For every delicious lobster, there are hordes of blackflies.
That’s how many Mainers view life in their beautiful little piece of the world, according to a recent Gallup study that relies on input from residents of all 50 states to rate their potential livability during the next five years.
For “standard of living momentum,” a measure of whether people think their state will be better off in five years and one of 13 metrics used to compare states, Gallup ranks Maine last.
We bristle when our governor asserts that people from out of state look down on Mainers, but, at least based on these Gallup results, people in Maine look down on Mainers. We suffer from a statewide case of low self-esteem.
Instead of grousing (more than we already do), maybe we can capitalize on Maine’s querulous nature. The process might prove discouraging — like everything else, right? — but there ought to be a way to create jobs and generate revenue from this untapped Maine natural resource of pessimism.
Grouchy theme parks are one option. What about Scrooge Town as a counterpoint to that annoyingly cheerful Santa’s Village in New Hampshire? Eeyore, the downtrodden donkey in the Winnie the Pooh books, or Grumpy, the buzzkill dwarf from Snow White, could add their lamentations. The place could feature mud slides instead of water slides and sleet globes rather than snow globes at the souvenir shop.
The Maine Tourism Bureau also might consider mixing Vacationland marketing and Mainers’ entrenched pessimism by luring tourists to one of the state’s natural wonders and inviting them to play a new game: Find something here that makes Mainers glum. City-hardened cynics might rush to Baxter State Park or any of our many coastal vistas to test their malcontentedness mettle.
Tourism can’t be the only focus. Could sighs be tapped as alternative energy sources?
Joking aside, we do not want to spread the perception that Mainers are down on the state — when, in fact, it seems they simply have a more guarded perspective on the future. Are Mainers grumps or just realists? And can you be pessimistic and still appreciate the state?
Virtually every Mainer contacted for a reaction to the Gallup study jumped to the defense of the state, its people and its natural resources. Ironically, each found cause for optimism in their analysis of the “standard of living momentum” results.
Scott Moody, chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Foundation, touted a reduction in the state’s top income tax rate set to take effect in 2013, while Thomas College President Laurie Lachance described finding “tremendous opportunity and hope” among many of the small-business owners she visited during her tenure as head of the Maine Development Foundation. Many people had positive messages to emphasize the state’s virtues.
“Maine people are awesome,” but far more reserved than folks in other parts of the country, according to Maine comedian Bob Marley. “Maine people at shows will stare at you the whole time, then tell you afterward, ‘You were hilarious. I almost laughed once.’”
Marley parlays what he describes as Maine’s stoicism into his act. “A lot of what I do feeds into that grumpy line,” he said. “I complain about things in Maine that are just hassles in our everyday life. It’s just the way we are: A little sarcasm and a little of ‘we’re going to get through this, no problem.’”
That’s not pessimism but Maine’s version of realism. Let’s embrace it. Just don’t expect applause.