A valuable measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable: the poor, the young, the elderly.

Our focus on individual rights may blind us to our responsibility for a solid social safety net. In education, medical care, employment — we all do better as a team.

Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down economics forged the 1 percent. John F. Kennedy described all boats rising on the incoming tide.

Young people denied opportunity often become dependent upon or destructive of those around them in disempowered or reactive ways. As with patients whose untreated maladies result in costly advanced illness care, increased time and treasure are the penalty for our neglect — and selfishness.

Shrinking financial support to our schools and withholding of medical care for the underserved are now mirrored in the closing of nursing homes for lack of funding.

It is shameful enough that we cut funding for education — the foundation for our children’s future. Shameful enough we charge such exorbitant college fees that our young people, already struggling in a poor job market, may be priced out of home ownership.

It is shameful enough that finally, when we could provide health care for all of our citizens, we refuse to expand Medicaid and allow preventable illness to diminish the quality of lives.

It is shameful enough we withhold support to elders who want to stay in their homes, denying quality at end of life to those whose sacrifice and hard work allowed us to build our own lives. Now we are forcing nursing homes to close.

If Maine is, indeed, “the way life should be,” we need to take more responsibility for each other. And I am ashamed that we do not.

Together we can correct these wrongs. Silence makes us accomplices.

Cynthia Robertson, Skowhegan

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