There Is No Them, Only Us

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.

Only us.


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.

From CNN

“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.

60 thoughts on “There Is No Them, Only Us”

  1. It’s wonderful to know your family history going back such a way 🙂 I agree there are far better ways to word things. Here everyone is putting pictures of rainbows in their windows as a sign of hope. Keep well and safe x

  2. I was afraid we would begin hearing news of things like this. Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me too much. I have been very impressed by our Dr. Shah, head of the Maine CDC, when he has repeatedly reminded people of just this thing, that we are all in this together and that we should not be speaking of ‘us’ and ‘them.’

  3. It’s amazing who can become “them” in a crisis of fear! May you and your family stay safe.

  4. Interesting that on my father’s side they were French Canadians who came into New England and on my mother’s side they were English who came over to Rhode Island from England. 🙂 I read the article about Maine on line this morning. With some people not adhering to the guidelines and it being so public, it seems to accelerate the fear and bring out the ugly in us. If everyone would just stay in their own space, I think we could kick this sooner. In the meantime, as you said, we’re all in this boat together so why rock it unnecessarily. Take care, Laurie.

    1. I think the prejudice against Franco-Americans wasn’t as bad in other New England states as it was in Maine. I have had friends from other New England states remark on this when they came to Maine. More cultural diversity in the other states, I think. From Klan marches to voter suppression, it was pretty bad in Maine.

  5. It’s interesting to see your family history Laurie and to see everyone as ‘us’ is a beautiful attitude 💜 xxx

  6. Herd mentality is very frightening to me. That’s one reason I am much more comfortable in the WordPress community than Facebook or Twitter. Although there is some pressure here to think a particular way, it is light pressure and, if anything, tends to steer us for the good.
    I’m very sorry your family had to face discrimination. We only use the term alien for creatures from another planet so I was a bit taken aback when I discovered I counted as one when I am over in the US.
    As people keep saying here, the virus does not discriminate. Although there are bad things reported in our news too, the country in general has a real love of our national health service and when push comes to shove, the idea of staying in to help it does have weight here.

    1. I feel the same way about herd mentality. It’s part of being human, and it’s something we all have to be on guard against. I, too, love the WordPress community, a bright ray of sunshine in a troubled world. Plus, I love reading about different cultures and ways. The way I see it humanity is like cake, underneath, we are all people, and culture is the frosting.

  7. If populist politicians have one lesson to teach us it is that there always must be someone to blame so it is not surprising if some people believe them.

  8. Yes really interesting to hear about the history of people in Maine – I had no idea. You are so right – we are all in this together, regardless of who we are.

  9. Sadly, we’re probably going to see a lot more fear-based behavior before this is over. Some folks are drawn tight as bowstrings right now, barely 1/3 of the way to the nearest projected finish line.
    Keep your light shining, Laurie! ❤

  10. Perhaps it will take a real alien invasion of the Star Trek kind to get humans to realize we are all “us”. I wonder what bad boys of the universe it would take to do that? I would, however, favor a take over by benevolent Vulcans. We have a severe shortage of logic and rationality on this planet these days. 🙂

  11. The thinking and behaviour of some people, which has come to the fore during this time, is something that worries me more than the virus itself. I don’t use FB much but just before the lockdown I joined a FB group of local women just to keep myself abreast of events and such in the area. Some of the bullying, self-righteousness, opinionated and downright rude comments have caused upset and the administrator has asked certain ‘ladies’ to leave the group. I would leave too but I find the way some of them feel they can talk to others strangely fascinating.

    1. Oh, gosh! It sure does give you a window into how other people are thinking and feeling. And it’s not necessarily the same way that you see things. Edifying, but also upsetting.

  12. When this virus was still confined to China a local market experienced uproar because one of the stallholders who was from SE ASia (I forget which country) retuerned from a visit to her parents and was asked to leave by one of the others because she was a risk. The lady was devastated especially as it reinforced her feeling of being an ousider. Luckily she posted about her hurt on facebook and got a lot of support. Fear brings out either the best or the worst in people. Your mother not speaking English until she was 6 remindd me of one of our neighbours when we first moved in here who only spoke Welsh until she went to school. She vividly remembered being sent to the shop for something by her mother and meeting a stranger on the lane who spoke to her in English and her pride that she was able to answer him! Chatting to us she and her husband would still occasionally have to check with each other how to say something in English. Thank you forsharing that bit of yourn history – my understanding of the history of the US is sadly poor.

    1. My pleasure! And believe it or not, many people outside New England do not know the history of Franco-Americans. One of the great things about having blogging friends from around the world is that you learn so much about different places. Love it!

  13. You are brave to stick with Facebook “friends” who upset you. I just unfriend. I know I should be open to all views, but I go there only for the good parts — the family pictures, blog ideas, helpful videos about disinfecting groceries..

  14. The passage of time is so confusing and muddled right now. I could not believe I was five days behind on Mr Tootlepedal’s blog. Where did the days go?

    1. Oh, one more thing….a lot of people here are mad now when they see a license plate from the next door state, and vice versa, which is a problem because a lot of people here shop in the next state (20 minutes away) where bigger stores make food cheaper.

  15. Interesting times. In the UK we haven’t had many French immigrants since the seventeenth century, when, according to a book I’m reading, they made up 5%of the population of London.

    To be fair, I doubt they would be welcome if they turned up today.

    Interesting stuff.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the brief history lesson. Franco Americans make up about 30% of Maine’s population. In Waterville, where I grew up, it was about 40%. Almost not a minority.

      1. Until I met you on WP I thought all French Americans were in Quebec. See how WP broadens the mind!

        No2 Son is using his unexpected leisure time in Toronto to learn French.

  16. Yeah. I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot of this. And of course we have a president who likes to bring out the worst in people. Did you hear about the Chinese family in Texas who were attached because someone thought they were spreading the “Chinese virus”.

  17. This is so sad. I am shocked as I had no idea such things were happening. I do know that gun sales have sky rocketed- a very tell-tell sign. Desperation is an awful place to operate from. Fear may be worse. Such actions will probably increase, unfortunately. You stay well, for you matter to me. love Michele

    1. Sigh. You bet. I just heard from another blogging friend that Asian Americans are now being attacked. When you add ignorance to fear you get an ugly brew.

  18. Oh Laurie. This is such a heart touching post.
    I see people in India are even more divided than united after COVID-19.
    It’s sad to see how educated people react over some stupid fake hate posts and forget all the good things around.

  19. I was very moved by this post. I have a dear friend from Maine who was scarred by her experiences of feeling like an outsider because she was of French Canadian descent. She said the other children would call her papoose because of her darker skin. She came here and loved the diversity in S. California. I believe her experiences in Maine has given her the wonderful empathy she shows the 1st generation hispanic children we teach. Thank you for helping me understand this better.

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