I am a fifth-generation Mainer on my mother’s side, descended from French Canadians who came to Maine in the mid-1800s. Many of them had dark hair and olive complexions. They were all Catholic and spoke French. (My own mother did not speak English until she was six.) My ancestors were part of a larger French-Canadian migration that spread out through New England as well as to other parts of the country.
I would like to be able to report that these hard-working French Canadians were eagerly welcomed to Maine, but I cannot. Our story is a sad familiar story of prejudice and discrimination. In 1889, according to the British-American Citizen (Boston), we were considered to be “a distinct alien race.”
This xenophobic attitude continued to trickle down even to the 1960s. As a small child, I was keenly aware of an “us vs. them” attitude in Maine, with we Franco-Americans being “them,” and the Yankee population being “us.” It was understood that “them” did not really belong in Maine, while “us” somehow had a magical right to be here.
Merriam-Webster defines xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” Because of my experience, I have an intense aversion to anything that smacks of xenophobia.
For example, this incident on Vinalhaven, an island off the Maine coast, where according to the Kennebec Journal,
an armed group of residents cut down a tree to block access to a road to keep three people from leaving their home on Cripple Creek Road.
Deputies investigated and learned there was a general belief by some island residents that the Cripple Creek residents were supposed to be quarantined because they came here from another state and could have COVID-19.
Deputies learned that the trio had been residing on Vinalhaven for about 30 days, which is outside of the guidance issued by state officials, and none have any symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.
And then on Facebook, an acquaintance shared this gem: “STAY HOME…Do Not Come to Maine. It’s just Not Fair. Go back where you came from and kill your Own People!”
As it happens, three of my “own people” live out of state.
While I completely agree that folks should hunker down and stay in place, I so object to the wording of the above sentiment. I made this clear to the person who shared it. Unfortunately, as is so often the case on Facebook, that person was unrepentant.
As the coronavirus rips around the world, hitting country after country, the high and mighty and the low, it is clear to me there is no them.
Coronavirus News from Maine
From Maine CDC
Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 275
Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 3
The News from All Over
From Mother Nature Network
Does it seem like time has slowed to a crawl since you’ve been holed up in your apartment, riding out this pandemic? Well, time marches on all right — to the same beat it’s always kept. But these days, your brain may be processing time a little differently. In fact, according to David Eagleman, one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, your brain tends to slow things down when you’re under extreme stress.
“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.” President Donald Trump, who repeatedly suggested last week that a win was near, announced yesterday that nationwide social distancing measures would be extended for another month, days after floating the possibility of getting Americans back to work as early as Easter (which is when deaths are currently projected to peak).
The Latest Numbers
Global Cases: 732,153
Global Deaths: 34,686
My take: I’ve already written enough.