Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Backcountry Resistance



Good will toward government is diminishing in Oxford County, Maine. There has always been healthy skepticism toward centralized authority during the forty-three years I’ve been in residence, but it has grown over the last month of coronavirus shutdown. When Democrat Governor Janet Mills announced her decision last Tuesday to extend the shutdown across the state through most of summer, it took off.

Saturday Demonstration against Mills (from Portland Press Herald)

Shortly after moving here in 1977 as a leftist Democrat from Massachusetts, I was elected to Lovell’s three-man Board of Selectmen on the floor of town meeting. The other selectmen were descendants of our town’s original settlers and we met twice per week. By the end of year one my outlook started moving toward center. By the end of nine years I’d gone past center into right-wing territory. I’d become a strong believer in local control.

The land of Bernie bumper stickers

The rest of Maine and New England, however, was moving in the opposite direction and now all six states are run by left-wing adherents of centralized government control. In early weeks of the pandemic there was little dissent over lockdown and social distancing, but as people learned more about both the virus and about different approaches taken by other countries, many now see lockdowns as ineffective and unnecessary. They figure most of us are going to get it eventually and only the elderly with comorbidities need isolate themselves.


Now that President Trump has allowed governors to make their own decisions about quarantine, Democrat governors, including Maine’s, are exerting what locals see as arbitrary authority over their lives and livelihoods. Maine has not been hit hard and what effect there has been is limited to southern counties of York and Cumberland.  As of last week, Oxford County had no deaths and only fifteen confirmed cases of which twelve have recovered — yet Governor Mills ordered restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, and many other businesses to remain closed.

Saturday's anti-Mills demonstration (from Portland Press Herald)

Tourism is the mainstay of our economy here and local businesses depend on the summer season to get through the rest of the year, so Mills is going to kill off many local businesses permanently. The question now is: will they roll over and die or will they fight? Rick Savage, owner of Sunday River Brewing Company in Oxford County was the first to openly defy Governor Mills. Two days after her order, he went on national TV with Tucker Carlson who owns a place in nearby Andover, Maine and announced he would open on Friday.


Governor Mills pulled Savage’s health license and liquor license immediately and the Boston Globe reported that he shut down again. During a protest at the state house in Augusta Saturday, Savage was interviewed by Newscenter 6 saying he would stay open, pay the daily fines, and fight the order in court. He said other businesses planned to join him. Has Mills’ intimidated them into compliance or will they fight too? It should be an interesting week here in Oxford County.

Saturday's anti-Mills demonstration (from Portland Press Herald)
On Monday Republican leaders declared that Mills didn’t consult them about her shutdown plan. They’re asking majority Democrats to call legislators into special session and end her emergency powers but Democrats refused. Tuesday, Mills’ press secretary said she did communicate with Republicans through a computer portal. Although America’s initial virus response was bipartisan, it no longer is. Efforts to restart the economy have broken down along party lines in Maine and everywhere else.

Maine was supposed to celebrate its bicentennial this year but that’s not likely. It’s nice to be free of Massachusetts but Maine has since spawned its own oligarchy with Mills at the head. What I see in rural Maine seems another manifestation of similar conflicts during Maine’s early settlement. Lately I’ve been reading Liberty Men And Great Proprietors, a 1990 book by historian Alan Taylor. Revolutionary War veterans who settled in backcountry Maine hadn’t been paid for their service and believed they had a right to stake out claims and settle in wilderness areas away from the Province of Maine’s coast.


Maine then was part of Massachusetts whose government and courts were largely controlled by Great Proprietors like Henry Knox, Charles Vaughan, Josiah Little, and their ilk. They claimed ownership of vast land grants — some going back to colonial times. These proprietors wanted veterans and other settlers — the Liberty Men — to pay them for the land. Lawsuits continued for decades before the political influence of wealthy proprietors in the Massachusetts statehouse eventually won out. Rural resistance to state control thus has a long heritage here in backcountry Maine.

21 comments:

Cover Charge said...

This pandemic has shifted my perspective. I now believe big business is a greater threat to liberty than big Government. While the Company I work for put my Family and me in harm’s way it was the Government that tried to protect us. I work in the public and am considered an essential employee and was forced to work business as usual plus overtime. Not only did my Company not take any precautions to protect employees or the public they took advantage of the situation to increase market share. They also lied to the public claiming they were taking safety precautions when in fact they were forcing sick employees to work. Externally the company said sick employees would quarantine however internally employees with flue like symptoms would NOT be allowed to quarantine unless confirmed positive with Covid-19. Sick employees went to the hospital but did not get tested because either there were no tests available or the few tests that were available needed to be saved for high risk patients so back to work they went.

Brian said...

I agree that local governments should very carefully listen to what health experts recommend and then make decisions for their part of the country based on that. What we should definitely not have is the Federal Government jumping in claiming absolute authority.

