Down East 2013 ©
Mainers undoubtedly have faults, like everyone else, but we are not known, at least, for cringing and whining.
That's what makes it so remarkable to see the peculiar attitude being struck by opponents of Maine's new marriage-equality law, which is on hold pending the outcome of a "people's veto" drive. I was tipped to this by a penetrating column by Bill Nemitz  that ran in the Portland Press-Herald the other day. It's worth reading in its entirety, as is this blog post  and comment thread elaborating on the subject.
Among other little treasures, Nemitz unearths this gem of a quote from Marc Mutty, erstwhile PR man for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, now running an ad hoc entity calling itself Stand for Marriage Maine:
"Mutty said, 'We feel like the minority that's being discriminated against. We are being treated like pariahs everywhere we go.'"
Which would explain, perhaps, why this band of grievously persecuted heterosexuals refuses to divulge the location of its headquarters. Staffers at the Portland diocese, Nemitz reports, were admonished by in-house e-mail: "For security reasons, please do not give the physical location of the SFMM (Stand for Marriage Maine) office to anyone. It's imperative that no one else know the location."
Oh, is it, now? I wonder why. Do these folks imagine some roving band of gay desperados might forcibly enter their premises and install daring window treatments? Are they even being serious? I can't help wondering if this flash of paranoia might be a calculated pose, of a piece with Mutty's bearing his chest in imitation of a Christian martyr.
Whatever it is, it's un-Mainelike. It's insulting to those on the other side , and out-of-keeping with the generally respectful tone of Maine civic affairs, even when hot-button issues are in question. I remember passionate debate over things like bear-baiting and doctor-assisted suicide, as well as earlier tussles over equal rights for gay people. But I can't recall a time when one side of a controversy — despite being generously funded (mostly from out-of-state ), backed by powerful institutions, and supported by a large and energized segment of the populace, has felt this urge to don the sackcloth and ashes of victimhood.
I'll grant them this much: they're in tune with the spirit of the times. Pat Buchanan has spent the last couple of weeks in his slot on MSNBC lamenting the sorry plight of white people  in America. Sonia Sotomayor was obliged to endure hours of lecturing on the evils of discrimination by, among others, a senator who once opined that the Ku Klux Klan was "okay"  until, as he explained, he learned that some of them were pot smokers. And then of course there's Sarah Palin.
Now there are many things I don't understand about the Palin phenomenon, but certain general features have become clear. One can hardly improve on this passage  that appeared, of all places, on the Opinion page of the Wall Street Journal, penned by columnist Thomas Frank:
"Indeed, if political figures stand for ideas, victimization is what Ms. Palin is all about. It is her brand, her myth. Ronald Reagan stood tall. John McCain was about service. Barack Obama has hope. Sarah Palin is a collector of grievances. She runs for high office by griping."
Mega-ditto on that one. Yet a fair number of people — those who believe, as Frank puts it, that "our culture is one big insult to the pious and the patriotic and the traditional" — find the cult of victimhood irresistibly appealing.
Here in Maine, the pose seems forced. Nobody here is going around persecuting Christians, or straight people, or crazy people, or country music fans, or what have you. We're all well accustomed to living cheek-by-jowl with people as different from ourselves as night from day. That's part of the charm of the place. We have no reason to operate furtively from undisclosed locations. We needn't fear voicing our honest opinions — though we should be prepared, in doing so, to deal with other folk's honest reactions.
But you know, maybe I'm misreading all this. Maybe unjust persecution isn't what Mr. Mutty and his stealthy allies are worried about. Maybe they're starting to divine that they're on the wrong side of history. Their quarrel, then, is not with scary gay people but with the authors of yet-to-be-written textbooks, in whose pages they will appear not as defenders of Christian morality but rather as ... well, I don't mean to be impolite.
Relax, folks. Open the door and let us in. Who knows, you might like those window treatments.