Moved by the sun and moon

By Irv Williams

Maine was in the national spotlight on April 8 when the total eclipse of the sun occurred in a swath measuring 115 miles wide swept through the state from border to border. Thousands of out-of-staters and uncounted numbers of Mainers flocked to places within the path of totality to witness the few minutes of darkness that the eclipse brought on a sunny and clear and mild day. Others observed the eclipse from parts of the state that didn’t go completely dark, but had plenty of excitement around seeing the sun partially eclipsed by the moon.

There are few, if any, natural events that can capture the national imagination and consciousness like an eclipse. For a nation that seems obsessed with screens, media and celebrity, this day was like the Super Bowl of mother nature. One day in which we grant an amazing amount of attention, if but fleetingly, to an event that links us to 10,000 generations of humans that have come before us.

To stand in a field in Aroostook County or by the side of a lake in Rangeley and feel the same power and awe of this occurrence that has affected both humans and animals since the dawn of time is at once chilling and exhilarating. A celestial event that has spiritual meaning for many, the eclipse captures the imagination in ways that can’t be duplicated.

Some feel that the event marks a new year, a time for new beginnings. If so, we as Mainers and citizens of the world would do well to sit up and pay attention. There is way too much pain and suffering across the world in the form of wars, famine and disease. One might argue that these afflictions are always present, being a part of the human condition. But to accept that is to admit that we are powerless to effect change in ourselves and in our world.

Each and every day, Mainers have the opportunity to make changes, both small and large that affect the future of our state, our country and world. The purchases we make both in type and quantity can affect everything from global warming to economic inequality. The ways in which we get around the state in cars, trucks, buses and trains. And, most importantly of all, the manner in which we engage in civic life by choosing to vote and support candidates who are clearly in favor of maintaining democracy over authoritarian rule. The candidates who support equal rights for all and economic security and justice in a turbulent world.

November 2024 in Maine and all across the country will be a pivotal point for our society in choosing who will lead us into the future, both locally and globally. Like viewing the eclipse, we all need to take time to look up from our digital devices and witness a phenomenon that links us to one another in ways that are enduring and unique. The sun and the moon had the power to unite us for a few moments in April on a clear blue sky Maine day. The choices we make in November are equally clear.

The time has come to have serious conversations with our neighbors about what unites us, not what divides. Conversations about what we have in common, bonds that transcend race, sexual identity, ability, or any other trait that politicians use to manipulate us through fear and hate. The time has come to ensure that everyone is registered to vote and turns out on Election Day to vote. Again, the choices we make in November are clear. Maine was the last state in the country to see the eclipse, we can be the first state in the country to say on election night that we stand for everyone in our state, country and world, no matter what.

Williams is a retired educator living on Peaks Island. For more than 30 years he held positions in state government, universities, colleges and local school districts as an educator and child advocate.

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