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We are All in This Together

A man spat on me the other day. It was my own fault, I guess, for not being a Republican. He saw me step on his driveway. He put down his chainsaw and walked over to where I was. I introduced myself, apologized for interrupting his day and told him that I was running for the state House of Representatives. I handed him my flier.

He took it and eyed me. “What party you from?”

I started to tell him, “I’m a Democrat and my husband has always been a Republican and we tend to vote – ”

His fists closed up and he hustled closer to me. He threw my flier and said, “You [expletive] Democrats have [expletive] messed everything up! Get off my [expletive] driveway!”

He spat on my face. He didn’t know me, didn’t know if I worried about small business or health care costs. He didn’t care. He defined me by my political party. That was that.

One of the reasons I decided to run for office was because of all the partisan bickering in Augusta. Instead of working together to make our state better, people from both parties are working against each other to make themselves and their own party look good.

That just doesn’t cut it.

My Nana is over 95 years old. She was once the chairman of the Republican Woman’s Club. I can’t imagine ignoring her ideas just because she’s a Republican. My brother is a die-hard conservative who works for UPS in Atlanta. I can’t imagine ignoring his thoughts and his ideas simply because of his political party.

Still, people do it all the time. Instead of listening and respecting each other like our churches and our parents taught us, we create divisions. We spit. We swear and we hate.

My Uncle Charlie was just across from the New York shore when he saw the plane go into the tower on Sept. 11. He is over 80. He is a doctor. He was in World War II. He told me when he saw that plane full of people go into that tower full of people he started praying. He didn’t stop all day.

He said his heart sank right into the bottom of his feet as he stood there watching. He felt like he stood there forever. He was over 80, breathing in all kinds of horrible things, but that didn’t stop him. He’d helped people all his life. He had served his country all his life. Nobody would have thought anything if he had turned around, walked away, got in his car and driven back home. He couldn’t do that.

My father-in-law, Ben, also over 80, is an EMT. He became one when he was 65 after years of being an executive because he wanted to feel like he did something good in his life, something helpful. He was part of the Red Cross disaster team. He went right over to the site too, got grit out of people’s eyes, dealt with their wounds, helped them breathe, helped them cope.

Ben was in WWII, too. He’s seen a lot of things, a lot of horrible things.

If you ask him what it was like at the site of the World Trade Center, he shakes his head slowly and says in his deep/hoarse voice, “God, that was an awful scene. Just an awful scene.”

Charlie and Ben weren’t firemen on duty or police officers like so many heroes were. They were just people with some medical knowledge; men who were Americans; men who already knew what pain was like, what casualties looked like.

What I love about them is that they made the choice. They chose to go into the city. They chose to help and they didn’t care about how old they were, about how many people they’d already helped in their long lives. They didn’t care about the ache in their bones or their age. They cared about something else. They cared about people.

Charlie is a Democrat.

Ben is a Republican.

Neither of them would ever spit in someone’s face or ignore what someone said simply because of that person’s political party.

I have to believe that the only way we can take care of each other is if we listen to our neighbors’ ideas no matter what his political party, if we respect those ideas even if they aren’t our own, but more importantly if we remember that we are all in this together, that we are all just people struggling to heat homes, pay bills, and sometimes to save lives.

That is what Augusta needs. That is what we all need.




Don Radovich

Sometimes people are heroes in ways we don’t always understand. They are heroes just by living their lives in a way that they enjoy.

Don Radovich was one of my best friends. He died yesterday. He was one of my favorite heroes.

The first time I ever talked to him I was working for the Ellsworth American. He was doing a project with the Alamo Theater and we talked on the phone. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had on the telephone. The conversation was quick witted. It was strange. We talked about movie monsters and Bucksport, Maine. We talked about dungeons and cat tails. It was not a normal interview.

I hung up and the reporter at the desk across from me lifted her eyebrows and said, “Who was that?”
And I said, “That was a strange, amazing man.”

I mean strange in a good way. Strange in a quick-mind way. Strange in a gentle, quirky way. I mean strange in the best kind of way.

Don loved cats. He loved horror movies and 3D photography and martinis at Cleonice. He took the most beautiful photos of people. He could always capture their loneliness and their love. I know because we worked together.  We worked together at the Ellsworth American. Later, he was my star reporter when I was a newspaper editor. He won a lot of awards. He deserved all of them.

