I grew up on Mount Desert Island, where I live today with my wife and two children, just down the street from my parents in Seal Harbor.
I attended Mount Desert Elementary School, Mount Desert High School, and Hampshire College, and spent most of my time churning out novels under the pen name Ian James, some of which have been published by my own publishing house, Kahveh Press.
You can view my college transcript here.
Both sides of my family fled Europe as refugees around the turn of the 20th century. Our roots are in New York and Massachusetts, and include Gertrude Berg, a household name from the 1950s, and Anne Schwartz, a children’s book editor and publisher behind the famous Olivia series.
At the same time, I have, like my dad, worked in the restaurant business, washing dishes and busing tables in high school, and I’m deeply familiar with the unending struggle to keep a roof over your head in Maine.
My mom’s battle against unfair employment practices and sexual discrimination at the Maine Seacoast Mission also brought the fight for fairness and equality into my childhood home.
I currently work as a substitute teacher around MDI’s schools, and have several new books in the pipeline. My wife is an RN from South Korea, and descended from royalty. Her brother is a Captain in the South Korean army and has spent years living within several hundred meters of the DMZ.
Speaking of which, after graduating from college in the midst of the Great Recession in 2009, I traveled to South Korea, where I taught English to hundreds of students for two years at a public elementary school in a working class neighborhood in Busan, a city of nearly four million people.
Fortunate enough to snag a job at Dongguk University, an institute of higher learning which recently celebrated its 111th birthday, I worked for six years as an Assistant Professor of English in Gyeongju, where I helped over a thousand students learn how to logically express themselves either verbally or in essay form.
While my salary as a professor was modest, the modern nature of South Korean society allowed me to live like a king. Universal health care meant that whenever I got sick, I was able to go to the hospital, whether I had a runny nose, or, in one case, acute gastroenteritis. Every single time I went, I got better quickly.
Visits rarely took more than an hour and rarely cost more than $30, medication included. I earned roughly $2,500 per month from the university, and paid $200 – $400 per month in taxes.
This was the total price I paid for my health care—rated as fourth most efficient in the world by Bloomberg. The case is the same for every South Korean citizen, and many people living in the country who aren’t citizens, as well, regardless of whether they happen to have a good job.
This is also the rule in every advanced country—except the United States. Everyone has excellent health care. Period.
But that was just the beginning.
Public transportation—linked to a family’s ability to escape poverty—is cheap and commonplace. Buses, subways, slow trains, and bullet trains could get me anywhere in the country within hours. Paid parental leave and quality public daycare mean that parents are able to return to work almost as soon as they have children—who are then better prepared for entering elementary school.
South Korean internet is the world’s fastest, and you can make phone calls virtually anywhere except inside moving elevators.
Finally, the country’s modern gun laws ensure that mass shootings (and gun violence of any kind) are extremely rare, rather than taking thirty thousand lives per year and occurring once every few days, as is the case in America.
Living like this in Maine costs thousands of dollars per month. Yet because South Koreans truly care about their neighbors—not just with their hearts, but with their wallets—these services are both affordable and excellent. The price tag? $400 per person, tops.
It’s time to stop pretending that we need years of study to figure these systems out before implementing them here in America—and it’s time to stop pretending that they’re too expensive.
You don’t have to travel all the way to Korea to find out about them; crossing the border into Canada will net you roughly the same results. Canadian loggers in Maine have been taking advantage of this situation for years, working in Maine but living in Canada to take advantage of the health care there as well as the beneficial exchange rate.
Every other modern nation has these benefits. It is a tragedy and a disgrace that our lawmakers have failed to bring us the same in our state and country.
Life expectancy has recently decreased in America—something which usually only happens in war zones—and untold masses of people are living in unnecessary misery because Augusta and Washington have failed them utterly.
And so, when I returned with my wife to raise our kids here in Maine (taking advantage of excellent public schools funded by property taxes which local billionaires cannot evade), I started thinking about running for political office.
My personal experience of all the magical wonders of the modern world will help win over voters who have spent years trapped inside Fox News’s ideological house of horrors. Ideas like universal health care aren’t abstractions for me—they were my reality for eight years.
Furthermore, my status as a young Mainer who came back will help me find ways to bring other Mainers back—whether they happened to be in my high school class, or, like my wife, a Korean national, entirely new to the state—a Mainer who just hadn’t come home yet.
Obsessed with politics since before George W. Bush stole the presidency on my thirteenth birthday, November 6th, 2000, the opportunity to serve every last resident of District 7 will, finally, be a perfect fit.
I was the first to jump into the State Senate race in District 7—mostly Hancock County—announcing my candidacy at the end of an event at the Northeast Harbor Library on January 31st, 2018.
I was soon joined, in the Democratic Primary, by Walter Kumiega, the Democratic State Representative from Deer Isle, and Louis Luchini, the Democratic State Representative of Ellsworth and Trenton.
Walter dropped out of the race after only a few weeks, but Louie remained. I would have been happy to drop out as well, especially when facing such a charismatic opponent as Louie, but the latter’s record of voting for tax scams, introducing multiple bills to fight Citizens’ Initiatives passed by overwhelming majorities of Maine voters, and attempting to wreck Acadia National Park by installing a Miami-style mega-pier in Bar Harbor—all convinced me to stick to running to ensure that a progressive wins the seat on November 6th, 2018—my 31st birthday.
(To any Louie supporters reading this: Hello! I’m happy to debate Louie any time, any place, on any subject, in any format. Please ask him about this for me—I’ve been trying to get in touch for weeks without success. If he doesn’t agree to participate, you might want to reconsider your support of a candidate exhibiting Bruce Poliquin-like behavior)
I’ve been endorsed by Antonio Blasi, County Commissioner for Hancock County, and Lynne Williams, a former Green candidate for the the State Senate District 7 and a current candidate for Hancock County’s probate judge.
Further major endorsements are coming soon.
If you’ve read this far, please stop by your local town office TODAY and register to vote in the Democratic Primary. Only 2,000 people voted in the last one around here, so your vote truly counts a great deal. If you’re already registered, bring a friend or relative. If they aren’t crazy about being a Democrat, they can always switch back later.