Issues often get framed in a narrow manner. Apparently it’s easier that way. Words and simple solutions to complex problems are becoming our undoing.
The United States. Drugs. Education. There are other ways to slice the pie.
The State of Maine, and the state of Maine. Context and geography is everything, especially how place affects the people living there.
When “Maine” gets talked about by the media, or leaders, it usually means Portland, or popular destinations. Places where the beautiful, or hip, or smart people go to eat, drink, and frolic.
Take an hour or two sometime and flip through lifestyle publications focused on Maine; they are glossy and beautifully photographed. People are playing, drinking, and eating. All is well in the Pine Tree State. I usually don’t recognize the places plastered across their pages. Oh, I’ve been there, but life is more than a mere image, or even 750 words.
There is another Maine; when it shows up in those kinds of magazines, the image seems off-kilter, or hollowed out. We may catch a glimpse, but it’s usually one in passing.
Newspapers cover places east and west of the interstate. They write about the bad things; heroin and meth labs, and kids thinking about suicide. Rarely do we get any context—like how for 70 years, people have been digging their own graves in many places in rural America.
A friend of mine was hired for an economic development position in Oxford and Franklin counties a few years ago. She was up to the task, bringing energy and passion to the job. Shortly after taking the position, she sought out a statewide “leader” at a well-respected organization.
My friend wanted to get out of the gate quickly in a place that’s been bypassed by the 21st century gains experienced by Portland and few other places in the state. She shared with me how disappointed she was when the powerful woman at the helm of the nonprofit that offers conventional advice to others in places that are still tethered to the old ways of commerce and capital had none for her. She was actually quite dismissive, basically offering nothing more than saying, “sister, at least you dress well.”
When you care about rural places, even prefer them—the “other Maine”—you’re on your own. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it might even be an asset if you are considering an entirely different approach.