Friday, October 13, 2017
The auditorium at USM’s Hannaford Hall was filled with over 100 hopeful Mainers last Friday morning at the launch of Maine’s Initiative to Revive Civility and Respect. I was one of those people.
Briefly, the National Institute for Civil Discourse from the University of Arizona has selected Maine as one of four states to participate in an intensive year-long effort to help people improve the way they talk and listen to one another. Last Friday’s gathering was the State of Maine’s Kickoff.
Somehow, we’ve lost the art of mutual respect, understanding, listening and collaboration. We’ve become accusatory, reactive and “keyboard warriors” - demonizing others with whom we disagree or believe to be in the wrong, instead of taking a moment to listen or to reflect upon our own biases and errors in thought.
Civil discourse has become my passion the past couple of years because I hope that we can return to some form of regard towards one another. I hope we all can find ways to passionately speak a personal truth and be heard - and perhaps more importantly - to hear and seek understanding from an opposing viewpoint without outrage, as well as being able to hear another’s perspective and disagree gracefully.
I think it was Gandhi who said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” So, I suppose that means that if I want to turn the boat of incivility around, I must begin with being civil myself. Since last Friday, I have observed my actions and thoughts. I have learned that being civil is not easy.
In the past week, I have been in a couple of situations in which I was mortified at the responses of others. At one point, I wanted to do what is now - unfortunately - the norm. I wanted to scream to be heard and was in no mood for listening. But since the Revive Civility gathering was on the back of my heels, I chose to take a deep breath instead.
Does that mean that everything is all fluffy and warm with multi-colored butterflies landing on dew filled, morning flowers as the sun rises elegantly? No. Of course not. It is a work in progress.
I wonder, though, if my individual work to act civilly would be less daunting if others joined me. Would you be up to giving it a whirl?
I can’t guarantee that any changes will be made. But it’s certainly worth a try. It certainly wouldn't hurt to see what might happen.
In November we have an opportunity to add a new face to Windham Town Council. I am supporting Rebecca Cummings for East District Representative (all Windham voters can vote for district candidates).
Rebecca grew up in Maine. She was raised in a Portland home where her Dad and uncle grew up and where her grandfather still resides. She entered the Army two weeks after graduating from Deering High School and she served as a medic in Germany, where she met her husband and became an Army wife for his 22 years of military service.
After his retirement from the military, she and her family chose Windham, where her parents live, to finish raising their sons in the state she loves and considers their “forever home”.
Rebecca has been a young wife and mother on a fixed income through many regular military and wartime deployments. She earned her nursing degree while raising a young family and now works as a school nurse.
She is someone who will respect taxpayer dollars and evaluate spending in a thorough and careful way. As a nurse, she makes important decisions on evidence-based data. You can depend on her to research issues, weigh facts and seek out voter feedback.
She has considerable concern for low and fixed income families who, when taxes are raised, need to make serious choices about what necessities need to be cut from their already tight family budgets.
It is time for some new insights and a new listening ear on the Windham Town Council.
Rebecca Cummings has already knocked on nearly 300 doors hoping to hear your concerns and let you get to know her. She plans to continue to do this through voting day. Check out her Facebook page or e-mail her at email@example.com with your thoughts and ideas. Then cast your ballot for Rebecca Cummings on voting day in November!
Friday, October 6, 2017
As the month of October begins, it brings with it another host of days and weeks; and the month itself is dedicated to certain issues and diseases in the attempt to raise awareness around them.
October is AIDS Awareness, National Bullying Prevention, National Domestic Violence Abuse as well as Breast Cancer Awareness month, to name just a few.
But have you ever wondered if raising awareness, of these and other concerns, is enough?
I have yet to conduct a non-bias scientific study that answers that question unequivocally, but as a writer who observes the world around her, I tend to think that the dedication to awareness of a variety of subjects has made some small changes.
It seems the attempt to educate the general population on a variety of issues fosters change in the way we perceive and understand what others may be facing. I believe it’s possible that these significant days, create within each of us, a level of empathy that may not have existed prior to the newfound “awareness.”
Ways in which I have witnessed changes in myself as a result of these efforts include:
I have no fear of touching an individual with AIDS.
When I was a teenager during the late 1970s and early 1980s, my original perception of such was that, to be in the same room as an individual with AIDS could adversely affect me. But through the many AIDS awareness efforts, I discovered that my misperception could not be further from the truth.
I can write or say ALS and not follow that with “otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Not only did that social media phenomenon raise tons of money for research, but it created such an intense awareness around this issue, that in just the past five years, I have said the letters, “ALS” without the need for clarification – everyone knows what I’m talking about. Fourteen years ago, when my friend was diagnosed with the disease, that was not the case.
There are more personal examples I can share, but with limited space available to write them all, I think these two instances demonstrate the potential for generating knowledge and change. And, better yet, action.
I don’t deny that there’s more work ahead for the multitudes of concerns and the steps that have been made thus far may be slow going. But microscopic movement forward is still progress that can improve lives.
So, is raising awareness on issues enough? It may not be the end all and be all, but it seems to foster growth and knowledge that produces positive change.
Letter to the Editor
Once again during the last few weeks, Mainers held their breath while the Senate debated health care legislation that would affect hundreds of thousands of us. The bill in question, known simply as “Graham-Cassidy” after the two Senators who drafted it, was not made public until the eleventh hour and, it turns out, was deeply flawed.
For one thing, Graham-Cassidy proposed huge cuts to Medicaid/MaineCare. According to AARP, some 268,000 Mainers of all ages are on MaineCare. For most, the program is nothing short of a lifeline. Individuals living with disabilities and low and middle-income seniors depend on MaineCare for the care they receive at home or in nursing homes. Cutting MaineCare would jeopardize their ability to access this critical long-term care. In addition, rural hospitals and nursing homes could be forced to close in the wake of cuts to MaineCare, further restricting access to healthcare.
The bill also proposed an Age Tax, allowing insurance companies to charge individuals purchasing coverage in the individual market more, simply due to their age. Further, the bill eroded current protections that prevent insurance companies from charging someone more due to a pre-existing condition such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease.
Mainers deserve health care coverage that is affordable and accessible. This bill, like its predecessors introduced over the summer, was not crafted with this in mind. In fact, this bill would have cut some of the services and supports many of us – particularly those of us who are older – rely upon every day.
I hope Mainers will reach out and thank Senator King for standing strong for Maine and opposing Graham-Cassidy.
AARP Maine Volunteer State President