Standing with students
In support of high school students across the nation seeking to put an end to massacres in our schools, we will meet with others at 10 am on March 14 for 17 minutes — one minute for each life lost in the most recent national homegrown slaughter. The venue for this support witness will be across from the Unitarian Church near Houlton’s Peace Pole, which calls for peace in our homes, communities and the world. All of like-minded people are welcome to join us. Black armbands are appropriate.
We are not encouraging or discouraging local students to walk out of schools that day, but many in Maine and across the country have stated that they are moved to do so. We stand in sympathy with these young people. On March 24, the day students have designated to come out with their supporters onto the streets, we will again convene at the same venue. This time at noon to witness in solidarity, “never again.”
Harrison and Marilyn Roper
A Declaration of Conscience moment
On June 1, 1950, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of our home state delivered a speech in the Senate, a “ Declaration of Conscience” in which she denounced the slanderous tactics of fellow Sen. Joseph McCarthy. After the shooting in Florida, I emailed Maine’s members of Congress asking them stand before their respective assemblies and, like Smith and Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, before them, implore their colleagues to address — while upholding the Second Amendment — the problem of easy access to semiautomatic weapons.
And what have Congress and most state legislatures done? Virtually nothing beyond such half-measures as eliminating bump stocks and raising the age for assault-rifle purchases. So while the nation’s students are engaged in a children’s crusade to outlaw lethal weapons of war and require universal background checks (with loopholes closed) for all gun purchases, most politicians seem to hope only that the furor will subside.
And then there’s President Donald Trump — as usual, flippantly reversing his opinions and blurting out antisocial remarks: negating his intention to upgrade background checks after an NRA visit to the White House; creating confusion with his impulsive suggestion to seize an individual’s gun prior to due process; and revealing his insensitivity to gun violence by saying that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
Unless each member of Congress becomes a profile in courage by speaking out for an assault-weapons ban and background-check requirements, then the electorate’s only option is what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently delineated: Vote them all out of office.
National school walkout
As parents of a ninth-grader at Mount View High School, we very much appreciated that RSU 3 administrators clarified, ahead of time, the district’s intention to observe students’ rights to protest on March 14 during the national school walkout.
We see the next few days as an important window of opportunity in our high schools and homes that should not be missed. It is a chance for our youth to explore citizenship, participate in a national discussion, and engage in difficult conversations.
However, we believe that this kind of either/or choice might be quite socially challenging to some students. Most high school students want to make and keep friends. We worry that such a public choice could deepen divides within school communities. We think that all of us adults can help students see that this walkout is not a referendum on guns but rather, as stated in the information on the organizing website, a call to “end gun violence.”
We hope that teachers, parents and administrators will: Talk about or ask their students to write about the walkout prior to Wednesday so that all students will have had some preparation, conviction and more confidence in their decision to sit tight or walk out; remind students that the walkout mission is to “end gun violence.” It is not a referendum on gun ownership; remind students that friends can disagree and still be friends.
We are grateful for the tireless and important work that goes into educating our youth.
Maine’s children deserve better
Headlines continue to call for the closure of the Long Creek Youth Development Center while reporting on the tragic death of Marissa Kennedy and the planned defunding of Community Partnerships for Protecting Children. At the same time, the Legislature is debating lowering the safety standards for in-home child care, any funding for evidence-based mental health treatment for youth, and is refusing to pass a comprehensive ban on conversion therapy, where LGBTQ youth are bullied. All while child suicide rates increase and the age of onset for mental illnesses decrease.
Personal values and opinions are irrelevant and investing in proven, effective approaches doesn’t mean breaking the state budget. There are proven approaches to educate, feed, protect and treat our children, but these approaches are forced to compete against approaches that serve adults’ philosophical or financial interests.
Maine’s children deserve a seamless system of early learning, comprehensive early intervention services, specialized evidence-based mental health care, screening for exposure to trauma, appropriately resourced child protection units using proven approaches, and residential services in the least restrictive setting that meets a youth’s treatment and rehabilitative needs.
A system where Maine does what is truly in our children’s best interest is achievable. It does not require investigating current failings. It requires leadership within the Department of Health and Human Services and the Legislature that trusts the lessons learned nationally and does the hard work of creating a system that supports each child in Maine to find his or her own path to a happy and healthy adulthood.
Don’t tax ‘green’ vehicles
I have no electric or hybrid vehicles, but the tax on these vehicles being debated in the Legislature is unfair. Those who buy these “green vehicles” buy them to save money and the environment. They should not have to take what they have saved to finance the Department of Transportation.
Instead, the state police could pull over rusty gas guzzlers bearing unbelievable inspection stickers (which if I can count 30 out of every 100 cars I pass). These vehicles are hazardous to all of us on the road.
Collect fines and taxes from these, not those who obey the law whose only crime is being eco-friendly.