Franklin Countys First News

What unites us now?

Rep. Lance Harvell

The recent events in Charlottesville and what we’ve seen following the election of Donald Trump are evidence of the rise of populist fervor and more importantly identity politics in this nation. This has led me to question where we are headed in this Country. Our nation was based on ideas not identity. The idea that makes us Americans was beautifully laid out by Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence.

In a recent editorial, George Mitchell sought to espouse this idea but then reverted to the notion that diversity is what defines us, falling into the trap that is laid by identity politics. That would mean we are defined by our race, gender, sexual orientation etc. and not the universal truth set forth by Jefferson and later reiterated by Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

Historical attempts at unity have been made by many religions, classes, races etc. and all have failed when those identities supplanted the ideals. Unity around religious ideas only worked when the ideal was above ethnic, class or political identity. The bible says: “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.” When Christians placed race or ethnicity above this ideal, unity failed and they killed each other for centuries culminating in two world wars.

Historical attempts at unity have all have failed when those identities supplanted ideals. The Marxist ideology based on class failed to unite people because this was the epitome of identity politics. Marx attempted to unite people on identity alone and preached that history was nothing more than a class struggle. In America the proposition of equality and the right to pursue one’s happiness has remained an ideal that defined and united Americans. If at times in our history we failed to live up to these ideals we always found ourselves eventually returning to them.

When women met at Seneca Falls in the 19th century they sought to write their own declaration which was essentially a mirror of Jefferson’s but adding the word “woman” to man. Those women sought not to be defined by their gender, but rather their demand that Jefferson’s ideal be fully recognized to include them. When Lincoln gave his Gettysburg address he stated that we were formed on Jefferson’s proposition and that the civil war was a challenge to see if such a nation could endure. A hundred years later Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I have a dream” speech echoes the American dream by quoting Jefferson and asking the Nation to live out its creed. He then destroys the politics of race by saying he looked forward to the day when people would be “judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin.”

Jefferson’s words stand there to remind us of how we were. Today, populism coupled with identity politics has set us on a course for a new tribalization, not one based on ideas, but based on race, religion, gender or sexual identity. This, coupled with what is a profound ignorance among the population for our history and politicians seizing on sound bites and tweets, is bringing a new danger of disunion to this country.

If you believe we are defined by our identities, how does one explain Dwight Eisenhower? After all, he was German the same as Adolf Hitler who preached a unity based on race and ethnicity, not on ideas of equality. By that rationale, Eisenhower should have been leading the German army not the American army against Germany. Veterans from all ethnic and racial backgrounds, genders or sexual preferences have fought and died not for those identities but for the idea set forth by Jefferson. That is the core of what made us a united country. Like it or not those who espouse identity politics have more in common with Hitler than America and that goes for all who espouse it on the left or the right. And during this period of populist realignment they are whipping up tribal identities not American ideals and the nature of that cultural attack will unite no one and devour those who preach it.

America has been an exceptional nation because we united around the ideas of our founders and to replace this unity with political identities could spell the end of that exceptionalism. At times like this, we need to heed the prophetic words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Lance Harvell represents District 113 in the House of Representatives which includes Farmington and New Sharon

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24 Responses »

  1. Well said Lance. thank you.

    Carol

  2. Lance:

    If your takeaway from Charlottesville, Trump's equivocative sympathizing, and Mitchell's response is "identity politics", I believe you're missing the point. The white nationalists that marched in Charlottesville see this country's diversity as weakness. Mitchell's point was that it should be considered a strength.
    I think you are correct in your assessments that the values espoused by Jefferson, Lincoln, and King should be the shared values that unite us. I think you miss the mark when you focus on the response to white nationalism rather than white nationalists and their sympathizers. You can't explain Eisenhauer's career without it.

  3. First off Charlottesville wouldn't have had a problem if people hadn't used pepper spray. The "white nationalists" had a permit to be there. The other people who showed up and started the whole fight did not have a permit. I'm not condoning the white nationalists I'm stating facts. There is no room in this world for the hate groups that are out there on ANYSIDE !!!! The media left out some facts that they shouldn't have. You will find the media does a really good job of portraying what they want to cause hate and discontent amongst Americans.

  4. Not to mention they were trying to exercise there freedom of speech but it seems to only be allowed for certain people these days.

