Last week, Gov. Paul LePage addressed an apology to the Maine public regarding his profanity-laced and threatening voicemail message to Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine.
As a Maine citizen, business owner and mother, I find that the governor’s language and behavior give me great pause. I can only speak for myself, not the entire public. His apology is not acceptable to me.
The governor is the highest elected official in the state; his language and behavior matter.
First, when the governor acts in this manner, he undermines the efforts of Maine parents and teachers who work hard to teach our children and students to be respectful of authority and to one another. Instead, we are forced into the position of trying to shield Maine children from the governor’s dishonorable example. In an era of mass shootings, his reference to dueling by gun as a means to resolve a dispute with a political opponent is reckless and inexcusable.
Second, our state is in a world of hurt. Maine people are under duress, economically, socially, emotionally and environmentally. Public health is degrading. Not only opioid drugs but alcohol abuse, obesity and mental illness are taking their toll. Our population and our housing is the oldest in the nation. Many of our children are hungry and ill-nourished. And we are reportedly the most anxious state in the nation. We are spending too much time dealing with the repercussions of the governor’s over-the-top words and actions and not enough time addressing the myriad urgent problems we face as a state. His behavior is a costly diversion of the public’s time and money.
Lastly, in the world of business, the governor’s words and actions are tarnishing Maine’s exceptional brand. Maine small businesses with limited marketing budgets are repeatedly told that we have one of the best brands in the world — the state of Maine. L.L. Bean is one Maine company that has helped build this brand around the world. What happens when the foul language and threats of violence from its governor are repeatedly associated with the state of Maine in the national and international press? Maine’s brand as a wholesome and good place to live, work and play is damaged.
This great state deserves the best and highest form of political leadership. For Republicans, that would be someone in the tradition of Joshua Chamberlain or Margaret Chase Smith, not a man who employs hate speech and threatens violence. No civilized society can long endure such irresponsible behavior from its leaders. We can certainly do better, and history demonstrates that to be true.
I close with a request to fellow Mainers, ordinary Maine people such as myself who typically entrust governance of this state to our elected officials and state employees. It’s time to exert your right of free speech. It’s time to contact your elected legislators and tell them to go beyond expressions of censure and personal dismay.
As citizens, we have the right to remove the governor from office through our elected senators. Doing so would not only help save our state, it would send a powerful message to the rest of the nation. It’s time to remove the bully from the pulpit.
Jennifer Kierstead has lived and worked in Maine since 1980. Her Waterville-based company prepares grant proposals on behalf of national and state nonprofits that serve veterans and children with disabilities, families with low incomes, the reading public and people who engage in outdoor sports and recreation.