I woke up a few days after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with the realization that I am really sad and no amount of anti-depressants will change that. The only antidote is to resist.

Our nation and our state are now led by two men with a seemingly infinite capacity for spouting ignorant comments meant to divide us, rather than undertake the hard work of bringing us together. Alternative facts, otherwise known as lies, abound, from Trump’s assertion Mexicans will pay for a wall when he’s actually thinking of adding a surcharge to Mexican goods that Americans will pay, to LePage’s assertion that his plan will give Mainers a tax cut. You’ll get that tax cut if your household income is above $92,000, but because the median household income in Maine is $47,000, most of us will actually pay more.

Some recent letter writers have suggested that those of us marching on Washington should just “get over it” and accept that our candidates didn’t win. Fat chance. Protesting is in our DNA. From abolition, to women’s suffrage, to the Civil Rights movement, to the war in Vietnam, citizen protests have brought about changes we needed to make to keep us on the right track as a nation. I’m proud to stand on the shoulders of our forebears to keep the struggle for equality and justice for all alive.

I don’t have any children, but I believe in the importance to society of raising children to be compassionate, empathetic, and capable of reaching their full potential and understanding that equality and justice for all are the cornerstones of our democracy. We haven’t achieved equality and justice for all yet, but it’s important to convey that the vision is what makes America great.

The examples the president and our governor are providing for our children is exactly the opposite. Destroying the concept of equality and justice for all is not going to “make America great again.” Catering to the notion that white Christians are losing out to non-Christians of color is not what is going to “make American great again.” Catering to the idea that prosperity is a zero-sum game, and when some of us lose something others win, is not going to “make America great again.”

America is already great. People around the world see us as the “land of opportunity” and we have been amending our Constitution for the past 200 years to expand the definition of just what opportunity means in terms of religion, race, and gender. The fight for that expansion is what has made, and continues to make, America great.

Policies that deny food, health care, quality child care, good public education, and a warm safe home for children because you think their parents should be better providers do not make America great. Rather, they are petty, sad, and counterproductive. It’s in the interest of ensuring our future economic prosperity that we as a society teach young children that caring for each other regardless of color or religion, supporting those who are struggling, and feeling a collective responsibility to create a strong nation from within, is what a great country is all about. Teaching those values will insure that we don’t collapse from the inside and will protect this country from the outside forces who seek to destroy it.

In his latest budget, the governor has proposed policies that cut support to the vital services that children need at their most vulnerable — Head Start, preschool, lead poisoning screening, home visits, quality child care, food for pregnant women, infants and children, safe housing, and public education. He will, no doubt, be pitting services for children, women, people living in poverty, and working parents, against services for the elderly. The president is doing the same in all sorts of ways.

In addition to dismantling supports for women and children, our two “leaders” are moving rapidly to dismantle protections for people and programs many of us care about — immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are here legally; people of color and people of different faith; people with low income or disabilities; public education, clean air and clean water, to name just a few.

The marches in Washington, Augusta, Portland, and across the nation were not based on a single issue. They were a message from the women and men who marched that we are determined to keep the country we love from going off the rails. We have been moving policies forward through protest since this country was born and we are not about to cede ground. Years ago, when I suggested to the governor that his attack on people of color wasn’t in our best interest as a state, he told me to “get used to it.” That is now my advice to those of you who think we should just “get over it.”

Karen Heck is a longtime resident and former mayor of Waterville.

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