Letters, May 9, 2019

May 06, 2019

Condescend to help

Lincoln saw “drunkards” and slaves as in the same basket. Both were not free.

American people and politicians, he thought, needed to have a moral as well as a practical response to people who were in bondage. That was the brave idea he presented to the Washington Temperance Society in February of 1842. Lincoln is America’s Whisperer.

He shocked Southerners by pointing out that slaves were not really happy being slaves. And he shocked the good people of Springfield, Illinois, by saying that drunkards, his word for addicts, were not to be blamed any more than slaves were.

Democracy to Lincoln was really a moral idea. People were equal because people had value, even slaves and drunks. Especially since no one ever really wanted or deserved to be unfree. Being in bondage, either to the slave owner or to the bottle, was not just a personal problem; it was a civic problem. Government and society needed to help people be free, because that is what democracy is for.

We know, from the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation, how Lincoln addressed government’s role in slavery.

Here is how he addressed our civic response to people in addiction — for us the most pressing would be those caught in the tragic and huge opioid crisis.

“If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him you are his sincere friend.” If society shuns and stigmatizes the addict, he will close himself off, retreat into himself, close off all avenues to his head or his heart. But with the sweet honey of “approachability” you will “catch his heart” and put him “on the high road to his reason.”

In other words, addicts don’t like being addicted and with a little respect they can start trying to recover their life, their own heart and hope, their minds. Without that recognition of common humanity the slaves would have stayed enslaved, and so now addicts would be addicted until they die.

Lincoln’s great gift to social policy was heart. America was a moral place. In that idea addicts need a safe place to begin recovery and to stay alive. They need to know that society does not stigmatize them as sinners but welcomes them as fellow citizens.

Lincoln was able to be secular and religious. He thought that George Washington was the mightiest name in civil liberty and in moral reformation, and he also understood the Christian idea that God came to earth in human form and so we should also condescend to help our fellow humanity.

A moral do-no-harm response to the opioid crisis could guide our response to HR 949, the safe injection site bill.

The Rev. Dr. Duncan Newcomer

Belfast

Note: The Rev. Dr. Duncan Newcomer is a retired ordained United Church of Christ Minister. He has been a licensed psychotherapist and a behavioral scientist on the faculty of University of Connecticut Medical School. His radio feature, “Quiet Fire: The Spiritual Life of Abraham Lincoln,” can be heard on WERU 89.9 and 99.9 Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m.

Takes political risk

Amidst the enthusiasm and hard work of Maine's 2018 elections, a candidate emerged for House District 97, the seat vacated by Erin Herbig. As we know, Jan Dodge, a Democrat, born and raised in Belfast won the nomination and election — and how lucky we are to have Jan Dodge as our Representative.

I've been impressed with her passion for justice. Her leadership skills are evident in her sponsorship and co-sponsorship of legislation for environmental protection, reopening the Downeast Correctional Facility and increasing the statewide salary for teachers.

But what is most outstanding about Rep. Dodge is her integrity.  If she believes in legislation that will benefit the majority of voters, the environment, etc. — even if it's not popular with other legislators and the party — she will take the political risk and support it. This quality is rare in today's political climate. Thank you, Rep. Dodge!

Phyllis Coelho,

Belfast

Sexuality never came up

An article in The Nation, dated April 26, "What's It Like to Be Young, Queer, and the Mayor?" is about Samantha Paradis's stint as our town's mayor. Our "hippie" town, by the way. Much is made of Paradis's sexual orientation, as well as aspects of Belfast's lesbian history, past and present. This is quite refreshing.

My wife and I, both "from away," have been Belfast residents since 2002. If memory serves, the sexuality of our town's elected officials never came up prior to Paradis's City Hall adventures.

I had a thought — walking about town wearing a large button reading PROUD HETEROSEXUAL. It passed quickly, as should anything having to do with one's bedroom frolics, unless, of course, grandstanding figures in the equation.

While I've always voted, I have to be honest — I have never been much exercised over local elections. But now? Yubetcha!

Mike Silverton

Belfast

A national treasure

On a recent visit to Walmart in Brewer, I ran across a elderly gentleman wearing a USS Ticonderoga CV14 hat. I engaged him in conversation to find out that he was a World War II veteran, 98 years old and still walking effortlessly, eyesight good and decent hearing. I thought to myself, this man is a national treasure. A bona fide member of the Greatest Generation.

The Ticonderoga was an Essex class aircraft carrier that served in the Pacific theater, Vietnam, and as a recovery ship for the Apollo Space Program, and this great gentleman was a part of our history.

While checking out, I spoke to a woman in front of me, whose husband served in Korea, and she is heavily involved in organizing the (Honor Flight Maine) veteran flights to Washington, D.C., for veterans to see their WWII, Korea and Vietnam memorials before they pass.

Reflecting on my mundane trip to Walmart, I considered myself lucky to have crossed paths with two people that helped change the world for our great country. Next time you see a veteran wearing a cap, engage them in conversation and thank them for their service.

Eric Schrader

Belfast

Thanks

The 17th annual Spring Tea at Carver Memorial Library, held April 28, was a wonderful event, thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, the generosity of our sponsors, and the guests who made it so special. We were nearly sold out, and we are very pleased with the funds we were able to raise for the library.

