Letters to the Editor
Nothing to Fear
In response to your article about Michael Heath and his opposition to gay rights and marriage ["Who's Afraid of Michael Heath," September 2005], here's a news flash: My wife and I are happily married and live in Vermont where (gasp!) gays and lesbians have equal rights and (horrors!) the state allows same-sex civil unions. And you know what? The world has not ended. Life goes on and we're all doing just fine.
If protecting the "sanctity of marriage" is truly the primary concern of Heath and the Christian Civic League of Maine, it's hard to give them much credit when 43 percent of traditional marriages end after just fifteen years (National Center for Health Statistics, May 24, 2001). Why isn't Heath putting his efforts into helping and counseling those in traditional marriages that truly need help making it work? Until Heath can show that traditional marriages are 100 percent successful and perfect for everyone, he should stop trying to keep others from finding happiness in their own lives and in their own way.
—Devin A. Colman
Your article on Michael Heath sadly confirmed something told to me more than forty years ago by an elderly black man in the midst of another civil-rights struggle. To quote, "When you find someone opposing rights for others, you can bet that the real goal is power or money." Contrary to Mr. Heath's contention, an unbiased look at the laudable aim of full civil rights for all Mainers leads one to the conclusion that no one loses when equality is granted to all. And Mr. Heath's logic that we should not protect those personal characteristics that are a choice, as he claims sexual orientation to be, could be equally applied to religion. Why, for instance, should Christians be allowed to work and live where they want? Isn't religion a choice? It's a slippery slope, Michael!
Geneseo, New York
I was disappointed in your September story about Michael Heath, especially since your relatively balanced message was overwhelmed by the full-page photo of Heath wearing a T-shirt that promotes his campaign of misinformation. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and that first picture said more than your article.
Michael Heath is only trying to keep God's word before the people — lest they forget and the truth goes down a slippery slope into oblivion like the word "diversity." If Mr. Heath stops preaching God's word, the word "marriage" will lose its true meaning as well. Our goal is to educate, not discriminate. So yes, [gays] need to go to church — we need to take them and be accepting and supportive — otherwise they will never hear the truth. With our latest petition, we at least let the governor and the legislature know that we do not appreciate their changing the law that we voted on, taking away our voice — like our vote does not count. My vote counts!
—Marilou W. Suchar
I was very pleased to see your September article on Patten and felt the writer really captured the feeling of this community. Since I was six months old my mother brought me to Island Falls, ten miles from Patten and even smaller but with the same friendliness, feeling of community, and locals' love for the area. My great-grandfather's family was one of the first in Island Falls and, of course, were loggers. Though we spend our winters in New York, my Swedish husband and I feel accepted and right at home in the North Woods, amid the amazing nature and with people who wave as they pass you, even if they don't know you personally. People who hardly know us bring us fresh vegetables from their garden and home-baked goods. The stores in Patten are just the way you described them, friendly and low key. I find it a great way to live and a healthy alternative to our winters in Manhattan. Thanks for letting people know this aspect of northern Maine.
—Donna Sewall Davidge
Island Falls, Maine
Where in Maine?
I noticed with interest your September "Where in Maine?" feature with a picture of Eagle Island in Casco Bay. Eagle Island was the summer residence of Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, the first person to visit the North Pole, and his family. My father did some repairs and restoration work on the residence in the 1950s when I was a child, and we came to know the commander's daughter, Marie Peary Stafford, who had inherited the property after her father's death. During that time, the residence was filled with items — twisted ivory narwhal tusks, walrus tusks, various pieces of scrimshaw, elephant guns, and many photographs — that Peary had brought back from his many trips to the arctic.
Even as a small child, I came to have tremendous respect for this island with its towering cliffs, pounding surf, and frequently treacherous landing conditions, especially when attempting to unload supplies and building materials. At that time there was no dock or wharf, and a caretaker's cottage (about the size of a train's caboose), was suspended over the side of a cliff near the residence. The cottage, which is no longer there, hung precariously by steel chains, so as not to obstruct Peary's view of the sea. The whole of Eagle Island seemed to personify the character of this explorer: enduring, built atop towering cliffs, on an isolated island, amid pounding surf and frequent harsh conditions.
I was not pleased with an obvious oversight in your September article that presented Scarborough undergoing painful growth issues against a backdrop of gorgeous beaches and weathered cottages. The owners of the cottages displayed in your photos are unmentioned in your article and unrepresented in local government, for they are mostly summer residents. But do not be mistaken, they are footing the bill for Scarborough's growth. The eight or so cottages in your lead photo together are now, with the latest assessment, paying at least a quarter-million dollars yearly in property taxes. It's pretty clear who is funding the reported "$27 million high school expansion being built with no financial help from the state."
One of those beach cottages is mine, built by my great-grandfather in 1910, and my ancestors have hailed from Maine for the past three centuries. Most of us in Prouts have paid taxes to Scarborough for many generations and are astonished at being treated by the town of Scarborough like a silent cash cow.
—Anne Bartol Butterfield
Scarborough, Maine and Boulder, Colorado
I normally find 100 percent of the material in your lovely magazine to be a pleasure to read. Until now. You may have thought you were painting a flattering picture of the moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins in your August article, but there are many Republicans in this state who feel the way I do, i.e. if we embraced the values of the Democratic Party we would be Democrats. I voted for Susan Collins because she was running as a Republican and I thought that she stood for the Republican Party values. President Bush's favorite list is not the only list Susan Collins is not on . . . she is also not on mine. She is also not on the favorite list of a growing number of Republicans in the state of Maine. I didn't elect Susan Collins to be a "settler" for issues facing the U.S. Senate. I elected her to stand up for Republican values, key word: Republican.
Your August article on Senator Susan Collins was well-written and objective. As another political season approaches, journalists should take pause and look at your approach.
—Paul J. Mattson
Dirty Rotten Shame
Thanks to Jeff Clark for his story in your September issue about pollution in the Androscoggin River. After reading his story, I pulled out your 1999 Annual Issue, which featured Lewiston-Auburn from cover to cover. Right there in the first paragraph of the introductory feature story is the sentence: "Miraculously, the waterway that gave these cities their reason for being is becoming vital and beautiful again." That was true enough, but as L-A continues to rebuild and flourish, the river is not keeping pace. The water quality certainly is better than that seen a generation ago, but the paper mills upstream have to be pushed and prodded to clean up their act. Their protests sound like the automakers in Detroit who claim they cannot produce cleaner and leaner cars.
Stay tuned to this issue. I hope that our local chamber of commerce and its members will see fit to challenge the polluters, and that the Androscoggin River Alliance and Maine Rivers will keep on squawking.