I’ve come to realize over the past several weeks that I am in a period of mourning for both the state in which I’ve chosen to live for the past 47 years and my country. My anger surfaces once in a while at another particularly egregious comment or action on the part of the so-called leaders of our state and nation, but mostly, it’s leaving me sad that we have come to this.

How did we get to a point where we have a president who believes there are “good people” on both sides and that both sides are at fault when one of the sides is promoting ideals that our country went to war 60 years ago to defeat? A governor who says there were 7,600 Mainers who fought to defend a system of slavery?

Way too many people choose to support these men because they are “plain spoken.” How did we get to a point when people who routinely make things up to suit their own purposes have come to be described as “plain spoken”?

On top of all the political news, there is the devastation to millions of people’s lives live-streaming from the Caribbean and our country that could have been much less disastrous if we hadn’t been subject to a campaign of lies that too many people choose to believe about climate change. Years ago, I came to understand that life is a journey, not a destination, and the vision for humanity that I’ve spent much of my life working toward isn’t one that I’ll live to see.

However, to see that vision for the future grow far more dim is the cause of my sadness.

Since sadness will get me nowhere, I’m choosing to focus on my anger, which will at least keep me moving forward and working for change on behalf of our youngest Mainers. If we are going to achieve that world in which people understand the pie can be expanded — that we don’t have to pit one group of people against another for resources — it’s going to come from a well-loved, cared for, and educated generation that we still have the power to create. While we have the power, though, we need to create the local and statewide public will to fund it. Working for that is what will keep me motivated.


While national disasters and hateful words have been in the headlines, there are policies proposed and actions taken that have left children in Maine at greater risk than ever. Risk of hunger, risk of homelessness, risk of losing their parents to addiction, risk of addiction themselves, and risk of death, thanks to drastic funding cuts and program eliminations by our governor and his former commissioner of Health and Human Services.

Mainers can either wake up to these facts or continue to think his “plain spoken” behavior is going to make Maine better off.

In six years, the health of rural Mainers and their children has declined precipitously thanks to a lack of food, health care coverage, and quality child care as a direct result of their policies. Cutting food stamp benefits doesn’t just punish the adults who they think should be working (and many of those adults are working); it means everyone in the household is affected.

Not expanding Medicaid for adults means children often don’t get the care they need and rural clinics have closed. Ending funding for all the school-based health clinics in the state means those school children have lost access to needed care.

Eliminating funding for Head Start and proposing child care rules that decrease quality mean that children are not in an optimum environment that provides for the maximum stimulation of brain development at a time when their brains are most in need of one.

Most shockingly is the way the governor and the former commissioner have chosen to deal with children with disabilities.


First they refused funds to support adolescents with mental health problems. Then they cut payments to providers serving youth with severe mental disabilities, resulting in providers forced to call the police for help and children ending up in jail.

And now, just a few weeks ago, the Office of the Inspector General found Maine failed to demonstrate that it has a system to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the 2,640 Medicaid beneficiaries with developmental disabilities. People with disabilities are our most vulnerable Mainers and the ones he’s been saying he’s cutting everything else to protect.

Really? These policies are okay with 47 percent of people of Maine?

Honestly, I don’t think they are — I just think that most people aren’t aware of what’s happening. My sights are now set on the 2018 election (and this fall in Waterville) and working to help people understand the link between their personal situations and their votes for their representatives.

There are important roles for the government to play in supporting the education, health and safety of its citizens. Shoring up the infrastructure of our state and our nation includes shoring up supports for our human resources so that we all can work to our full potential. That is what is going to make this country great again.

Karen Heck is a resident and former mayor of Waterville.

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