I would like to share a letter from Maine, about Maine. But this will require a little set-up. In an earlier part of my “Maine Journal,” which concludes today, I wrote a few paragraphs about the Somalians in Portland:
The thought occurs to me, “They must be very grateful to be here.” Somalia is one of the worst places on earth, along with North Korea, Syria, and a few others. Can you imagine being lucky enough to leave that hellhole and land in the lovely latte town of Portland, Maine? I mean, that’s the jackpot.
I have no doubt that many Somalians are grateful to be here. But they have brought with them some of the maladies of the Old World.
These include gang warfare and brutality toward women. The Somalians are stressing the police, the welfare system, and everything else.
Some Somalians very much want to integrate, and become Americans. To melt, so to speak. And other Somalians make it very hard for them to do so. They consider integration a kind of betrayal. Which is tragic, and despicable. May they lose, decisively, over time.
And in today’s installment, I write something about a scene in Lewiston:
Outside a community center, Somalian boys are playing a rowdy game of basketball. They look pretty much like other American kids, enjoying an American game. Will they become Mainers? Downeasters? Are they already?
A lot depends on the answer to that question. The nature of those boys’ lives is at stake. So is the nature of the society they inhabit.
Okay, enough prelude. Now to the main event, the letter:
I had the same thought as you, about the luck of landing in Portland. Recently, while at the state lacrosse championship there, my father and I were almost knocked off the sidewalk by a Somali kid on a skateboard. I said to my father, “Do you think he realizes how lucky he is? He is cruising down a paved sidewalk with free time and without a concern about whether he and his family will survive the day.”
Another Somali experience. I coached in Lewiston and had two Somalis on the team. One a great athlete, the other not very coordinated. The athlete was more interested in hanging out on the corner with a cohort of Somali males uninterested in much else. The other came to every practice — his mother made sure he was there. His sister would watch too. The only time he missed a practice was when his parents were taking his older sister to look at colleges. That mother knew how lucky they were and was going to squeeze as much opportunity out of that luck as she could.
Let’s have a little addendum. Maine, as you know, has a strongly social-democratic culture, much as the current Reaganite governor is trying to dent it. Our reader says, “A play many Mainers make on ‘Vacationland’ is switching out the V for a T and the c for an x to make it ‘Taxationland.’”