I know where my LePage Derangement Syndrome comes from

I’ve always had a soft spot for conservatives. Maybe it goes back to my days bartending at the Senator Inn and at Hazel Green’s in Augusta in the late 80’s. I might be remembering through rose colored shot glasses, but back then conservatives tended to be better tippers and, for better or worse, knew how to have a good time.

I used to enjoy our political conversations at the bar, even when talking about issues that I didn’t necessarily agree should be viewed solely from a conservative perspective. Maybe it was because I held the bottle or the tap, but most of my conservative regulars were it least willing to hear me out. I learned a great deal from these conversations, especially considering I had grown up in a staunchly Democratic household.

Those conversations were the first inklings of my understanding of conservative principles and were ultimately a part of my reasoning for un-enrolling from the Democratic Party several years ago. A purely liberal perspective is no more right or all encompassing than a purely conservative perspective. Those conversations are also the reason I’ve never succumbed to the idea that conservatives are thoughtless or stupid, as liberals sometimes portray them.

Again with a purely conservative perspective is no more stupid than a purely liberal perspective.

I’ve been thinking about those conversations lately, wondering what my conservative regulars would have thought about Governor LePage’s racially charged conduct, let alone his voicemail for Rep. Drew Gattine. The few with whom I still have occasional contact and who are on this side of the grass don’t approve. Maybe it’s their soft spot for their former dark-skinned bartender, but I don’t think so.

One agrees wholeheartedly that LePage’s rhetoric is a travesty for the conservative cause. His conduct overshadows any policy areas in which conservatives may have something valid to contribute and undermines the credibility of the conservative movement. His conduct is becoming intertwined with conservative policies in the eyes of some voters.

Because of my experiences with old-school conservatives (Reagan-types), I’m very disappointed in the rhetoric supporting the governor’s behavior, whether it’s coming from writers like me or his allies in the legislature.

Some seem to think he should be given some kind of a free pass because LePage grew up being discriminated against as a poor person of French descent in Lewiston. I’m not sure how being victimized based on his ethnicity as a child gives him the right to declare blacks and Hispanics the enemy in his war against opiates, free from any backlash. In this day and age, things just don’t work that way.

Such thinking means I should get a bunch of free passes because of all the stuff I experienced as a child. Silly me for looking to people people who experienced trauma as children and worked through their issues in such a way that made them compassionate and empathetic when it comes to the trauma of others.

Of the many inspirational examples, Kim Phuc comes to mind because her image has been in the news again lately.

I like to think that’s how humanity progresses and evolves: one generation sees the errors of a previous generation and seeks to improve them, rather than worsening them for the generations that follow. As a state and as a society, we seem to be struggling with that part of our evolution at this time, especially when it comes to our political rhetoric (and our cavalier attitude toward children of war torn nations, speaking of Kim Phuc and all the children suffering today, but I digress …).

One conservative writer I particularly enjoy reading suggested that a special session to censure the governor was “to pass some paper expressing disapproval … with no other effect.” Another of my favorite conservatives suggest my discomfort with LePage’s behavior is indicative of “LePage Derangement Syndrome.”

My immediate reaction is, gee, that’s mighty white of you — which means if I were a middle class white guy, I might be able to hold such opinions myself. It would be so much easier if I didn’t have to discuss the extent to which LePage and other elected officials think our family is the enemy.

You play the cards you’re dealt, though. I can’t change that I’m a dark-skinned mom who thinks my LePage Derangement Syndrome comes from having to discuss LePage’s racially charged comments with my mixed race children too many times. I think that meaningless censure paper would be a clear message to my children that Maine legislators, unlike our governor, do not think we are the enemy.

That meaningless piece of paper would empower conservatives and free their policy views from their entanglement with LePage’s toxic conduct. That meaningless piece of paper would go a long way toward showing voters that the conservative movement still commands respect rather than being a party that spews disrespect.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

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