By Jean Webster
With the departure of the god awful 2012 – Hurricane Sandy and its disastrous meeting with the nor’easter, the tragedy at the Sandy Hook School, two severe snowstorms – I am hoping to conjure up some magic by putting my 2013 wish list out there.
1. I wish that our Congress people – whether Democrat, Republican or Independent – could forget their differences, and work for the good of the country and the people who elected them. This means putting the welfare of the country ahead of people with special interests who treat our representatives as their personal “fixers.” We have gone from a great country to a one where too many people are without jobs and security. Where the homeless population has outgrown our ability to help them. Where families are making their homes in shelters. Where schools are in financial trouble – unless they are charter schools and financed with public money, or by parents or by large corporations. Where the richest get richer and the poorest have no health care, and are blamed because they don’t have jobs. A vicious cycle.
2. I wish people would show more respect for teachers and the work they do under circumstances that become more difficult every year. In the past, teachers were respected for their knowledge, their work for students, the hours they spent in and after school. Parents believed that if a child got into trouble, it was because she or he had misbehaved. Today, that feeling has turned around and many parents believe that when something goes wrong it’s the teacher at fault, not their child. Teachers should be paid a salary commensurate with their education and the marketplace. Many communities vote on local school budgets, and townspeople believe they can save money by keeping teachers’ salaries low. But higher pay would result in more community respect. We admire and appreciate professional ball players and movie stars, and aren’t they among the highest paid workers in this country?
3. Remaining in the classroom mode, I wish that Governor Paul LePage would openly support schools and teachers here in Maine. In the fall, he said that students from Maine schools do not get into good colleges because of the poor education they get. The response came from many graduates, and it was dramatic. Their letters to LePage and to newspaper editors, informed him that many have gone on to higher education within the state, and beyond.
More recently, LePage said, “If you want a good education (K-12), go to a private school. If you can’t afford it…tough luck! You can go to public school.” How can a governor dis his own state’s education system without offering ideas for improvement?
4. Finally, like other Americans, I wish we could solve the gun control problem. On Christmas Eve, just days after the slaughter in Connecticut, a man carrying a semi-automatic weapon walked the streets in Portland, Me., ending up on Back Cove, a popular walking trail. Sixty-five people called the police. The man said, “I’m not making a statement.” He said that the gun was a tool to defend himself. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he admitted having bad memories. But, without going into detail about one man with a gun, it’s clear there is a culture of gun violence in the United States. Maine has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, but in the 11 years since we moved here, I’ve seen a marked increase in gun violence. Just this week, an older man shot his tenants over the matter of parking in the driveway during a snowstorm. What to do? Gun enthusiasts and Second Amendment followers won’t like it. Guns kill. Why have a gun in your possession unless you plan to kill someone? Maine, like much of our country, has a tradition of hunting. But, what can you hunt in a city or town that’s far from the woods? I can understand people enjoying sharp shooting as a sport. But, in either instance – hunting or target shooting – your gun should be locked up when not in use.
I don’t really believe in magic. But, you never know. My wishes might join with others’ and result in solutions.