Yesterday morning, I opened up the Bangor Daily News to see that Ilze Petersons of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine has won an award from the University of Maine as an inspiring woman. (Here's the story.)
I felt an immediate pang of guilt, followed by a burst of elation. The guilt I'll explain in a bit. I was elated because right then I knew what I'd write about today as my contribution to October Ovation, a blog round-up organized by 2k8er Barrie Summy and her cohort Laramie . We're all supposed to write about someone we admire. I was having trouble choosing.
So why the guilt?
I don't know Ilze Petersons. I think I talked to her on the phone once when I was a reporter. For at least a decade, however, I have believed that I would be happier and finer if I were the kind of person who did know the Ilze Petersons of this world. Watching the days tick by in which I still do not know Ilze Petersons, I feel uneasy.
Is this admiration or just self-castigation? For a New England Puritan, I'm not sure there's a difference.
Ms. Petersons has been the coordinator of the Bangor-based Peace and Justice Center for 15 years. The center gets involved in all sorts of causes--opposition to the war in Iraq has been the big one in recent years, but also environmental and social justice issues. Upcoming events include "Considering Democracy: Eight Things to Ask Your Representative" and "Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash."
It's not so much that I agree with the PJC, although I usually do. Nor is it that I approve of their rhetoric, which I sometimes don't. What excites admiration is the fact that Ilze Petersons and her colleagues keep this stuff going even though they're in Bangor, Maine, rather than, say, Berkeley, California.
Maine's Second District, which includes Bangor and my little town, recently has been targeted as a place that might vote for McCain/Palin. Sarah Palin is doing a quick stop at the Bangor airport this week, and her husband was here a few days ago. It ain't easy being an Ilze Petersons in an environment like this. People think you're misguided or nuts or an international conspirator or from Vermont.
And she's been walking around being this particular Ilze Petersons, day in and day out, for 15 years. FIFTEEN YEARS! Nobody holds a job that long, especially when a healthy segment of the population routinely distrusts your motives.
Ms. Petersons is not the only person around here who is capable of making those around her instantly happy and fine. Sister Lucy Poulin, who founded H.O.M.E., is another one, along with just about everyone who works with her.
But I don't want to cheat. One ovation per customer, please.