A faded poster hangs askew on a yellowing wall of the computer lab in the Randall Student Center at the University of Maine at Augusta. The heading of the poster boldly reads, "2007 Bridge Inventory: a State-by-State Look at Trends in Deficient and Obsolete Bridges."

The poster seems like something of an anomaly in this environment, saturated with computer technology and fiscally conservative mindedness. No doubt it goes unnoticed by the vast majority of the facility's users. It is a poster, after all. It is not back lit. If you swipe your finger across it, nothing happens. You cannot tap it in different areas and pull up a web-browser with a Wikipedia article or a map with satellite imagery and street views of any of the bridges in question. It exists on the physical plane and is made out of materials that were at some point derived from trees. In other words, it is a medium of communication that is itself "deficient and obsolete," although the information contained on it should be cause for alarm for anybody who reads it.

Not only is the poster not interactive in any way, but it is also blatantly partisan by today's standards. It is hard to imagine that the University System of today would allow something that seems to directly advocate for public investment in infrastructure to be posted on its walls, especially walls within earshot of Paul LePage. In 2007, however, such statistics as nearly one-quarter (24.1%) of all bridges in the United States were deficient or obsolete may have seemed like a simple statement of fact intended to inform and (*gasp!*) educate the students of the University of Maine at Augusta.

Perhaps whoever placed this poster was concerned for the students' welfare and safety. Perhaps they were thinking that the students and future professionals of various fields deserved to know that they were taking their lives into their hands one-out-of-four times they drive over a bridge in this country. Who knows? Perhaps whoever placed this poster was the descendant of someone who once operated a lucrative ferry service on the Kennebec River, and who longed for a return to the good old days when getting one's covered wagon across the river required waiting for perhaps days on end for suitable weather to attempt a crossing - farrer-fetched conclusions could be reached.

At any rate, in today's political climate, this humble statement that many of the bridges in this country have outlived their engineered lifespans is practically akin to putting up a poster of Che Guevara's silhouette with the slogan "Hasta la victoria, siempre!" It is something of a relic from a time not all that long ago when advocating for investment in public infrastructure was not associated with a political agenda. It is a wonder that it has escaped detection from university administrators who have been busying themselves cutting programming and spending with the zeal of starving survivalists hacking a wild boar to pieces, only with less precision and more gusto.
I am currently pursuing a master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Southern Maine. Soon, USM will be the only school within the UMaine system that offers any accredited training for the in-state counseling requirements. I suppose I could have chosen to go into law, or computer science, or civil engineering (or better yet, mechanical engineering - I saw a student once wearing a T-shirt that read "civil engineers make the targets for mechanical engineers to destroy" with a drawing of a jet bombing a bridge - so that's probably a highly lucrative profession in this day and age), or gone into any number of better-paying and more prestigious career paths. Or I could have just kept up with a series of menial and futureless contracted jobs, as a growing number of my peers opt to do, and this wouldn't have seemed odd, or defeatist, or like a failure to live up to my potential in any way. I could have gone any of these routes, but against all commonsense and the heaping evidence that humanity is doomed, I am motivated by an honest desire to help people. Call me an idealist.

Unfortunately, with all the budget cuts to education recently, many of my classes have been moved online, which explains my presence in Augusta at the computer lab for an online course tutorial. Recently, I attended the "eggs-and-issues" banquet in Portland where Gov. LePage derided treatment options for persons with mental illness, and advocated for more investment in law enforcement and jails. Less investment in civil society and more investment in coercion is the default tactic of the right, it seems. Although it shouldn't have been, it was refreshing and inspired a little hope in me when I saw the bridge inventory poster. A simple statement that depicts in no uncertain way that responsibility to the public good is literally crumbling. I only hope a few undergrads take a minute to look at the poster and scratch their heads before it gets noticed and removed.

Grayson Lookner grew up in Camden & now lives in Portland.