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Op-Ed: Opposition to L-A merger seems to come from fear

By Maura Murphy

Lewiston

“Never!” “Over my dead body!” “Noooo!”

These are some of the milder expressions of opposition to the Lewiston-Auburn merger that I have heard lately. Such airtight, negative sentiments cannot go beyond themselves; they just repeat and reinforce themselves in closed loops, strengthening and hardening with each repetition. The root of much opposition to the merger seems to be fear: fear of change, fear of risk, fear of the new and unfamiliar, fear of a loss of identity, fear of some vague unfairness, fear of higher taxes, etc.

Fear, like any emotion, cannot be argued against; whether well-founded or not, it exists, powerful and pivotal. It should not, however, be the only basis for making decisions, especially momentous ones such as the possibility of formally joining two small cities into the single community they have always been. It is all but impossible to imagine a person in our community who doesn’t have family, friends, healthcare, shopping and cultural destinations on both sides of the river.

There are also too many families with members, ranging from multiple generations to now, who were forced to seek employment, education and other opportunities elsewhere, even if they would have preferred to stay. Many of our best and brightest leave L-A—and they rarely come back.

Unless you are Native American, your ancestors came here clothed in risk and uncertainty. They could not afford to be paralyzed by fear of the unknown or bound by stagnant loyalties to life as they had once known it. Our ancestors were guided by sacrifice, hope and grit and, above all, a sacred and unshakable determination that life and opportunity would be better for their children and grandchildren. People carried both fear and fearlessness as they packed their bags or fled in the night, boarded trains or ships, parted ways with loved ones or clung tightly to their children, whether they came from England, Ireland, Canada, Greece, Italy, Eastern Europe, Latin America or Africa.

Without our ancestors’ faith that things could be better for their descendants, none of us would be here. Had our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents not taken risks, broken boundaries and leaped with faith into a future they could not have been sure of, these cities as we know and love them would not be here.

Those of us who have lived much of our lives must, as our ancestors did, think of the world our children and grandchildren will inhabit long after we are gone. What might be good enough for us cannot be, in a world that is simultaneously growing larger and smaller, what is best for our children in the world as it is evolving in such incredible, unprecedented ways. While we cannot stop the sometimes confusing and frightening ways the world around us is changing, what we can and must do as a community is to adapt; this requires consolidating and maximizing our resources, expanding our opportunities and creating new attractiveness for investors, both local and from away.

Continuing to muddle along in two small cities that are at their strongest when they act as one is not laying the groundwork for anything new or better than we have had in the decades since we last experienced meaningful, widespread growth and prosperity. In these times of dizzying and deep change, formally pooling our resources—financial, political, educational, geographical and human—will allow us to distill the very best from both and let go of the inherent duplication, competition and waste that unnecessarily siphon energy away from becoming the place we need to be to grow and be competitive in these changing times.

Fear can be a powerful engine for determination and growth, just as it can be an excuse to retreat from the challenges, uncertainties and sacrifices involved in any change. The extraordinary energy and organization that have gone into perpetuating the worst hypothetical “sky is falling” merger scenario could also be applied to rising to the challenges that are an inevitable part of any transition.

Combining the brilliance and power of people on both sides of the Androscoggin will allow us to become a new, bigger, better version of ourselves, one that will be able to host the aspirations and dreams of our children and grandchildren in the rapidly changing world that they will inherit.

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