Friday, January 30, 2015
Nameless in Maine
A startling story appeared in the Bangor Daily News this morning. A school crossing guard in Presque Isle, Maine, was run over and killed by a woman who had fled to Presque Isle—the back of beyond—to hide from a violent stalker in another state. Because the woman had signed up for Maine's Address Confidentiality Program, the police would not say who she was, leaving the dead crossing guard's family angry and frustrated. No criminal charges were filed. The woman is the subject of a civil suit concerning the matter.
What fascinated me about this story wasn't the death of the crossing guard, which is too sad, but the existence of a state program that enables people to move to Maine and disappear. I, for one, never heard of it. The Address Confidentiality Program has been around since 2005, when it was enacted into law. According to the BDN 172 people are currently enrolled in the program, 87 of them children. A referral from a professional counselor is required before you can get in; you can't just show up in Augusta and say, "I can't stand Albert another minute, tell me where I can hide out with the children." Or maybe you can. Maybe it just hasn't caught on. All those divorcees who take their children to Florida to get away from the ex-spouse. Could it be that they're fleeing in the wrong direction?
Family law is such a morass. What a simple solution. "Albert is beating me! Find me a job as a waitress in Vanceboro." Or maybe, "Phyllis is beating me! Tell me where to go with the children." Are there men in the program? If a man tried to get into the program and was rejected, would he have grounds for a discrimination lawsuit? Can you get into the program and escape your debts as a result?
It seems to me that this law, once people everywhere start hearing about it, must result in a huge jump in the Down-East population. Like the discovery of gold in California, it must attract droves of people seeking the last available thing of value in modern society: privacy. There's not a lot of work in Maine, and the winters are beastly, but so what, it's freedom. Forty years ago that law would have occasioned the founding of many a hippie commune of the abused and stalked. The Tomah Woods would have been full of them. 172 people? Bah. The needy are waiting out there in their millions, in Texas, in California, even in New Jersey. All we need is for the word to get out. Come to Maine. Leave your name behind.
© 2015 Kate Gallison