PATRICIA CALLAHAN

Maine’s own tale of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’: LePage’s cloak of rhetoric is wearing thin

Posted April 26, 2014, at 8:21 a.m.

If a known benefactor stepped forward and volunteered to pay your mortgage for three years while you improved your home (or, in my case, my rent, while I saved for a downpayment on a house), would you say no? If the money was offered with goodwill, I’d like to think not. Three years is ample time to make considerable home and financial improvements and to prepare for a potential loss of funds after the third year.

It seems simple, but not for Gov. Paul LePage and his supporters in the Legislature. By insisting on sayingno to federally financed MaineCare expansion, they are sayingno to making Mainers healthier. They are sayingno to improving our health care infrastructure andno to job creation in that diverse field. They are saying they are not capable of accepting money, making improvements and contingency planning.

This irrational thought process has me thinking about Hans Christian Andersen’s“The Emperor’s New Clothes.” When I read the story as a child, I felt bad for the emperor. He gets duped by weavers into believing the fabric of his new clothes is so fine that only the most refined people can even see it. Fearing he’ll be perceived as unrefined, the emperor convinces himself to walk around naked.

LePage and his allies have cloaked themselves in the garb of rhetoric woven by the extreme right-wing. When exposed to the light of day, the fabric is a little thin, especially when it comes to the MaineCare expansion issue. For the second legislative session in a row, fellow Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta gently tried to suggest so by offering compromising legislation, but to no avail. It’s too bad. A majority of members of this legislature were ready to move Maine forward, but they were forced to squander time dealing with outrageous stances taken by the “fabric challenged.”

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Who knows what they could have achieved if they hadn’t wasted time on proposals such as LD 1820 and LD 1822, the accomplish-nothing EBT card bills. These unsuccessful bills are like default pantsuits on the right-wing runway and will probably reappear in some slightly modified form next season. They are a part of the governor’s signature line designed to be worn while chasing a pot of welfare-abuse gold.

I feel sorry for the governor. If he knew he was cloaked in such transparency, I’d like to think he’d change his outfit. Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, managed to get the governor to relent slightly on naloxone access for opiate addicts. It was a hopeful sign, albeit a fleeting one, quickly followed by a pledge to veto further expansion of access for law enforcement and firefighters to the overdose-reversing treatment. How sad it is taking so long for LePage to understand that attempting to save lives is a good idea. Every single member of the House seems to get it.

Of course, the governor is still insisting on more funds for drug enforcement instead of treatment, and he sticks to his rhetoric about not wanting to endorse addicts’ behavior. News flash: Addicts in the darkest throes of their disease do not give a rat’s butt about any endorsement or lack thereof. The behaviors that maintain opiate addiction — purchasing heroin, misappropriating or misusing legal prescription drugs, robbing pharmacies, stealing from homes and family members — are illegal and indicate that addicts are not taking the governor’s views into consideration.

Another news flash: Survivors of childhood trauma struggle with things like addiction. So when he makes appearances like he did recently for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, LePage is his most nakedly hypocritical. I appreciate his efforts to bring attention to this issue. He is right to celebrate the Children Advocacy Centers and the many people involved who deserve our deepest gratitude. He is wrong to do it, though, after spending an entire legislative session hating on trauma survivors.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have to call him out. Does LePage know what happens to victims of childhood sexual abuse? We grow up. If our traumas go unidentified or untreated, our minds develop quite differently, and our life courses are permanently altered. Current scientific research supports the veracity of this statement. We can be found in Department of Health and Human Services client services offices, mental health centers, general assistance offices, homeless shelters and jails.

Our perpetrators imprinted us with shame already. We don’t need to feel more every time the governor discusses MaineCare, welfare or addiction. We want life beyond the developmental debris field of trauma, but some may need help getting there — the kind of help that is so unfashionable in LePage’s texture-free circle. LePage needs to find new weavers, and, until he does, more people like Hobbins need to let him know he is naked.

Patricia Callahan works at the Augusta Boys and Girls Club.

 

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