Some Mainers might find Congressman Mike Michaud’s personal announcement last week surprising.
Yes, Maine has changed a lot in a few years. But character is constant, and it is character that counts.
Here is an example: When I was a newcomer legislator, I was lucky to be one of a half-dozen freshmen from all across Maine whom Mike Michaud took under his wing, teaching the ropes and how to navigate Augusta.
He was a busy man as chair of the almighty Appropriations Committee that controls the state purse strings in tight budget times. But he was always fair, forthcoming and found time for me and my colleagues and the causes we held dear.
Often my causes were not his; my questions never ended; but neither did his patience nor his good advice and encouragement to work hard for our beliefs and our districts.
Trust founded like that reveals character, and that constant has colored the work Michaud has done in public service ever since – and that I hope we, his former colleagues, learned from his example.
Orientation meant nothing when Michaud was driving a forklift at the mill in Millinocket or fighting for Maine in Washington. It is caring, commitment and hard work that count.
I salute his courage and welcome his candidacy. It was an honor to serve with him. It will be great to have him as governor.
Former state legislator
I imagine growing up gay in northern Maine is an incredible training ground for building strength, character and deep resilience.
If you are not a gay man, please stop for a moment and think about hearing these hurtful words repeated: homo, pedophile, pervert. Endurance of homophobia becomes an asset when one survives through both societal and internalized hatred to “come out” on a scale of this magnitude.
Regardless of how you vote, it is this endurance which all Maine people might try to understand as we comprehend Rep. Mike Michaud’s brave disclosure, which heterosexual candidates never have to even think about. Congratulations, Mike Michaud, you have already won. Best of luck, and thank you for your inspiring courage – may it lift all Mainers up toward deep truth.
Almost 30 years ago, when I began to see how things worked in Augusta, I learned that among the members of the Legislature were persons then described as “homosexual.” But in fact no one described these men as such: No matter how acrimonious things got (and there was acrimony aplenty in the ’80s and ’90s) no opponent, nor any rival, Democrat or Republican, ever (to my knowledge) used that information against them.
Everyone knew about it: all the Democratic and the Republican leadership, and the rank and file. At the tensest of times, I waited for someone to break that silence, but they never did, and I recall several times remarking to friends how proud I was that, in Maine, that line was never crossed. It seemed to reflect a basic decency and sense of fairness, and respect for each other’s privacy, that could be found throughout the state.
So seeing Mike Michaud declare openly that he is gay to ward off the whisper campaign begun by his opponents makes me sad. It brought to mind that chestnut from the McCarthy hearings in 1954, when Sen. Joseph McCarthy tried to berate and intimidate a witness for associating with a “communist-front organization.” Joseph Welch, head counsel for the Army, protested against the character assassination, finally asking the senator: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Mainers are proud of the role that Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith played in stopping the excesses of the McCarthy witch-hunters, and her sense of decency and fair play. It has been a long-standing and bipartisan tradition, and it will be a sad day if that attitude is lost to the desire for immediate partisan advantage.
Jonathan S. R. Beal
Congressman’s disclosure not really sign of progress
In a Nov. 5 article about Rep. Mike Michaud’s announcement that he is gay – coincidentally on the eve of Gov. LePage’s announcement of his re-election bid – reporter Steve Mistler quotes this statement by Michaud: “It’s something that never crossed my mind … I never judged whether it would be politically advantageous, detrimental, whatever … I just wanted to get it behind me.”
Disclosure: I will not be among those to cast a stone at Michaud.
(“Judge not, lest ye be judged.”)
If there is no big deal about coming out, as all the pundits tell us, what’s the big deal all about? Doesn’t it strain our already overtaxed credulity to believe that the hand-picked candidate of the Democratic Party made this decision all by himself after 12 years in Congress?
“Never crossed my mind”? Really?
During his six terms as a congressman, his position on abortion has been, well, incoherent – all over the map, depending on which way the political winds were blowing.
Is that another issue he would like to get behind him? There’s an old saying that the past is prologue. At age 58, “Michaud fought back emotions as he described telling his family about his sexuality for the first time …” I’m doing my best to empathize, but that doesn’t quite pass the giggle test.
Convince us that you are your own man, that you have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for your principles while all those around you are clamoring for you to follow the herd.
Further disclosure: I knew and presented testimony before the House committee of the late Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Gerry Studds, perhaps the first openly gay member of Congress.
Walter J. Eno
Proving that anti-Christians are firmly in control of our media, Mr. Kesich and Mr. Nemitz write in support of the acceptance of sexual deviancy and tell us that this is the trend in America and the appropriate attitude is “why should it matter?” (“Greg Kesich: Michaud shows visiting gay-rights activists how fast progress can be” and “Bill Nemitz: Revelation for Michaud, evolution for Maine” Nov. 6)
Why should it matter? Well, there is a very good answer to that question, namely God has laws and if a politician shows his disregard for God’s laws, what can we expect from him when he is legislating man’s laws?
Does any practicing Christian really believe that the laws of man supersede the laws of God? Does any practicing Christian fail to understand the sinfulness of perversity?
I love the misuse of the word “progress.” Could that be progress toward Sodom and Gomorrah? And, from what was written, it appears that once-godless communist Russia is now more Christian than America.
That we are no longer “one nation under God” is manifest and history is replete with the fate of godless nations. An immutable lesson of history is that the acceptance of perversion has been a signal event in the decline and fall of empires.
Copy editors on front line but perfection is illusion
Regarding Gustin Kiffney’s letter taking to task the copy editor who missed the opportunity to tighten a wire story (“Alert grammar cop finds last line of story arresting,” Nov. 3).
Mr. Kiffney no doubt got a few yuks and slaps on the back for the clever way in which he so publicly pointed out the mistakes of others.
As a former copy editor of and occasional writer for these pages, I would remind readers that copy editors are the offensive linemen of publishing: key players only noticed when they screw up. Yet they do their jobs diligently, correcting and tightening copy without the need to embarrass anyone. Well, publicly, anyway.
Perfection is an illusion we all should pursue in whatever we do for a day’s pay. But an illusion it remains. Here’s hoping Mr. Kiffney’s superiors and customers agree.