Brian said...

I also very much agree that big business, for the most part, cares mainly about their financial bottom line, putting it before employee's health and the health of the planet.

Walmart workers have been speaking out and protesting and now two have died in Chicago from the virus. Despicable how money gets put first.

Cover Charge said...

Exactly Brian, the owners want to open to make money while the workers take the risk. At my Company the executives are quarantining working from home while the workers are on the front lines in public. Its not the owner of a restaurant that typically serves your food and takes money its the waiter/waitress. I am 100% behind Governor Mills on this issue and am thankful she is the current Governor.

Brian said...

In a perfect world the government wouldn't have to intervene in this because people would listen to the health experts and the facts and act accordingly. But there are always people that blow their poison smoke near others in public places or stomp around in their mud-splattered boots tracking their dirty $#!+ behind them or gather closely together in times like this because, hey its a free country.

Sure, open up what businesses that can be opened safely, and voice your opinions. But gathering closely in crowds to "protest" against making a sacrifice for their country seems a bit dopey. And what are the guns for? Compensating for masculinity issues, I suppose.

And now Trump encourages these armed protesters to think of themselves as "warriors". Such talk is embarrassing coming from a "bone-spurred" privileged elitist. Do these bizarrely inappropriate war metaphors really work on his followers?

Trump is unraveling.

Attacking Bush for a plea for empathy and national unity?

To say this about Kim Jong Un, one of the most brutal leaders in the world:

“I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!”

Looks like dictators stand by each others side.

Laurie said...

I agree with the previous commenters. I am very glad to live in a state where our current governor is actually listening to the scientists, and not rolling over for business interests. Her leadership stands in stark contrast to our president's erratic and dangerous posturing. We are all struggling, and I do not minimize the devastating financial cost of these distancing measures. I am about to apply for unemployment for the first time in my 63 years, and that is painful. However, I have no reasonable basis to doubt the overwhelming scientific consensus that to fully reopen too early, before cases have declined and we have adequate testing, is to invite disaster far worse than economic hardship. If you believe the polls, most Americans feel this way. Opening in a balanced, safe way will be a challenge. Screaming about liberty is not helping.

Tom, I appreciate you putting your views out there. Though I often disagree, I find your writing thoughtful and I appreciate your knowledge of history. Please stop assuming that those of us on the left are simply blinding following our government dictates, as some beach bimbo cartoons you posted recently indicated. In fact, since the pandemic I've been reading epidemiology and virology tomes, never an interest of mine before! I believe the science should lead as we try to get through this pandemic. I'm very willing to follow their lead.

Niick Peace said...

This:
"as people learned more about both the virus and about different approaches taken by other countries, many now see lockdowns as ineffective and unnecessary. They figure most of us are going to get it eventually and only the elderly with comorbidities need isolate themselves".

You'll find people on all sides of that statement. I think many are sill scared, although quarantine fatigue is setting in and people worry about their jobs and businesses. I for one think the spread is inevitable and social distancing does nothing but spread it out over time (basically delay it) so there is little point in destroying the economy to prevent it. Nor does it make sense logically: Why would you destroy the livelihood of 99% to save 1%?

TRD said...

This column addresses the concerns of sacrificing some citizens to benefit many citizens.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/25/there-is-no-trade-off-between-the-economy-and-health

Laurie said...

Because it does matter whether it is 1% or 2% who die, and it does matter if the hospitals become overwhelmed and people die unnecessarily. Doesn't it? In Wuhan at the height of the surge, the mortality rate was close to 5%, in parts of Italy 10%, in large part because the hospitals were too overwhelmed to treat patients and they were dying in the hallways. That matters. We may have less of a chance of that happening here in Maine, but we shouldn't be complacent. I agree that there are differing opinions about how to finesse the reopening, and that no one really knows the right answer or even how many people are infected. But in my opinion, we should err on the side of caution.

My father is 89 years old and has COPD. He will die if he gets this thing, I have no doubt. We're being careful, but it sounds like a terrible way to die, and I'd like to reduce the chances of that happening to him or others.

Cover Charge said...

Hear, hear Laurie. It matters to me. The people who want quarantine lifted also want people to serve and perform for them. Most often those people are not owners but employees. If employees do not report they will be terminated which is different than being laid off or furloughed, they will not receive unemployment benefits. Those workers may not be high risk themselves but many have loved ones who are.

Cover Charge said...

What really gets my goat is the people who say “it’s my choice, if I want to go out and risk exposing myself I should be allowed to” because I guarantee those same people still expect essential personnel to respond to them for service. Police, Fire, Rescue, Utilities, Cable TV, internet service providers, etc. will still have to help and interact with those people exposing themselves to everywhere they've been.

rhondajo said...

