I used to tell my friends from away that Maine Republicans were different from the rest of the country’s hardcore, socially regressive fundamentalist political party.

My theory was that a combination of Maine’s cultural tradition of “minding our own darn business” and our state’s relative lack of organized religion kept out the worst of conservative social beliefs. Maine Republicans wanted lower taxes and fewer regulations on business, and maybe they weren’t super fond of immigrants, but they weren’t bothered by the existence of gay people and birth control and abortion.

Heck, I’ve even voted for a few Republicans in my time – Susan Collins in 2014 and Don Marean, who was my state representative for a long time. In his last term, he also quietly dropped his partisan affiliation and became an independent legislator. It was a gutsy move, and I admired it.

I’ve been forced to eat those words and I have to say, they taste pretty bitter. Conservative Christian social theology has fully taken over the party core of the Maine Republican Party. I was reading about their updated party platform. Among other things, they want to ban all sexually based material from public schools, up to grade 12. This would effectively ban all sex ed.

The funny thing is, I actually had the sort of education that Republicans are trying to legislate for everyone else’s children. I went to Catholic schools from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade. St. Patrick’s School and Catherine McAuley High School in Portland – both closed now, unfortunately. Prayer was in the classroom and sex ed was out. We started the school day with a prayer, said grace before lunch, and had a crucifix over every door. (It’s still weird to see classrooms without them.) I never had a sex ed class, unless you count watching “The Miracle of Life” in health class freshman year. Watching a film of a live birth as a 13-year-old girl who can’t even figure out tampons comfortably might have some effect as birth control (studies should be done).

And yet, I still ended up half-gay and with more sexual partners than most folks would probably want for their daughter.

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Fortunately, I received good sex ed at home, and have been able to successfully avoid sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. But not everyone is lucky enough to have parents like mine. Knowledge is power, and if you don’t give children power over their own bodies – well, who’s got that power, then?

I don’t regret any of my parochial education, by the way. I had the very best teachers and aides and principals and lunch ladies that a girl could ask for. There was a lot of emphasis placed on volunteering and community service, and, of course, my schooling helped turn me into the writer I am today. But if you’re looking for a way to guarantee your kids end up heterosexual virgins until marriage? Religious education does not provide that guarantee.

The Maine Republican Party also officially opposes gay marriage, which was legalized in Maine via popular referendum literally 10 years ago. I hope regular voters realize how dorky this opposition makes Republicans look. Like, what is their plan here? Mandatory gay divorces? Automatic annulment? Or did they just want to make sure their disapproval of other people’s love life was widely registered?

Sen. Susan Collins, alleged moderate, also made an unusually fire-and-brimstone speech where she warned of “immigrants illegally flood(ing) across our southern border unchecked.” I relayed this to my mom, and my mom honestly thought Collins was talking about New Hampshire. Personally, I’m not worried about our country’s border with Mexico. This is Maine. We are over 2,200 miles away from Mexico. I’d be more interested in any worries Collins might have about our country’s border with Canada, which actually, you know, touches our state, but nobody gets whipped up into a frenzy of racial fear and mistrust by the prospect of Canadians.

The news about the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade hit my Twitter feed as I was finishing up the draft of this column. Perhaps there was a time when the Maine Republican Party believed in bodily autonomy for American citizens, including women. After all, if you ask most Mainers if they think people should be forced through nine months of pregnancy against their will, they’d say absolutely not. But based on what we’ve seen out of this convention, we can’t rely on them. The Maine Republican Party has lost that independent streak. They are just like Republicans everywhere.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

 


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