange fluke of sorts caused by the inability of others to get their shit together.
However after eleven years in this state, while I think there is a lot of ignorance due to a lack of exposure in this state, there is also a lot of acceptance of the status quo when it comes to matters of difference. Unlike some parts of the country where people are vocal in their dislike, Maine is different; it is a very polite place. Yet that surface politeness is a cover for true feelings that are well hidden. It’s a place where you can be friends with someone, become their kid’s godparent and read in one of the largest papers of the state, how said friend looks at people of color and thinks monkeys. It’s a place where there is a lot of talk around change, tolerance, and acceptance especially in our urban core Portland but at the end of the day there is very little actual change. Our talk of change and righteous indignation over obvious boobs such as Paul LePage feels good but rarely do we really look at ourselves.
This piece was in today’s Bangor Daily News and it struck a nerve with me “Maine is not the enlightened bucolic spot that some believe it is. There’s a cancer here that the governor feeds.” Maine like most of the US, wants to be more than it really is with regards to tolerance and acceptance but sorry kids, we aren’t there yet. Almost every friend of color, I have made in my years here has moved on and out of the state. The number one reason they leave? It was just too much to live and raise kids here. I keep trying to get a few of them to return since misery loves company but sadly I have had no takers. Racism in Maine is not a grand and open affair; it is a series of micro aggressions that piece by piece steal away at your dignity reducing you to a bitter shell. I fight against it by writing and doing a few other things, but there are some days, I surrender to the knowledge that on any given day, most of the people who I deal with, would rather not deal with me. They probably aren’t even aware that they are sending out those signals but they are.
So while Lepage may the state look bad on the national stage, in many ways he is a reflection of who we really are and the values that we really hold dear. Just that as a walking clown with no tact, it is far easier to laugh at him.
By the way, I know that there are some truly good people in Maine but we simply need more of you, you are too few in numbers especially in a state of this size.
PS: Thanks to all who have reached out to me after my last post, it really means a great deal.