It is not the government's job or responsibility to keep me safe from flues and viruses. My health is none of the government's business.

Brian said...

You are right rhondajo, just like it is not the government's job to stop you from smoking or from shooting your gun or from pooping on your property, but it is their job to stop you from doing these things in public where it could be dangerous. It is not about YOU rhondajo, it is about protecting the public at large. You are free to sit home and inject yourself with HIV (or disinfectants) just don't go around in public doing things that would spread the sickness around to those that don't want it.

rhondajo said...

If the public is afraid of the virus, then THEY should stay home. If they are afraid of the virus when they do go out, then THEY should wear a mask, especially when they are in their car with the windows rolled up. Our economy is at stake here. It is time to lift the lockdown, open up the businesses and give everyone their jobs back. It is time to start living again, and without fear.

CaptDMO said...

How nice that residents in the state of Maine that have had their livelihoods "canceled" will be immunized against any and all State income or property taxes.
They ARE....RIGHT?
So when does the free seed for Victory Gardens get delivered? It's already a little late to start, what with the extended Anthro Global Warming of snow, and cold, this year!
Dang, sure glad I can use untaxed diesel to run the tractor's tiller!
EVERYBODY has a tractor.....right?
Does barter, in exchange for tilling my neighbor's former lawn, count as Social distancing, if I use hand sanitizer before doing it?
HEEEEEEY! That former campground on Kezar Lake would make a FINE Community Produce Garden! The water is RIGHT THERE!
Might even get the basis for a good horror story out of it! Or something.

Brian said...

If the public is afraid of drunk drivers should THEY stay off the roads? You seem confused about the mask wearing. When I, or most people, put on a mask to go into public it is not just because they don't want to catch the virus themselves, but they are wearing them in consideration of others. People can carry the virus without knowing they have it, so wearing the mask is to protect other perhaps more vulnerable people. But not everyone thinks of others. They are willing to sacrifice the lives of others because they simply don't feel like wearing a mask. People can't stay home without going out occasionally for groceries, doctor, etc. I hope some irresponsible dope doesn't kill my mother, or anyones relative just because they "are free not to wear a mask if they choose" and think she should just stay home.

I know many people disregard experts (scientists, doctors, etc) if they do not like what they are hearing. You bring up "the economy", but most economists agree that we should be locking down as we are.

http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/policy-for-the-covid-19-crisis/

Yes, it's hard, financially and otherwise. It takes personal sacrifice to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed and to save human life, which conservatives used to say was the most precious commodity of all.

Steve said...

Too many of us have let ourselves become too entitled and self-absorbed. I can live my life any way I choose irrespective of how it might impact other people. It’s less my responsibility to act responsibly than it is your responsibility to avoid my irresponsible actions.

Brian said...

lol....well said. It's not MY responsibility if somebody gets in the way of the chainsaw I happen to be freely swinging around in public. Get out of the way if you don't want to be hurt.

Unknown said...

This comment is not closely related with this week’s Blog article but I want to share an article, in case someone is interested in other aspect of COVID-19 outbreak timeline.

Since COVID-19 outbreak, I have been reading all kind of articles about the epidemic. I read articles from different sources because I don’t want to be fooled by either “left” or “right”. I also sometimes explore articles from other countries if they have an interesting title. I found many times they have very different stories from we were told here.
It is interesting that the timeline of COVIN-19 outbreak from Chinese Ambassador in U.S. is different from what we heard.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chinese-ambassador-cui-tiankai-blaming-china-will-not-end-this-pandemic/2020/05/05/4e1d61dc-8f03-11ea-a9c0-73b93422d691_story.html

Kafir said...

A fine read, Tom. Glad you moved to the conservative side of the spectrum as do most people who become older and wiser. It happened to me by reading Ayn Rand in the 70s while in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan.

We are getting a taste of socialsm with Mills’ lockdown and the people don’t like it. Of course, many of those employed by the state, the media and in the legislature are still getting paid so it’s not easy for them to sympathize with the great unwashed even though they pretend to do so.

Maine’s Climate Committee, for example, held 30 virtual meetings in April while we were forced to stay home. This committee was spawned by LD 1679 which passed last June. It’s a combined version of AOC’s “Green New Deal” and Agenda 2030 which, if implemented, will crush our state’s economy in the long run worse than the CCP virus.

I tuned into “No Plan Jan” and “Timmy” Shah’s noon briefing yesterday and thought I was watching some middle school students science project presentation. WGAN radio runs daily poll questions. The responses have been overwhelmingly negative as to her competency, so it isn’t just me.

I’ve come up with a new motto for those who continue to support her dictatorship: “Shills for Mills”. Catchy, isn’t it?

Fyi, a lawsuit has been filed against Mills by Ray Richardson and David Jones with a GoFundMe page at WLOB. I was happy to make a donation.




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