We’re at our annual family gathering in Belgrade Lakes this month, absorbing both the calm of the lake and the chaos that spills out of our television news at night. Here, we can see what makes Maine special and why, despite all the hard work it takes to live here, away from the coast and southern Maine, so many people will never leave.

We’ve hardly been able to catch our breath this week with one after another episode of horrifying violence — in Baghdad, in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Asia and multiple places here in America. Another police officer was caught on camera in what an honest person could only describe as the murder of a man of color. Five officers were murdered in retaliation in Dallas. We’ve hardly had a day to grieve and reflect upon one act of senseless violence before another has overtaken it.

We seem to be living in a time in which the country and the world is aflame with hatred and fear of the “others,” with people spinning senseless conspiracies and myths in order to empower or enrich themselves.

Not that violence is new. Human societies have been inflicting unspeakable cruelty upon others since our ancestors first learned to throw rocks and swing sticks. What’s different now is that we see it all on our televisions, every day and from every corner of the world. Crime in our neighborhoods. Domestic violence. Guns everywhere. And increasing cycles of retribution.

Some of it, the experts tell us, springs from the fact that there are simply too many people crowded together in some parts of the world, fighting over limited or dwindling food, water, arable land and jobs. Perhaps the planet as a whole is simply too crowded. Or perhaps the super-wealthy and the powerful are hoarding too many resources while others drown in poverty and fear.

Some of it is rooted in religion and politics, as purists of one form or another never cease trying to impose their views onto others. Weapons are also now widespread and available across the planet, after decades in which arms smugglers and dealers, thieves and traitors have enriched themselves by selling death.

On these issues, America is neither a beacon nor an inspiration to the world. Our gun ownership is the highest in the world and so is our crime. While we pride ourselves on being a free society open to all, and a melting pot of cultures and races, we have more people in prison than any other society and the majority of them are people of color.

We’ve become so infatuated with guns that we can’t even agree to keep them out of the hands of terrorists, lest we unleash a wave of tiny but sensible gun controls.

One of the advantages of becoming a little older is the gift of perspective. Compared to my younger years, the American culture has become saturated with violence and aggression. It sells our movies and our most popular shows. It is taught to our teenagers in video games and to our society in cage fighting and bar fight shows. It has become the plotline of too many of our books and stories. And the language of violence and hatred has entirely infested our politics.

We also can see that while racism has always existed in America, it now expresses itself in new ways. Gone are the days of slavery, lynchings and open segregation. In their place are white flight to the suburbs, the politics of walls and deportations, and the hair-triggered application of sanctioned violence against people of color .

Maine has hardly been immune from it all. Angry politics has knocked us senseless enough to elect a governor who has no program but anger and division. As though having open and continuous warfare in government is going to attract new jobs, better educate our children, prepare us for global competition or preserve our heritage.

If we can take any comfort in Maine, it is that our politics are like our traffic jams: they seem nearly unbearable to us but look like little more than inconveniences to others.

I hope that those who pray on Sunday are praying for peace today, because we need those prayers. Not just for the Middle East but for Dallas and Minnesota, where Americans are now hunting other Americans in the way we used to hunt deer and wolves.

Our best hope for the future is in places like Maine, where people are still civil to each other and have warm hearts and a strong determination to help others and work together. We can help push back against the tide rising around us, by both our words and deeds. And be the guardians of a gentler time that we won’t let go.

Alan Caron, a Waterville native, owns Caron Communications and is the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” (2015) and “Reinventing Maine Government” (2010). He can be reached at: [email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: