Public service, particularly government, ranks among the most  demanding, difficult jobs.  It requires focus and a certain amount of native intelligence.  

So does tree cutting.

Governor LePage’s recent suggestion for Senator Troy Jackson to “go back in the woods and cut trees and let somebody with a brain come down here and do some work” offended me. It offended me because his remarks moved past balance and beyond ideological difference. His words were ignorant.  The governor’s comments were not, as he explained, “politically incorrect;” His comments were insulting, ignorant, and mean.  And his half-assed "apology" was even worse. (Note: An apology means owning the mistake.)

In politics, sometimes my candidate wins, and sometimes my candidate loses.  Big picture, balance makes sense.  I also believe the majority of people make decisions based upon what feels right and true to them, and, ultimately, good wins.  

I was born and raised in Aroostook County among family members who cut trees. Some of these family members have worked for generations in the logging industry, an industry that built Maine, both literally and figuratively.  To suggest that tree cutters and their communities lack intelligence?  I could make a joke that right-leaning counties like Aroostook elected this man, but that’s an easy shot.

The bigger opportunity is using my word skill to say that when Governor LePage insulted Senator Jackson, he also insulted me.  He insulted me, along with my entire Aroostook County family.  In particular, he insulted my tree-cutter uncle who built his paid-for house with his own hands—hands that also fix equipment, gloveless, on the most frigid winter days.  This uncle raised two good and capable sons who now choose to make their adult homes in an area famous for hemorrhaging young people. This uncle barbecued for 400 guests when I got married and, most notably, possesses a storytelling talent that I, with a terminal degree on the topic, aspire to achieve.  

Governor LePage used his words to diminish a community.  My community. You ever try to operate a
skidder?  I bet for most of us, including Governor LePage, the answer is no.   

As I told my aunt, the wife of my tree-cutter uncle, nobody of consequence--absolutely nobody who matters—takes those comments as anything but stupid.  The comments themselves can be dismissed as stupid, but the idea of them hurting the feelings of good people I care about?  That pisses me off.

Rather than note a long list of Aroostook County achievers (and the list is very long—just last week, a Caribou-born astronaut), it’s important to file this information for the next election. It will be easy to remember the governor’s Vaseline reference, but please do not let the rape metaphor’s magnitude overshadow the subtler observation that Aroostook County people lack intelligence. Please remember that, too.  

In the next few weeks, our state will likely take a place in the news (again) because of our governor’s comments. People will get angry, and express that frustration with rants and head-shaking. And then they will move on.  

But, I encourage voters in right-leaning counties like Aroostook to remember that when Governor LePage diminished Troy Jackson, he diminished all of Aroostook County.  Do you want representation from the political party whose top state official says, in public, unapologetically, that you are stupid?

I hope the answer is no.


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