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Ruth Nadelhaft of Bangor taught at the University of Maine for 27 years and retired as Director of Honors Program. She also served as the chair of the Maine Humanities Council.
On June 14, I was one of many election workers at the Cross Center in Bangor, helping to facilitate an election on a local scale. Though the Cross Center is not a welcoming facility for many voters, it’s central, and the City of Bangor does everything possible to make voting easy and safe.
For decades, I wished to be an election worker, but my work schedule and then my pattern of living half of each year in New York City made it impossible. Now at last, back in Maine full time, I am finally able to work at local elections.
After the 2020 election, which was electrifying with a huge and enthusiastic turnout, despite COVID and the obligatory distancing and masking, I was filled with joy and pride at having contributed to the great success of our election. I was outraged when Donald Trump and his disciples raised allegations of election fraud. I was sickened by the Big Lie and looked forward to the eventual day of reckoning when our election process, and all the thousands of dedicated workers, would be vindicated and sung as heroic.
But not until the recent testimony before the Select Committee of Congress investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when two election workers from Georgia described their ordeal, did I understand the horrible, vicious and tragic aftermath of Trump’s contention that the election was stolen.
Until I saw and heard their story, the Big Lie was an attack on democracy. Finally I understood that all of us were under attack. The testimony of a dedicated election worker from Georgia broke my heart and brought me to tears.
I was never a Trump supporter (after all, I grew up in Jamaica, Queens, and I knew Jamaica Estates from my childhood). But until I saw and heard the details of the vilification, the lies and the threats to those election workers I never took the Big Lie personally.
All of us, not just Bangor’s cadre of hard-working officials and volunteers who make our elections trouble free, should take the Big Lie personally. All over the country, election workers are leaving their positions; many of them have worked to make elections safe and efficient for decades.
I was amazed on June 14 at how many people thanked me for what they called my work. I was touched but mystified. Our elections are, and have always been, safe and happy occasions. Donald Trump and his cadre of supporters inflicted grievous pain on all of us, and we should all take it personally.