On my way to the general store for a Moxie I’m waving to half the people I see. Pulling into a space, I leave my keys in the car without giving it a thought. I’m not going to get freaked out by a few black flies or a few inches of snow or even if my car gets “all stove up.” I’m a Mainer.
Maine’s greatest asset isn’t the breathtaking scenery, the rocky coast, the endless woods, or even the craft beers or blueberry pie. It’s the people. Humbled by a lifetime of Februaries, tempered by hard work and eerily silent nights, Mainers are unique to be sure. This identity is something to be proud of, right?
Recently street artist Pigeon (aka Orson Horchler) produced several drawings which ask viewers to question what they think of as a “Mainer.” The drawings depict a diverse lot and are meant to show how damaging and xenophobic it is when an inclusive group denies membership and along with it, basic rights. This is primarily in response to Governor Paul LePage’s efforts to deny state aid to undocumented immigrants. However, it has also become a popular political tactic to dismiss someone from away as “not a real Mainer.”
It has been pointed out that Mark Eves is from Louisville, Kentucky which is also where Emily Cain was born. Okay, maybe I won’t hire them to split my firewood, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart people with valid ideas. That kind of small-mindedness really leads to problems, and most Mainers know that.
We have all shared an eye roll when someone says “Banger,” or have been frustrated by someone with out-of-state plates on I-95 refusing to merge right, or had a good laugh when a flatlander asked at what age a deer becomes a moose. These are generally lighthearted examples poking fun at people who are just visiting, made by people who live here year round. People from away are different– to suggest otherwise would be dishonest– but they are still people.
So then, what is a Mainer? Besides being someone born in Maine, what makes someone a real Mainer?
Most Mainers will remember the Ice Storm of 1998, when every tree, car, power line, etc., got coated in thick ice. Maine was in a state of emergency. Mainers showed their true colors when they hunkered down, rationed food, and lit candles. But what was really inspiring was how neighbors checked in on neighbors, making sure they had heat, food, and water. Mother Nature tested Mainers a little more than usual that winter, and their response was something to be proud of. People took care of each other and looked out for their elderly or less fortunate neighbors. Those were real Mainers.
We’re blessed to live in a place like this. The last thing we need to do is wreck it by dividing people into Mainers and non-Mainers because of politics. Mainers deserve their identity–they’ve earned it–but no one deserves to have their opinion ignored or their basic rights taken away because they weren’t born here. That’s not what being a real Mainer–or a decent human being–is all about.
P.S. If you’re still convinced having Maine heritage entitles you to special privileges, consider bestowing those on Maine’s Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes who are no longer represented in the legislature.
P.P.S. Now, where did I put that Moxie?