It is a terrible shame when we lose sight of one another’s humanity.
To Gov. Paul LePage, the people of Maine — the men, women and children who live, work and make our state what it is — are just a collection of stereotypes, lost causes and pawns, to be used as examples to support a twisted, right-wing ideology.
During the Maine Republican Party convention over the weekend, the governor continued along a path he often walks: attacking people who are different because he thinks it will fire up his supporters.
And, to all of our great detriment, it works.
This time the governor attacked the guest workers — from Bulgaria and India — who help our state’s tourism industry to function during the peak season.
He has driven away foreign investment in the state, costing us more than $120 million in economic development from one project alone, and made fun of Chinese leaders, whose investment in Washington County has given a glimmer of hope to the state’s pulp and tissue-making industry.
In what political reality is it OK to disparage the name of a person who has invested millions of dollars and created hundreds of jobs in one of the state’s poorest regions?
It’s a callousness and obliviousness that is immune to facts.
LePage, the anti-intellectual kid from the mean streets of Lewiston, seems to believe that compassion, understanding and openness are signs of weakness.
For someone who has expressed a number of different opinions on whether evolution is real, he’s the ultimate proponent of social Darwinism and survival of the fittest — by which he apparently means white men who look and think the same as he does.
Last week, the governor demonstrated in the starkest way possible his disregard for those he thinks are weaker than he is.
The governor vetoed a bill to expand access to naloxone, a drug that can save the life of someone who is overdosing on heroin.
In his veto letter, the governor essentially told people addicted to heroin to drop dead, that they aren’t worth saving.
“Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose. Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”
The callousness is unbefitting a person who has an obligation to protect the health and safety of the people living in Maine.
His actions even prompted a statement from Baltimore’s Health Commissioner (credit to MPBN’s Susan Sharon for pointing it out).
“Every year, tens of thousands across our country die from a preventable illness. The science is clear: naloxone saves lives. As a physician, I have personally administered naloxone and seen patients who would otherwise die from an opioid overdose be revived within seconds,” Dr. Leana Wen said in a statement.
“By vetoing this Bill, Governor LePage is perpetuating a dangerous myth: that saving someone’s life with naloxone will only foster addiction. This is unscientific, inhumane, and ill-informed. We would never refuse an EpiPen to someone experiencing a peanut allergy for fear that it would encourage them to eat peanut butter. There is no scientific evidence that naloxone will increase drug use; it is safe, effective, and life-saving.”
It’s en vogue right now to criticize the “mainstream media” for its lack of substance or the way it covers the he-said, she-said of the daily political news cycle. But when it comes to coverage of the heroin crisis in Maine, the state’s best outlets have done tremendous and illuminating work to put a face on this death-stalking plague.
If you want to understand the struggles of heroin addiction, without the varnish and LePage’s blind ideology, check out the recent work by Susan Sharon at MPBN and Erin Rhoda at the Bangor Daily News.
They tell the deeply personal story of death in the grasp of heroin and the way rural communities are fighting back.
They remind us that heroin addiction is a disease, that it attacks people — without regard to race or social status — and it takes lives that could be saved with thoughtful, science-backed public policies.
Mainers are dying when they could live. New Mainers are trying to build a better life and make our state stronger. To both, LePage says good riddance.