Our volunteers made food, waited tables, washed dishes, brought flowers, made tea, and did the thousand and one things that make this event possible. Special thanks to Laurie Schweikert, our photographer; Jean Goldfine, our harpist; and Kendra Newcombe, our hostess. Extra special thanks to Marge Knuuti who did so much this year, and on top of that stepped in to make the tea at the last minute.

Carver Library is grateful to Bangor Savings Bank, Anglers Restaurant, Tozier’s Market, and The Yardarm for their support and donations. Mark your calendars for next year's Spring Tea on Sunday, April 26. We hope to see everyone at the library again soon!

Sue McClintock

Director, Carver Memorial Library

Searsport

Find middle ground

One thing this controversy about Nordic Aquafarms has taught me is that I am not an extremist liberal. I have always thought of myself as a liberal and agreed with the liberal stance on most matters, but watching this virulent group of anti-Nordic folk and being appalled at their narrow minded and selfish view has made me do a bit of soul searching about extremism, both liberal and conservative.

While many go on about extreme conservatives and their lack of understanding about the larger picture of an issue, be it abortion or God in schools, how many of us take that same critical look at extreme liberalism? When a group of people decides that they know what is best for the majority of the people and push their agenda on the rest of us like Crusaders saving those of us that are less enlightened, we need to stop and take a critical look at their agenda.

The anti-Nordic push started out as a personal abutment issue which extended to walking trails and green space, to the latest topics du jour of all things ocean and carbon footprint. They have taken the environment, the poor and the children under their wing to further their personal agenda. Kind of like mom and apple pie, who could be against it?

Extremists are tenacious in their quest to overpower the majority thinking and will use any methods, including political, fake news and denigration of their opponents to push their agenda forward. The anti-Nordic faction has used all of these methods to attempt to take down the “evil” that has come to Belfast.

What a different place we could be in now if these naysayers had decided to work with Nordic from the beginning instead of embarking on a quest to destroy them at all costs.

And so I have learned to not just embrace all things liberal without really looking at what the real agenda under the cloak is, and that extremism on either side of the spectrum is a selfish act. May we all find middle ground, let go of personal agendas and embrace a wider view of our little piece of the world. This is democracy.

Diane Braybrook

Belfast

Protecting our children

We residents of Waldo County are writing to express our profound disappointment that our state senator, Erin Herbig, voted against protecting our children’s health last week.

Maine has some of the lowest childhood vaccination rates in the United States and these rates are dropping. If our vaccination rates continue to fall we will lose so-called herd immunity which protects all of us from the spread of communicable diseases.

For many people such diseases are mild, but for others they can cause serious side effects such as deafness or encephalitis and even death. Newborns and immunocompromised children and adults will be particularly at risk, but anyone who is not immune is in danger, including the very children whose parents have refused to vaccinate them.

As a response to this looming public health crisis, Maine’s House passed LD798, An Act To Protect Maine Children and Students from Preventable Diseases by Repealing Certain Exemptions from the Laws Governing Immunization Requirements. This bill states that only medical reasons can be used to exempt children attending schools or daycares from required vaccinations.

The bill as passed by the House was itself the result of a compromise which expanded both the types of professionals who can grant the medical exemption, and the medical reasons for exemption.

We know this issue is one which arouses strong feelings and which necessarily puts rights in conflict, and we applaud Reps. Jan Dodge and Paige Ziegler for making the very difficult decision to place public health and the greatest good for the greatest number first. They both voted in favor of the amended House bill. Erin Herbig also voted for that bill in the Senate; however she then undercut that vote as described below.

When LD798 went before the Maine Senate, yet another amendment was proposed to retain the currently existing exemption on religious grounds. Getting a religious exemption in Maine is trivially easy. When Vermont recently removed philosophical, but not religious, exemptions, the result was that parents simply switched from claiming philosophical to claiming religious exemptions.

There is a Supreme Court precedent that vaccination mandates even without religious exemptions are constitutional. Also, California moved to allow only medical exemptions in 2015 and that law has not been challenged on grounds of religious freedom.

If religious exemptions to vaccination are allowed, it is highly likely that parents who do not want to vaccinate for other reasons will take advantage of them. In this case, vaccination rates will not increase and herd immunity is likely to be lost in parts of Maine. Thus the bill plus amendment as passed in the Senate may likely result in no changes to the current vaccination rates. This is a clear risk to Maine’s children and others. Sen. Herbig voted in favor of the religious exemption amendment, which passed by one vote.

The Maine House will be reconsidering LD798 soon. We call on Reps. Dodge and  Ziegler to stay strong and not vote for the religious exemption amendment, and we call on Sen. Herbig to rethink her support for that amendment, should she have another opportunity.

Elaine Bielenberg, Mike and Geoff Bird, Phyllis Coelho and Larry Litchfield, Carol Gater, Don and Lynn Hoenig, Judy Judkins, Mary and Bob Rackmales, Beverly Roxby, and David Smith and Linda Garson Smith, Belfast; Johnna Brazier, Islesboro; Susan Conard, Chris Corson and Alexia Morgan, Kirk Earl, Bob Fargey and Trudy Miller, Steve and Shelley Fein, Deirdre Good and Julian Sheffield, Pat Meisner, and the Rev. Dr. Duncan Newcomer,  Northport; Jan Geller, Searsmont; Jeff Smith, Swanville; Barbara Gould and Mike Ray, and John and Kathy Williams, Lincolnville


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