He would study the lighting in a picture for hours. He would tweak a sentence until it was perfect. This wasn’t helpful on deadline days, but it was the way Don was. He wanted it to be perfect. He wanted everything to be perfect.

This summer he would drive me to doors for my campaign and we’d talk about the most bizarre things: dragonflies, made-up song lyrics, what it was like for him to be a bonus dad. He had this soft voice, very lyrical. He sang. He played guitar. He wrote a book about Tony Richardson. After the election we were going to start a theater group together. He’d just written a funny, snarky musical. He was full of promise. He could flit from topic to topic and from career to career but he was always a gentleman, always full of wit, always ready to help someone.

He died yesterday.

He died yesterday and the world lost a strange, amazing man. His family lost a beautiful, amazing man.

When Don was a reporter and a photographer he cared so much about the people he wrote about. He cared so much about their stories and the truth of who they were, the truth of what the issues were. He was always adjusting the light to try to show us all what we are really about. That might be the light in a photo or in a story or just the light in our own hearts.

He will be terribly missed.




Love for Water is Personal and Political

My stepdad and I would go out fishing every weekend that we could. My stepdad was in his 50s — he’d been in the Navy in World War II — he didn’t talk about it much, just say, “I still love the water.”

He said it like it was an accomplishment. He said it almost every time we went out. We’d drive out on dirt roads to the best fishing places we could get to, the truck would struggle uphill through woods full of pines and spruce. The early morning sun would slant through the boughs. Sometimes we’d startle a doe out of the undergrowth. His breath would fill the truck with a coffee smell.

Sometimes we didn’t fly fish. Sometimes we used worms. Even that was an adventure, digging into the ground to find their wriggling masses. The shockingly quick way he’d put one on a hook while I fumbled around with my little girl fingers.

My dad (I called him my dad. He was officially my stepfather) and I didn’t talk a lot when we stood at the edge of a Maine river or a lake. We didn’t talk a lot while brooks babbled in the distance. We didn’t need to.

Even with the lack of talking he taught me that sometimes waiting for the fish is better than getting the fish. He taught me that the smell of the Maine woods in spring or fall varies more than the smell of wine or flowers you get at the grocery store. He taught me that no matter how bad the week can be, how mean or selfish people can get, or how the horrors of a war long past can push itself into your soul, that the woods, the water can help you become something sweeter and truer.

Sometimes I’d crouch beside him and give up on the fishing. I’d gently put my fingertips into the water, scaring anything nearby I’m sure. He’d let me though. He was patient. You have to be patient if you’re going to hunt, if you’re going to fish, if you’re going to live in hard times.

One day when I was in sixth grade, we were bumping back home, a good dinner caught, and he told me with a graveness and seriousness that wasn’t his usual way of talking, “These are some of my best times out here with you. You remember them, Carrie, OK?”

“OK.” I played with the latch of the tackle box.

“Got it?” He reached over and ruffled my hair.

“Got it.”

He died of a heart attack a couple weeks later. He was planning on taking his brother out on our clunky boat.

“Aren’t you sick of that old thing yet?” my uncle teased him.

My dad shook his head. “I still love the water.”

Every time I’m outside by the Union River I think about my dad and I start touching the water again, just my fingertips breaking the surface, wishing he was here. To me his love of the Maine woods and the Maine water is a legacy stronger than blood. To me his love of a lifestyle is something I should do everything I can to protect. My dad’s been gone for about 25 years now but I have to tell you, I still love him and I still love the water.

That love for the water isn’t just a personal issue. It’s a political one as well. After peaking in 1991 at 203,245, Maine resident fishing license sales have dropped to 186,351 in 2006. Sales for nonresidents dropped by approximately 30,000.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that anglers who do not live in Maine spend about $500 a trip. To lose that many anglers costs our economy over $15 million every year. Investing and managing our fisheries will bring those sales up, returning money to our economy. Part of meeting the needs of our small businesses and our residents is promoting the things that make Maine special. Fishing, the beauty of our lakes, oceans and rivers, are all part of that. When looking at the Maine economy we have to look at the big picture. Part of that picture is fishing.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Maine’s economy only has to do with taxes and energy, but it’s more than that. It’s like the rivers. Every factor flows into each other. It’s all interdependent. I hope that our next Legislature can remember that when it comes time to make decisions. We need to make sure that future generations have the luxury to still love the water.


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