Sometimes we have to do more than smell the coffee

It’s an old axiom that life often imitates art. In recent weeks, some things have become all too self evident of that notion. It appears that the inner sanctums of the unfairness of life are alive and well, both in film and in the real world.

Take the case of David Marsters, the man from the Maine Town of Sabattus who garnered national headlines this past week after he posted on his Facebook page derogatory comments toward President Barack Obama. Marsters wrote, “Shoot the n…..” accompanied by a photo of the president.

Amazing how one letter and five dots have become a universal language. Everyone knows what they mean.

Marsters later apologized, albeit with some urging from higher ups.

It is one thing to criticize a public official, including the President of the United States, about their policies and actions. They call that freedom of speech. That, also, is axiomatic. It often brings condemnation from the opposition, and that’s usually the end of it.

To make a naked threat against the commander-in-chief, however, almost always brings a visit from men and women wearing business suits, dark sunglasses and headphones in their ears.

The Secret Service doesn’t take too kindly to such callousness.

Marsters’ decision to step down from his posts on three town committees was welcomed news. Town Selectboard Chairman Mark Duquette and Town Manager Andrew Gilmore pounced on Marsters’ comments like a T-Rex on a tortoise. They left no doubt where they stood. Fortunately, Marsters saw the handwriting on the wall and complied.

The tragedy in the David Marsters episode is that he is far from the last one to harbor such hateful attitudes, not only toward the president but pretty much toward others who either don’t see the world the way he does or who doesn’t look the way he looks.

In earlier generations, a bully walked the neighborhood, claimed his turf  and then bought the bullied one a frozen cup. End of story. Today, the bully has an anonymous platform known as the Internet. The bully has Facebook and Twitter. The bully has neither credibility nor accountability. The bully chirps like an angry bird via a keyboard and a mind that moves at warp speed, all fueled by pent-up rage.

It is a dangerous and explosive combination.

So how does art come into play in all of this? Take “The Butler,” a movie starring Forrest Whittaker and Oprah Winfrey. It is based on a real-life story of an African-American man from the deep South who moved to Washington, D.C., in the late 1950s, where he became a butler at the White House, serving under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan.

The movie has won universal praise from its admirers but rest assured, it has its critics. Among those are defenders of former President Ronald Reagan, played by renowned actor Alan Rickman, a notorious bad guy in “Harry Potter” and “Robin Hood.” In their eyes, “The Butler” does a disservice to the Great Communicator.

Ronald Reagan opened his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., very near the site of the murder of three civil rights workers, one black from Mississippi and two whites from New York. Their names were James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24. They were murdered near Philadelphia, in Nashoba County, Miss.

Ronald Reagan gave the world “constructive engagement” with South African President P.W. Botha and his pro-apartheid regime that was deadly to black South Africans.

Ronald Reagan had to be pushed and dragged into signing legislation marking the birthday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a federal holiday.

The movie got it right, and Rickman nailed the role.

We live in a world where the megaphones of anger – mostly on right-wing talk radio – have captive audiences. No need to name names but they’ve turned that vile into a cottage industry. They’ve said things about this president far more nefarious than a word that starts with “n.”

Marsters and those who feel the way he does aren’t new. The only hope is their ill-fated fame will grow old.

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Now if they only got along in South Paris

If you go to a Town Selectboard meeting in South Paris, be prepared to find some very nice people who are civic minded and who really want the best for their town.

Be prepared to hear Town Manager Amy Bernard provide board members and citizens with a detailed report delivered in a no-nonsense style.

Be prepared to hear Board Chairman Bob Kirchherr answer questions bluntly. Be prepared to hear board member Sam Elliot ask some pointed questions and provide equally pointed comments.

On the other side of the tables, be prepared to find citizens such as John and Kathy Richardson making passionate pleas about the needs of the town. Be prepared to hear fact-based preparations by Anne Stanley. Be prepared to hear citizen Janet Jamison take the board to task for decisions. Be prepared to hear a woman who always speaks at all the meetings.

These are all good people. But twice a month, on a Tuesday evening, something happens. It often turns into a public forum, captured on film (not Hollywood but the local public access channel) and covered by the press (that’s usually the Advertiser Democrat and The Sun Journal.

Face it. Media love acrimony. Reporters thrive off of conflict. The hotter the debate, the hotter the story.

Maybe South Paris needs to find another forum. Not a secret one. Just a forum where they can have an honest, sincere and thought-provoking meeting of the minds, a place where board members and town employees don’t feel under assault and citizens don’t feel overwhelmed by problems.

This past weekend, the DaPonte String Quartet played a well-attended concert on Paris Hill. The four musicians gave a mesmerizing performance in the ultimate display of teamwork, camaraderie and synchronization. They were literally all on the same page.

Is it too much to ask the same out of our town governments and those who regularly attend the meetings? Can both sides smell the coffee and recognize it is taxpayers who ultimately must be pleased, not individual board members or active citizens?

Maybe a good concert or a good movie is the answer.