  5. How can people be united when others use dismissive labels such as "identity politics"? That is a very loaded term.

  6. Fredom of speech is not allowed in America unless you agree with the liberal media. They will make you look bad if you don't agree with them

  7. I agree with most of what you write, and there is a lot to learn from our past. The Irish, the Chinese, the Italians...all came over and were discriminated against, ridiculed, seen as inferior, and for a couple generations as outsiders. Now, there is no stigma with being Irish or Italian. That happened because the ideals trumped identity. Within a generation Latinos and other groups being marginalized now will be just as mainstream.

    Identity politics comes in many flavors. Anti-immigration rhetoric that ridicules Hispanics is a form of negative identity politics - candidate Trump practiced that a few times. This penchant some people have for lumping people into a category of "liberals" and then making rather outlandish statements about them is a form of negative identity politics.

    But Mitchell may have a point - while those ideals unify us, there is a rich diversity of culture and ideas here that keep us vibrant. The fact we do welcome different cultures with different foods, holidays, games, etc. is a real strength. A Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu (or a white, black, Latino and Asian) may be unified by a belief in freedom, but their separate cultural backgrounds is part of the mosiac strength of America. I think your main point is right, but celebrating diversity does not contradict it. Diversity that demands separation contradicts our ideals. I see that on both the so-called left or so-called right, but I think most people do put our values first.

  8. People of various "identities" (be they brown, female, gender nonconforming, non-Christian, whatever) do not want that identity to be the only thing that defines them. But they do want a decent and fair life same as anyone else, hence the ongoing need for movements such as BLM. Dismissing these as "identity politics" seems to be missing the point about how far we still have to go.

  9. Thank you, Lance for your wisdom. A fine article you've presented us.

  10. Yes, WE still have a LONG way to go...imagine that NOT being from Maine is often construed to be a negative. Pretty closed-minded I'd say.

  11. Freedom of speech is certainly deceased at this publication....unless you are a liberal you get censored by those that wish to control all opinions that aren't part of the approved party line. The discussion will never happen until we include all opinions in the process. Thus, there will always be strong vibrant opposition to looney liberal ideas in our community.

  12. Great wording and I believe very accurate.Lance, when you decide to politic again, I'll get in touch as I would love to be part of it, if you'd have me.Do anything to help. Thanks for being there for us!

  13. @ pete. so when my comments are not published should I come out complaining and blaming the media or conservatives> No, I just accept that someone who runs a private newspaper decided my comment was not worth publishing. I would, in your eye, be labeled a liberal even though I do not identify with this and really have no idea what that means in your mind, sounds like a terrible but also very unreal thing. I don't belong to any party because I see the pieces of each that make sense and are shared values but also the viscous needs to polarize people into voters. Some advice (take it or leave it): You have issues and they belong to you not everyone else, especially groups of people you do not know. Question: Have you ever noticed that every comment you make is sensitively obsessed and emotional about people that you yourself have created the image of ? Interesting. FYI: I have had many comments not published but I won't blame you or anyone else. Thank you Bulldog for keeping civility somewhat real.

  14. Great article Lance!

  15. Well said,Sam!

  16. Rep Harvel's "paper": seem to pose a question that after a couple readings I struggle to see any anything approaching an answer/solution

    "Veterans from all ethnic and racial backgrounds, genders or sexual preferences have fought and died not for those identities but for the idea set forth by Jefferson. That is the core of what made us a united country"

    ......................a bit of a stretch maybe? What did a black service man come home to after WWII? His own drinking fountain and lynching? Gender, sexual orientation and .preferences? Get real real Rep Harvel!

  17. People are who they are, you can't support diversity and then tell people that they can't believe the way they do. You quoted Marx, Marx was a Jew who was on the same page as Hitler, and Catholics, convert or kill those who oppose you. Even America has played the race based round up game, we put thousands of Japanese people in concentration camps. You can't expect people to live by the same rules if those same rules don't apply to everyone. Take Muslims for example, they have their own beliefs and laws that directly countermand our own laws. Yet, our laws are changed specifically for them. Here in Maine a Muslim was arrested last year at that protest fiasco in Portland, she was asked to remove her hajib for her mugshots, she refused, then gave in as long as the photos were not made public, they weren't, when ordinary citizens get arrested, hats come off and the photos usually end up in the paper. Point being, you can't have a standard uniform society, if you don't hold everyone to the same standards.

  18. @Sam: Thank you!

