Maine in Mid-January: Laughter and Tears
It’s another snow day at Watershed, where I teach a couple of English classes, as well as, I imagine, at schools across the state. While the students are nestled all snug in their beds, it’s probably safe to indulge in one of our favorite grown-up indoor activities: chuckling over the week’s headlines.
“LePage’s remark becomes popular MLK Day topic,” reported the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday. It seems the governor’s now-famous three-word riposte to the Maine NAACP, delivered last Friday, had not only energized “hundreds of Mainers gathered at events across the state,” but garnered the attention of national news outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and MSNBC, whose Rachel Maddow gleefully lauded “the week’s worst weird behavior by a newly elected governor.”
Inevitably, Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert got into the act. Speaking in his persona as a faux conservative talk-show host, Colbert ringingly declared: “I applaud Governor LePage. Before Dr. King came along, could anyone could have imagined a white politician openly inviting a black person to kiss him? And without pants! That’s progress.”
You didn’t have to be a comedian to get laughs out of this. Eric Smith, associate director of the Maine Council of Churches, delighted a crowd of 300-plus in Portland by saying, “I believe Dr. King would have a message for us and a message for anyone who would dismiss us in such a manner: turn the other cheek.”
In apparently unrelated news, Bristol Palin posted on her Facebook page that she had decided to change her infant son’s name to “Tripp Easton Mitchell Palin… PALIN!!!” Thus the newest member of the First Family of the modern GOP, which never tires of telling us that a child needs a mother and a father, has just had the last trace of his father’s existence blotted out. The National Enquirer was all over this one, digging up a source for this money quote: “Bristol wants to fully eliminate Levi from her life and Levi is making it easier than ever for her.”
The next item may not be so chuckle-worthy, but maybe, like me, you’ll get a smile of relief out of it. TPM PollTracker, a running index of national opinion polls, reports that Barack Obama has gotten a definite bounce lately. His Tucson speech clearly helped, but the trend goes back to December. The President currently enjoys a +10.6 approval/disapproval rating in a composite of recent surveys.
Smiles have been in short supply lately in Maine’s LGBT community. We got a boost back in October from the “Maine Turns Purple” moment, then two months later when our own Susan Collins helped muster a supermajority in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster of efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Apart from that, I suppose we have to comfort ourselves with the thought that having Paul LePage in the Blaine House is probably a boon for fundraising at Equality Maine.
But here’s an amazing story buzzing around the tech world: “Apple's Tim Cook profiled as ‘most powerful gay man in Silicon Valley.’”
If you have to ask "Who's Tim Cook?" you're obviously one of those well-balanced people who don't spend every spare moment chasing Apple-related news around the net. Cook is a lanky, soft-spoken and notoriously reticent Alabamian who has quietly taken the reins at Apple Computer following the sad news earlier this week that CEO Steve Jobs is taking a third leave of absence from the company. Cook has manned the helm before, in 2004 when Jobs underwent treatment for procreatic cancer, and again in 2009 when the boss received a liver transplant. No one who knows is talking about what's going on this time around. Which did not inhibit Valleywag, an upmarket gossip site that covers Silicon Valley like a cheap suit, from running with the following lede:
"It looks increasingly like Steve Jobs' reign at Apple is over. If the CEO doesn't return from his third, indefinite medical leave, [Chief Operating Officer] Tim Cook will succeed him, marking a new era not only for Apple but for gay progress."
So … I guess we make a toast or something? And while our glasses are raised, let's send warm thoughts out to wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, reports that she has made some attempts to speak and is scrolling through her iPad.
All in all, it's a rather strange moment in Maine as in America at large — a place where, as Mark Shields of PBS noted, "this week, we saw a white, Catholic, Republican federal judge murdered on his way to greet a Democratic woman member of Congress, who was his friend and was Jewish. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year-old gay Mexican-American college student … and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon." All of which was duly noted by our African-American president.
Are you listening, Governor?