Freedom Studies - E Pluribus Unum


Jon Reisman

I spent our 248th birthday in Cooper, eschewing parades and politics to marinate in memories, both happy and haunting. This past year of personal bereavement, filial weddings, and political angst has left me both pensive and emotional, occasionally even teary-eyed. I cycled through many years of July 4th memories, searching for solace and optimism.

• Summer camp. I spent nine summers as a camper and counselor at Camp Takajo on Long Lake in Naples, Maine. Those Maine summers gave me a love of lakes and Maine, leading to serendipitous choices of college, career, home, and family.

Takajo usually put on a fireworks show over the lake. In 1978, my last year as a counselor, the Director called me in, gave me some instructional materials, and sent me to Augusta to get a fireworks show license/permit. It may have been the first time I ventured to Augusta to get permission for something and deal with a state bureaucrat. I got the OK and put on the show that year. I enjoy fireworks but have never had quite the same attitude since. 

• Baseball and Mortality. In the early sixties, my Dad took me to a Phillies game on or around July 4th. We had great seats at the old Connie Mack Stadium, courtesy of a neighbor who was a Phillies-associated physician. I do not remember much because early in the game I got sick with fever and what was eventually diagnosed as measles.

Summers in New England in the many years since have always included the Sox on radio and TV, with occasional trips to Fenway and minor league venues in Pawtucket, Portland, and even Old Orchard Beach (the Maine Guides). I have a theory that the mental and social health of most of New England is closely tied to the Red Sox. The current edition is a pleasant surprise, raising hopes of better days and more success in the future. Optimism is better for the soul…hopefully, it is not delusional.

Jerry Remy was the Red Sox second baseman when I put on that fireworks show (’78), got married (’79), started at UMM, and moved back to Maine (’84).  By the time I was tenured, Remy had started his 30-plus-year run as a beloved Sox color analyst and air guitarist. He passed away from cancer in 2021 just as I retired. 

Last July 4th, I was celebrating my own 5-year post-cancer survival and my release from strict medical surveillance. Alas, political surveillance and censorship have increased even as medical scrutiny has declined. 

• Pols at Helens. Prior to the parade in Machias in 1990, Ern, Asher, and I stopped at Helens and spotted Governor McKernan and Senator Snowe.

• Congressional Dreams.  I had a busy Independence Day twenty-six years ago in 1998, as I ran for Congress against John Baldacci. Early in the morning, Ern dropped me off in Bangor at a pancake breakfast. From there, I joined Senators Snowe, Collins, and Gubernatorial candidate Jim Longley for the parade from Brewer across the river into Bangor. Next, we all flew to Eastport for the parade there.  I made sure to point out the salmon pens as we flew over. 

Ern picked me up in Eastport and shuttled me to the final parade of the day in Machias. I was very glad to sleep in Cooper that night. 

Our policy and political disagreements have bitterly divided us. The divisiveness has been corrosive to the social fabric and infrastructure that holds us together. There is a hunger and desire for unity, but no clear path or leadership to achieve it. That will be the challenge for whichever American wins the election. I do not exactly know how we might get to the land of unity and unicorns, but I am going to try listening and disagreeing without being disagreeable. E Pluribus Unum- out of many, one.

Jon Reisman is an economist and policy analyst who retired from the University of Maine at Machias after 38 years. He resides on Cathance Lake in Cooper, where he is a Selectman and a Statler and Waldorf intern. Mr. Reisman’s views are his own, and he welcomes comments as letters to the editor here or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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