  19. (clap, clap, clap...nice appeal to the liberal minded among us, if only you weren't such a hypocrite). Can you be a little more obtuse Lance? Where exactly do you stand on the events in Charlottesville and on the stupidity of Trump? The problem with this country is the divisiveness of your political party. It's time for you to take a real position and condemn both Trump and LePage who have both dragged down their proclaimed political party and risk dragging all of us down as well!

  20. Yeah, I don't know about this. It seems like it comes from a privileged and entitled opinion, Lance. The new buzz words in conservative talk radio are "identity politics" and it is used as if conservatives do not use identity as a strategic device to "unite the right". I have a flyer you used to gain your position as rep that stigmatizes the poor and uses identity politics to claim ownership of certain social identities while demeaning others. It's even more clear that your opinion is an attempt to jab our freedom with little daggers when you quote, Jefferson and write lines like this, "populism coupled with identity politics has set us on a course for a new tribalization, not one based on ideas, but based on race, religion, gender or sexual identity.". Your words seem to suggest that equality, pride for ones ancestral heritage, and basic civil rights are not for the for the mentioned people who identify with these areas but let me guess, it's okay for you because you don't identify any of these. It's time for you personally and your party to accept responsibility for leading us to this point of populism and archaic ideology. Just my opinion based on what I hear people say and see what they do. Read the populist comments of you fan base for proof. FYI: I know you also have good and productive things to say and do for us as our rep. Nobody is 100% anything in this hyper-reality of a country.

  21. Our country is more divided than united - each state governor makes decisions for their state - so some get healthcare and others don't. You can commit a crime in Maine that gets you a suspended sentence but if you committed this crime in New York you would get minimum 5 years of jail time. Each state needs to be able adjust for their own environment; but until we come together as a country with one set of laws - one set of consequences - one primary language etc. - we are always going to have more issues than we know how to deal with.

    We have a President who makes decisions for this country according to his own personal agenda not what is best for the citizens; our governor has the same mentality; corporate greed has ruined this once thriving nation and no one stopped them from doing so and now we blame the increase in crime, drugs, joblessness, poverty on our citizens. One of these days our governing body is going to have to face these realities and actually start doing the job WE pay them to do and that is stop making themselves elite and join the real American population.
    There will always be a lot of blaming, but rarely does anyone take responsibility. No one is better than anyone else. Either you are an American or you are not - let's stop using the decisions our forefathers made when creating this country as our excuse for today's bad behaviors. There is no more slavery - but without it we would not have had the great country we made and are now rapidly ruining. History happened - good, bad, indifferent... it happened trying to hide it from sight is a bad idea - without our history we cannot make good choices for the future.

  22. "...without our history we cannot make good choices for the future. Thank you, George.

    Hope the "The Viet Nam War" on PBS is getting the viewing it deserves. It is riveting, appalling and a cautionary tale that CLEARLY warns against doing all those things that are still happening.

  23. "We have a President who makes decisions for this country according to his own personal agenda not what is best for the citizens; our governor has the same mentality; corporate greed has ruined this once thriving nation and no one stopped them from doing so and now we blame the increase in crime, drugs, joblessness, poverty on our citizens. One of these days our governing body is going to have to face these realities and actually start doing the job WE pay them to do and that is stop making themselves elite and join the real American population."

    Just curious, George...did you feel the same way during Obama's 8 years, and how about under Baldacci? Because the other half of the state/country sure did. Especially the "phone and pen" part, where O over-rode our ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES (a big "screw you" to the citizens, but that side of the aisle LOVED it).

    Until the USA stops thinking gov't and politicians are the answer, nothing will EVER get resolved - they're NOT the answer, they are the PROBLEM. Half of our "issues" wouldn't even exist without them! And taken to the ultimate conclusion...you probably will see the 'death' of the country you love because of them - we are going down a road that you don't come back from (see: "Venezuela"). The nation is being torn apart, for real, and the outcome of that won't be 'kumbaya', it's going to look pretty ugly.

    But at least they can say they Resisted the boogeyman as they do it, right?

  24. Yes, "OverRegulated" I see and have seen - no one from any political party doing anything constructive to support (or save) the infra-structure of this country - and no one is stepping up to the plate. You are correct our country is a big avalanche. We have the ability to produce and manufacture everything we need and most of what we want but we are just not paying attention to our own business - our gvts's nose is too busy in everyone else's business.

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