Imagine you have just gone through the worst weather incident of your life. Your first sense might be relief that you and your family and pets are still alive and your house isn’t totally gone, just flooded.

After a day without clean water, electricity, or phone service to find out if other family and friends are safe, with mud and debris blocking the street, and without a working car to get you to a store that wouldn’t be open anyway — imagine after enduring that for even one day, you hear nothing from the leader of your country about help being on the way.

Soon you actually do hear that he has rejected an opportunity to waive any regulations that might make it easier for water, food, fuel, generators and other supplies to be delivered more quickly. Then imagine, it’s come to light that as a businessman he defaulted on $33 million of taxes due your territory.

Would you think that was the kind of leader who was going to make America great again? Or would you think that as an American citizen, your so-called leader for the past nine months has hit a new low by creating yet another diversion from a true crisis, railing against football players’ right to free speech?

And, in railing against that right of free speech, he’s conveniently making it an attempt at disrespecting the flag, rather than drawing attention to the fact that black lives matter, too.

As an aside, maybe it was the trip to Rome this spring and the site of the Coliseum that makes me think about a historical parallel. In one case, there are crowds of people with little hope of economic security watching slaves fight each other as a distraction from their day-to-day reality; on the other are the cheering hordes of mostly white fans in today’s football stadiums. In any case, distraction works if it’s not met with resistance, and with the truth and the consequences of ignoring reality.

Now imagine that you live in a state where your governor has issued a directive to law enforcement officials to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement demands and your sheriffs have to point out that what the governor is ordering them to do is to violate the Constitution.

You’d have to wonder about his latest attempt to whip up fear and anger against residents whose skin color and religion don’t match his. You’d have to wonder if it isn’t just a diversion from the fact that his administration didn’t investigate the deaths of physically and mentally disabled Mainers in its care.

Don’t forget this was the group he and his commissioner of Health and Human Services claimed were their top priority to protect. That was his reason, after all, for eliminating supports to others deemed unworthy, even if they were working Mainers.

Continue to imagine living in that state, where thousands of children were going hungry. There used to be programs to make sure families received support, but even working families were no longer able to access those programs.

On top of that, imagine your governor has made your state the only one in the nation that won’t accept a category of federal money for nutrition education for children and people in poverty.

If you can imagine all that, I really need to hear how you think that, by continuing on the path, our country will ever be great again.

I don’t accept that people with little money are less valuable or human or deserving of support than I am. And I don’t accept that getting rid of the government is the answer to anything. I’m pretty sure Lee Iacoca, Wall Street bankers, and the people of Houston, Florida, and New Orleans turned immediately to the government to help them out.

If you went to public school, benefited from police and fire protection for your home or business, traveled safely in cars, trains, buses, ships or planes, government was there for you too. If you swam in clean lakes or rivers, drank water in your home, or breathed clean air, government was there. If you needed unemployment insurance between jobs, were kept safe in your workplace, received assistance with a problem from your legislator or congressional representative, had a federally insured loan or a federally secured mortgage, the government was there. If you received a Social Security check or had your health care needs covered by Medicare, the government was there for you, too.

The point is, we pledge we are “one nation, indivisible.” We can either let our sad, angry, insecure leaders distract us from continuing the hard work we need to do to make this country even greater, or we can let them divide us because it makes them feel better about themselves.

We can’t afford to waste time arguing nor can we afford to waste our human capital. We need to push candidates on how they are going to use tax dollars to nourish that potential, how they are going to create good-paying 21st-century jobs and train educated workers to fill them, and how they will nurture and support our youngest generations on whom all of our futures will depend.

It’s on those who understand that government is there for a reason to make it work for all of us.

Karen Heck is a resident and former mayor of Waterville.

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