The news these last two weeks has been grim. Pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats who have been vilified by the president. The murder of a black man and black woman by a white supremacist in Kentucky. Murders of 11 Jews who were worshipping in their sacred space. Ridiculous statements by the president about the importance of armed guards in places of worship, the character of people fleeing violence in their homeland desperately trying to find their way here, and the need for military protection on the border.

On top of all that, I attended the screening at Railroad Square of “Dawnland,” the recently released documentary of the Maine Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The first-in-the-nation commission brought Wabanaki adults together with the child protective workers who took them from their families and placed them in foster care. While we would like to think that kind of cruelty is behind us, sadly it continues. A federal court in Texas just struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was designed 40 years ago to keep Native American children with relatives or other Native Americans.

It’s been rough for those of us who have worked for decades for social justice, on issues such as reproductive freedom, human rights protections and supports for people trying to escape poverty. For so many of the issues we’ve worked to advance, we’ve seen the gains slip away.

And, I have to admit, the loss of the mayoral recall by 91 votes left me wondering if the Waterville I’ve called my home for 45 years had really become one where people could be afraid to voice their thoughts for fear of harm and city leaders took no steps to keep that from happening.

I have been finding rays of light these past 10 days, however.

The pews on Friday night Shabbat at Beth Israel were packed with non-Jewish residents demonstrating solidarity with our Jewish neighbors. We sang, prayed, and broke bread together, celebrating the reality that only love can conquer hate.

The showing of “Dawnland” was screened before a full house in Railroad Square’s largest theater.

Working at the Democrats’ office in Waterville last week and over the weekend has also helped to restore my faith. Each day, there have been people from the community streaming in to help get out the vote. Colby students have been working there for weeks. The number of young women who have been directing the get-out-the-vote effort, canvassing and encouraging the troops is heartwarming.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with one young woman who had traveled up from Boston. Ariella is getting her doctorate in economics from Harvard and looked for the closest race where her efforts could make a difference. She took time away from her 3-month-old son, drove up with two friends, and spent Saturday knocking on doors encouraging people to vote. I also met a Colby grad from the class of 1992 who traveled up from Rhode Island recruiting friends and students to knock on doors for 2nd Congressional District candidate Jared Golden.

The fact that young people, no matter where they are from, are willing to work here to make a difference is so encouraging. I’m encouraged that Colby students who spend four years here are volunteering and voting. There are many Colby students who are Mainers, there are others who decide to stay after they graduate, and there are some who just want to engage in the community in which they are living while they are here. I support any effort to get more people engaged in the political process. The older generations have left them a country that no longer uses science to make policy, one that employs fear to gin up voters, one where people who proclaim they are Christians support a man who sows seeds of hate, and one settled by immigrants who now want nothing more to seal the country’s borders.

The last source of inspiration this week came from a Facebook friend who posted words penned over two centuries ago by George Washington reflecting on the newly formed country shortly after the Revolutionary War:

“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens (emphasis mine) in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

“May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way, everlastingly happy.”

I’m counting on that spirit to rally this country on Tuesday. I do believe there are more of us who believe bigotry and persecution are not what this country is about. And I believe young people are going to help prove that to be true this election.

Karen Heck is a resident and former mayor of Waterville.

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