Civility and my stepfather Dan

By Reade Brower | Nov 07, 2019

Civility starts with President Trump; as our elected leader, his voice is similar to that of a family patriarch or matriarch. Can you imagine your mum or dad labeling anyone not agreeing with them as “scum”? That sets the tone in the family, giving the spouse, children and friends license to display similar behaviors.

Last week’s column defended Susan Collins, the person, in a clearly defined way with full disclosures. It was my opinion and observations and the point was to stand up and be counted. It wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t an endorsement, it was a plea for decency because our senator is a decent person, doing the best job she can for a state she loves. You can argue her political stance or her moxie, but who she is as a person should be balanced and measured.

With Collins you can discuss her Kavanaugh position and the perceived threats on Roe v. Wade and with Trump his immigration policies that affect innocent children and a border wall that is less impenetrable than advertised; all fair game.

It’s the body of work that counts and Sen. Collins and President Trump deserve to be judged accordingly. The distaste for Trump comes not from any singular instance; his body of work includes volumes of lies, distortions, name-calling, threats, bankruptcies and closures of businesses that have left vulnerable workers at the brink. Add to that a crooked nonprofit that benefited him, a fake university, and the takedown of an entire league (the U.S.F.L.) because he alone knew what was best (apparently he didn’t).

It’s the body of work we should judge Trump and Collins on; that doesn’t mean others can’t disagree; healthy if respectful and not hypocritical and cynical.

This brings me to Dan.

Dan married my mother, moving in together when I was about 13. Being part of a blended family is challenging, especially when your neighbor friends become your sisters and brother and you live in “small town, USA.” With nine kids, my mother and Dan had lots to navigate.

Dan and I didn’t see eye-to-eye, nor did we have much in common. We never talked politics, for good reason, and he left disciplining to my mother, as my father lived a couple of miles away.

Dan and I had one thing in common. We both loved my mother.

That was enough to make it work; that and mutual respect, including Dan yielding certain powers that might have gone with the position. It centered on looking for the best in people; even though my stepfather was an imposing figure to a young teen, he walked away in situations rather than get over-the-top mad.

One summer night, home from college, driving in their borrowed car, in a time before front-wheel or four-wheel drives, doing “donuts” in the cul-de-sac in front of our house, on a snowy night, was easy; especially at 2 a.m. after a night on the town.

Looking up from the driver’s wheel, an imposing figure stood on the door stoop, arms folded in a “not so happy camper” kind of way. Pulling over, sheepishly getting out, head down, my fate awaited. Dan glared at me, turned around to my mother, now behind him, saying simply, “Deal with this,” retreating to their bedroom.

My mum passed seven years ago after a 43-year marriage to Dan; Dan followed this past Father’s day. I saw and learned from their commitment to each other, also appreciating how two dynamically different people can co-exist, if they care more about getting along, than they do about themselves.

Dan was a good grandfather; something I appreciated, as being “Gram” was what my mother was built for.

After agreeing to take Maine’s largest papers, The Portland Press Herald and Sunday Telegram, speculation mounted as other Maine newspapers were acquired. This was done after realizing the pathway to success was not in cutting expenses, but in creating efficiencies. The theory was reduced costs would provide Mainers continuing journalism and a sustainable path forward.

The philosophy of staying out of “day-to-day” was the model, something not believed by many. Criticism came from those who didn’t know me, had never met me, though they somehow “knew” the agenda.

This brings me back to Dan. One day, in a comments section, I was being blasted for something, my character brought into question by someone I never met. I got a call from one of my kids: “Dad, did you see what Grandpa Pokey wrote about you on Facebook?”

I cringed as I opened Facebook looking for the comment. Dan, having a different last name than mine, was defending me, the person. He said simply, “I’ve known Mr. Brower for a long time and we don’t agree on a lot of things, but what he says is his bond.”

We can agree to disagree; that’s different than name-calling and making believe we know what’s in someone’s heart.

Belated thanks Dan; R.I.P.


“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” — Emily Post, author, columnist (1872-1960)


Comments (4)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Nov 14, 2019 07:34

Franklin Graham, Richard?



"It’s hard to think of a single prominent American Christian who better illustrates the collapsing Evangelical public witness than Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son. His commitment to the Christian character of American public officials seems to depend largely on their partisan political identity.

Let’s look at the record. In 1998, at the height of Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, the younger Graham wrote a powerful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal combating Clinton’s assertion that his affair was a “private” matter. Clinton argued that his misdeeds were “between me, the two people I love the most — my wife and our daughter — and our God.” Graham noted that even the most private of sins can have very public, devastating consequences, and he asked a simple question: “If [Clinton] will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

Graham was right: Clinton, it turned out, wouldn’t just lie to mislead his family. He’d lie to influence courts, Congress, and the American people.

Fast-forward 20 years. By 2018, Donald Trump was president — and helping to win important policy victories for religious conservatives — and Graham’s tune had changed dramatically. He actively repudiated his condemnations of Clinton, calling the Republican pursuit of the then-president “a great mistake that should never have happened,” and argued that “this thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business.”

Graham was wrong: Trump, it turns out, doesn’t just lie to mislead his family. He lies all the time to influence courts, Congress, and the American people.

So is this the “new normal” for Evangelicals? Is politics entirely transactional now? Do we evaluate politicians only on their policies and leave the sex discussions to the privacy of their own bedrooms?"


Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Nov 14, 2019 04:26

And then we receive this from Rev. Franklin Graham:

"It’s a day of shame for America. The media is calling the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry “historic;” and it is—historically shameful. That our politicians would bring this kind of harm to our country over a phone call, with the world watching, is unbelievable. As Christians, as those who follow and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, let us pray throughout the day and all of these proceedings. Pray for our nation, pray for our leaders, and pray for President Donald J. Trump."

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Nov 08, 2019 15:36

Heart felt, thanks. An easy pun intended!

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Nov 07, 2019 08:37


What a tribute to you both!!  Thanks.

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