I’ve lived in Camden since sixth grade. I’ve made lifelong friends here, started an organization here, and am now graduating from high school here. I’ve lived in Camden for a while; however this is not the only place I know, and I think that a lot of people living here forget that. This is small town Maine. We have almost no diversity, no crime, and I’ve met those whom have been so far removed from the rest of the world that their idea of societal norms, pop culture, and what is means to be professional is outdated and severely misinformed. And yes, I am referring to the tannery deal that was recently terminated.

There was a recent issue in the town concerning B’D’ Turman’d Entertainment LLC. Jack Churchill, an industry professional, decided to give the movie deal some hard questions. Of course, Jack was not the only one condemning the deal; other local industry professionals were on his side. And yet the Select Board still passed it. Why?

These businessmen talked to me in my film class. They had no real plan; not even an idea on whether the space would be big enough for two sound stages. They kept hammering names at us, but when we looked at their credentials, we saw a trailer for a B Movie which an IMDb reviewer regarded as “terrible.” And yet, these were the people who were going to make Camden into the “Hollywood of the East”? These were the people who were going to bring successful feature films to Camden? It seemed fishy, and the fact that the government in my own town would not consult a variety of industry professionals before signing off on a major deal is both confusing and irrational.

When I go to the doctor’s, I get a second opinion. When I’m signing off of a deal that will affect my town for years to come, well, I like to just vote on it because it sounds peachy! So, naturally, Jack was frustrated. I would be. His opinion wasn’t valued. He made some satirical pictures of the Select Board as sheep. Being a student, I hate to cite the dictionary, but the definition of satire is “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.”

I thought the picture was pretty funny. It was harmless. But then the tannery deal fell through. It turns out that there wasn’t enough space to build two sound stages anyway! And instead of bringing the town together for more brainstorming on potential businesses, the Select Board split the town in two, calling people “anti” or “pro-business,” which is essentially saying, “hey, the people who agree with us are the good guys and the people who don’t are bad.”

Churchill is in no way “anti-business.” He consistently donates money and time to local businesses and organizations.

Accusations were made that there were racist remarks flying around the “anti-business” world. An Augusta lawyer even contacted my high school’s Civil Rights club to have them write a letter to the editor condemning Jack and friends for a racist email they sent. However, the accuser has not released any email with racist remarks, saying that we “need no evidence.”

I don’t know about you, but when has the “he did it I have no proof” argument ever held up in court? I don’t think Judge Judy would even overlook that kind of a claim.

Furthermore, a meeting was conducted where the Select Board insulted Churchill’s actions, saying that “the commentaries posted on Facebook crossed over the line of decency.”

Having grown up in an age of technological anonymity, and rereading the definition of satire, I must ask: Are we so out of touch with the world that we can’t handle any deprecation? A man made a piece of satire about someone in government. How shocking! I guess we should also take “The Simpsons” off the air because Groening’s being mean. I guess we should also ban “Gulliver’s Travels” because Swift is criticizing someone’s ideology.

From there, it was quoted, “let us be neighbors and talk in an open, honest way.” Ironically, Churchill wasn’t invited to this meeting, meaning that the Select Board was simultaneously contradicting itself. How can you talk in an “open, honest way” when you’re humiliating someone at a meeting? Isn’t that mildly hypocritical? Not to mention, that although Jack’s picture was satirical, this section of the meeting was not. It was not humorous. It discouraged discussion. And frankly, it reminded me of second grade.

It worries me that the people running my town aren’t professional enough to take a piece of satire with humility. Does Obama write a speech whenever he sees a “One-Big-A$%- Mistake-America” bumper sticker? No, he has more important things to do. As should the leaders of my town.

I’m sure some of you will be rolling your eyes, thinking that Jack forced me to write this. He didn’t. This is of my own free will. I’m not afraid of speaking my mind. Someone has to. And unfortunately, until this point, the person who has spoken his mind has been made out to be a villain. If my Select Board is so worried about stepping on anybody’s toes that they can’t handle a piece of satire, what progress will this town make? If this mentality were in Congress, even less would get done than it is now (I know, hard to imagine, right!).

I love this town, I really do. It’s a great place to grow up. But, when my town is run by a group of people who participate in town-dividing name calling, hypocrisy, and are unable to be professional enough to take a joke, well, I don’t see how sheep don’t fit the bill.

 

Andy Schlebecker lives in Camden and is a member of the Camden Hills Regional High School Class of 2011.