Perhaps Maine needs a timeout from the national park debate. The divisiveness isn’t worth it

I used to wonder how people in the Middle East could spend centuries battling over beliefs and land, spilling generations of blood and dragging the rest of the world into it over time.

Generations of mothers’ children have died over beliefs and land.

After following the national park debate as a blogger for the last six months or so, I don’t wonder anymore. Thankfully, our microcosmic re-creation is not up to the international bloodshed level, but I’m sure at least one punch has been thrown somewhere.

And since economic revitalization has stagnated for years as the debate has lingered on, mothers are watching children leave, while the grown-ups continue to fight.

Over beliefs and land.

Many readers know I don’t think a national park is an answer to what ails the region. Frankly, I don’t think expecting anything from a federal government that can’t even draft a budget is realistic, and the whole idea is disrespectful to former-Gov. Percival Baxter. I’ve blogged quite a bit about other reasons, as well.

But this post isn’t about being anti-park. It is to say that even if I were pro-park, my sense of humanity would wish that the whole debate would just go away. The mother in me is just sick about so many people not getting along.

Katahdin region residents look on during a national park debate at Schenck High School of East Millinocket on Thursday, June 18, 2015. (Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN)

Katahdin region residents look on during a national park debate at Schenck High School of East Millinocket on Thursday, June 18, 2015. (Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN)

I mean, is all this division, acrimony, animosity and mistrust worth it? How the heck can the region rebuild itself from a mistrustful, angry place?

Just ask citizens of the Middle East how that’s working for them.

In a couple posts I wrote about interviews with people involved with Our Katahdin, a platform created to spur economic development. I really like their platform, but it will need considerable support to work and considerable mutual trust. Unfortunately, the debate itself doesn’t foster that.

No matter how big or how small, ongoing divisiveness is a problem.

The whole mess reminds me of a story a mom I know once told me. Back, back in the day when her boys were school-aged, they loved to play chess. They were two competitive, highly intelligent brothers who were very close in age.

The games inevitably led to all-out brawls, every time. And every time, the mom in question would have to separate them and sort out who was at fault, etc. Months passed, and the battles only intensified. Finally, she snapped.

It just so happened that the table the boys used to play chess was right next to the fireplace, and she was walking by the moment the last fight broke out. There was a roaring fire going, and in a split second she decided she’d had enough. Before the boys could blink, it was bye-bye chessboard.

As a mom of two boys who has had those days when I wonder if they’re both going to make it to adulthood (and if I’ll be there to see it), I found the story quite hilarious. It helped that I know the brothers in question and had witnessed their childhood competitiveness manifested in their adult friendship.

The moral of the story is (and I’ve heard it from the perspective of all three parties involved who agree completely): If all parties can’t enjoy, share and benefit from a resource intended for them, then what good is the resource?

If a resource only leads to ongoing fighting, what good is it? How much divisiveness is too much? When are the people involved more important than the resource?

I know that my wish that the whole debate would go away is unrealistic — as unrealistic as I think hopes that our current federal government will move the Millinocket region forward in any timely fashion are. Still, I can’t help but wish the debate could somehow be suspended, at least. Like a moratorium of some sort, so that healing and trust building could begin.

And I wish that the Our Katahdin group could become something people could unite around and that moms could watch their children stay and work in the communities they love.

Somewhere between burning chessboards and ground troops, there has to be a solution.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.