It’s been a long time between columns. For 2023, writing will hover between nostalgia — looking for good and kind stories that inspire, and searching for tidbits that shake the curiosity tree — and giving gratefulness for the growth of the last six decades, and perhaps pointing to where the winds are blowing as the last half of my seventh decade of living continues.

The first observation is how the Trump years shaped our country. People continue to claim, and tell me Trump rents space in my brain, ranting about how bad Biden is. Who is deranged; is it me, them, or both?

We are a people who don’t trust each other. The idea that mainstream news media are enemies of the state doesn’t compute until you realize that as misguided as it appeared, Kellyanne Conway was right when she coined the term “alternative facts.” We live in a world that is not black and white; it is gray.

Look at gas prices. Depending on the narrative you want to create, pick one of these — they are all truthful and researched.

1) Gas is the same price it was 10 years ago.

2) Gas prices have fallen over 30% since early summer after Biden Administration policy released some of our countries strategic reserves.

3) During Trump’s first year in office, gas prices rose 10%.

4) During Obama’s first year in office, gas prices fell 40%.

5) During Trump’s four-year term, gas prices rose 10%.

6) During Obama’s last four-year term, gas prices fell 30%.

7) Gas is 70% higher than it was a year ago when Trump was president.

The above statements are facts. If you are a Trump loyalist, you’ll go straight to number seven. If you are pro-Biden, you’ll go to number two, backing it up with some Obama love and numbers 4 and 6. If you are a realist, rather than a loyalist, you’ll see gas fluctuates, and is a function of the world, not the president.

The media is not the enemy, no matter what Fox News tells its viewers — pundits saying it over and over does not make it true, but it does create discord that hurts us all.

As we enter 2023, looking at what connects us, rather than what separates us, is a starting point. Life is viewed is by the lens we choose – leading to where our perspective lands.

Speaking of inclusion versus exclusion …

Glenn Billington’s column in the Courier papers has been a welcomed addition to readers who love community and history. Before I started the Free Press in 1985, Glenn managed a seafood market and I called on him for ads. He treated me respectfully, which I remember because not all businesspeople did in the early days. Glenn went on to work for the Courier for years as an advertising salesperson himself, conducting himself with decorum that some of his colleagues did not with The Free Press.

Glenn’s nostalgia in a December column caught my eye. He wrote: “In the heyday of the place (Ye Olde Coffee Shop on Main Street, Rockland), the local news media gathered for coffee in the morning. The Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News, Courier-Gazette and WRKD newsies, all competitors, dropped their swords for some good conversation. I am sure it was part of their day they looked forward to.”

In the 1990s, Glenn would join childhood chum Steve Davis, changing sides to sell ads for the Free Press. Glenn probably doesn’t know or remember that in the 1980s The Free Press wasn’t part of the club and was not welcomed at the “Ye Olde Coffee Shop” media tables. Our Free Press reporter would cover a town meeting and be shunned. The reporters from the papers of record would literally get up and change seats if “Bob” sat down with the group.

There was a mandate that my name, or The Free Press name, was never to be mentioned in print by Courier staff, unless it was in court news. Once, The Free Press sponsored a town event, and the Courier wrote that the sponsor was “another Rockland newspaper,” fulfilling the mandate not to ever give dignity by naming The Free Press on the printed pages of the Courier.

For years, the Courier group refused to print our papers in their commercial print shop, until Sid Orne stood up and confronted the Publisher, asking for permission to print us — it was “ink on paper” he said, and a nice job for Courier and crew.

The reason for sharing this is to give perspective. I hope never to be that way, while being respectful to competitors, serving the community we all call home.

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As we enter 2023, finding a mix of nostalgia that inspires and brings us together, rather than separates us, is hope for the future.

In the columns ahead, concentrated effort on what connects, rather than what separates, is the mission.

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If we would have new knowledge, we must get us a whole world of new questions. — Susanne Langer, philosopher (20 Dec 1895-1985)

Reade Brower is the owner of MaineStay Media.

 

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