Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Grandview Coffee Shop, Vassalboro ME

You probably read about this establishment - it was shown on most every media outlet when it first opened. A Topless Coffee Shop??? Ye gods, but that's hysterical.

A few days ago the shop was torched.

I'm a huge Rachel Maddow fan - and tonight Rachel mentioned the shop during her "Cocktail Moment" segment. This is towards the end of the show when she mentions a story (usually on the "fluffy" side) that makes her happy. In this case it was in response to the story that the owner has reopened the shop in a temporary tent in the parking lot - and that the topless wait staff were working in sweatshirts because of the temperature. Here is the text of the email I sent to her show in response. I'll let you know if I get an answer.

RE: Grandview Coffee Shop - A Different Perspective

Hi Rachel –

Thanks for mentioning the arson fire at the Grandview Coffee Shop in tonight’s “Cocktail Moment”.

I love your show ( other than the incessant “beeping” in the background ) but I’d like to pose a different viewpoint on the Grandview fire. From my perspective, this event is no less heinous than the murder of Dr. Tiller or today’s attack on the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. Different in severity and outcome, absolutely, but not in its intent.

At its most basic, this was a violent act meant to harm and intimidate the victims – namely the business owner, his employees and the folks who patronized the shop. It is only luck that kept this from being a tragedy – there were several people asleep in that building when the fire was set. Fortunately the responding firefighters were able to make sure everyone got out. Several stories have been written quoting the “fact” that “97% of the people in Vassalboro were against the topless coffee shop”… despite the reality that this business was perfectly within the existing laws and ordinances of the Town of Vassalboro and the state of Maine.

So someone decided that picketing, petitions and the democratic process would not produce the desired result… and resorted to arson. This is no less “domestic terrorism” than the shootings, harassment and threats we have seen in the last few months in other venues and concerning a variety of other issues. Burn a cross, burn a business… the fuel is different, the intent is the same.

I was a resident of the Great State of Maine for 12 years. As an out gay man, I always found that even though my neighbors may not have “approved” of what I was, they never ever treated me with disrespect. “Live and Let Live” is an old, old Yankee tradition which I cherish, as do most of the people in Maine.

But when a single individual takes it upon him- or herself to express their political views with a cowardly, violent and illegal act like this, we should react with outrage, not simply cocktail chatter. To be clear: I felt that outrage no less when I learned about “Earth First”ers destroying a condo complex under construction in Southern California, or environmentalists attacking Hummer dealerships. While I may agree wholeheartedly that rampant development and conspicuous consumption are worthy of contempt, those attacks were also terrorism. “Left” or “Right” is immaterial – wrong is wrong.

To their credit, according to media reports, the vast majority of Mainers have responded with concern, support and cash donations to help the (uninsured) owner, whether or not they agree with Donald Crabtree and his business plan.

I fully understand that the whole idea of a “topless coffee shop” is a comedy goldmine – I cackled like a crone when I first heard about it - but at the risk of being labeled a humorless liberal drone, I don’t want us to lose sight of just how serious a violation of the law, our principles and ideals this attack really is.

I will now step off my soapbox and return to enjoying your show. Thanks!

Dennis Scott
Manchester CT