And so we find ourselves in that no man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s Day when nothing much gets accomplished across the fruited plain and only working stiffs without enough pull to be on vacation are left on the job to man the ramparts.
This is when we in the news biz doggedly plow old ground, compiling for readers a mind-numbing recounting of events that occurred in the year that presently has one foot in the grave and the other on a patch of black ice, as though remembering for yourself is beyond your pay grade. And because new tricks cannot be taught to an old dawg left to man the ramparts for far too many years while all the responsible adults were off cavorting at Sugarloaf Mountain, I know nothing better than to go along with the drill…
A column in early January about a sacred smudging/cleansing ceremony performed by members of the Penobscot Nation at the inauguration of Gov. John Baldacci earned an anonymous e-mail message branding me a bigot and a racist who had written “the most disgusting thing I have seen come out of the Bangor Daily News since I have been reading it…” High praise, indeed, although modesty compels me to suggest that if that particular column was the nominee my e-mail admirer can’t have been reading the paper for very long.
At the tag end of the year a column high-fiving the Bush administration for barring countries that didn’t fight in Iraq from bidding on reconstruction contracts there provoked e-mail from an anti-establishment bomb thrower denouncing me as “naive” and unenlightened beyond belief for failing to recognize that the Iraq mess is simply one vast right-wing conspiracy presided over by an unelected president taking his cue from evil advisors on the payroll of evil corporations out to make an evil buck through evil war profiteering.
In between, it was a laugh a day, courtesy of various entities:
When the federal government officially designated duct tape as the weapon of choice to combat terrorism (use plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows against germ warfare by terrorists, the experts counseled) Mainers felt validated. Here, where duct tape is known as “Official State O’ Maine Tape” we’ve long used it to patch everything from a broken sewer main to an incision from open-heart surgery, and it was nice to see the rest of the country emulate our sophistication. It is said that the true Mainer needs only two tools in his toolbox: WD40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move, and should, use WD 40. If it moves, and shouldn’t, use duct tape.
Prior to the start of action in Iraq, the Maine Legislature considered offering to the president of the United States its vast expertise in the art of conducting war, but eventually said the hell with it and gave it up as a bad job when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said there are the known knowns that the Legislature knows it knows and there are the known unknowns that the Legislature knows it doesn’t know. But the unknown unknowns – the stuff the Maine Legislature doesn’t know that it doesn’t know – well, that’s the problem, right there.
The Beautiful People of Hollywood, having grown weary of saving the whales and trying to plug the hole in the ozone layer, decided that their next great cause in behalf of humanity should be to turn Maine into a national park and playground for the idle rich. They signed their beautiful names to a manifesto making the crusade official, but declined an invitation to don their beautiful L.L. Bean stuff and join the natives in showing their home movies at Millinocket’s prestigious Maine Woods Film Festival… An anarchist fringe element called the Free State Project decided to take over New Hampshire and turn it into Utopia North… California voters turned out Gov. Gray Davis and were rewarded with a BallotFrom Hell featuring would-be replacements that ran the gamut from bimbo to bozo, the bozo winning.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton jokes continued apace. Sample: The Clintons and Al Gore arrive simultaneously in Heaven. God, seated on his throne, asks them to state their beliefs. Gore says he believes he won the presidential election, but it was God’s will that he not become president and he’s OK with that.
Fine, says God. Come sit at my left. Bill says he believes in forgiveness; that he’s sinned but never held a grudge against his fellow man. God says fine. Come sit at my right. He asks Hillary what she believes. She replies, “I believe you’re sitting in my chair.”
Happy New Year.
NEWS columnist Kent Ward lives in Winterport. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.