Watching the attacks directed at the three young women at South Portland High School who dared to question the mandated morning reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance was cause for alarm if you want a bright future for Maine.

I’m happy to know that the young women who stood up for freedom of speech at South Portland High have already been accepted to elite out-of-state universities, where I’m sure they’ll excel.

However, what are the odds they will want to return to Maine after graduation to begin their careers and contribute to our communities?

Probably slim to none, and the reason isn’t purely that despite four years of “Open For Business,” Maine’s economy remains in a state of malaise. (Unless you believe that closing mills and the seemingly endless expansion of dollar-discount stores and gambling venues is a sign of strength. I sure don’t. )

While much of the criticism leveled at the young women was nothing more than tired trolling, boiled down to the vapid “America love it or leave it” cliche, there was also a not-so-underlying theme of racism and nativism on display as well.

Many of the critics falsely assumed the young women were Muslim immigrants and tailored their vitriol accordingly. They had no evidence to support that assumption, but that didn’t stop them from hurling what they saw as a damning insult at the young women.

“How dare you be from somewhere else and believe something other than what I believe and think and look differently from me! You must go!”

Are we becoming a state where flat-earthers, know-nothings and bigots shout over the reasonable, the thoughtful and the curious?

If so, why on earth would our young people want to stay here? I hope we have more to look forward to than becoming a poor, cold state full of poor, cold people.

Jeremy Smith

Old Orchard Beach