Our governor, the dishono– I mean honorable Paul LePage in many ways reminds me of an STD. He's an unwelcome gift we in Maine received as the result of a heat-of-the-moment lapse in judgment (by many Maine voters) that keeps on giving by flaring up when we least want it to, potentially shaming us in our interactions and relations with others (like people outside the state who still have non-embarrassing governors).
So often when LePage opens his mouth, odds are good that most of us are going to stop, shake our heads and wonder, "Where the hell are his handlers?" By now most everyone is familiar with his "little beards" comment, for example. LePage says the science is simply not there to justify a ban on BPA because it's only going to give off estrogen-like compounds when stuck in a microwave oven and, worst-case scenario, "some women may have little beards." True to form, his spokespeople are saying he was just joking. Right. Maybe he punched science nerds in high school in the shoulder really hard and then when they complained, asked "Can't you take a little joke?"
I wouldn't be surprised, because LePage in his brief time in office seems awfully dismissive of people who are not like him and ready to bully them a bit when he feels like it. Plus, in LePageLand, women with beards might be welcome news to him, since it could help the free market once women have to increase their use of razors and shaving cream. Obviously, LePage showed himself to be ignorant and not well informed. Is anyone surprised?
So I wasn't surprised when he said something ignorant about black people (again). Dismayed, but not surprised.
On February 18, LePage spoke to the Portland Regional Chamber on a wide range of topics, and the issue of the NAACP came up. Once again, he repeated his belief that the NAACP is a special-interest group. After all, he said, they (guess that would be us pesky black folks) are only one-tenth of one percent of the population.
Except that we aren't.
Turns out that LePage is once again wrong. According to the Census Bureau, blacks are 1.2 percent of the Maine population. Look, I admit coming from Chicago that is a tiny number but in a homogenous state like Maine, there is a huge difference between one-tenth of one percent and just over one percent. More than 10 times different, in fact. More than 1000 percent different, since he likes percentages so much.
Yes, Maine is overwhelmingly white; no one is going to deny that. But there are plenty of non-white folks who live here, pay taxes, and basically are concerned about the state — just like our white counterparts.
The thing is, LePage, as the chief executive of this state, and his blasé way of dismissing folks he considers "other" or inconsequential, is setting a dangerous precedent. By saying it's okay to dismiss and not be concerned with folks who are in the minority, he's saying, essentially, that white Mainers should only care about white Mainers, and those in power should only care about those who look like them and agree with them.
We are living in days and times where rhetoric and passions run high; when we allow ourselves to dismiss anyone because of their difference we may be setting the stage for negative actions against people and some serious fallout.