"The capacity to produce social chaos is the last resort of desperate people.”

— Cornel West, author and philosopher (b. 1953)

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Our country faces a crisis of conscience and we need to look at where we’re at, and where we want to go.

One gets the general feeling that while our economy continues to pick up and our unemployment decreases, the mood of the people isn’t changing for the better.

When President John Kennedy made his famous speech; “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” it signaled that we were all in this together.

President Ronald Reagan pulled us together by challenging what was, and rallying people by giving all citizens the hope of a better future as “we the people” garnered strength from his positive vision and strong personality.

These men were both leaders; different styles, different ideologies, but both positive thinkers who commanded in a way that excited their supporters without completely demoralizing their opponents.

Our current leadership is in disarray; nobody in a leadership role is stepping up. Our president leads by brute force, and the idea of “making America great again” resonates with a portion of our population while completely alienating the majority who think, as I do, that there is no leadership in the White House, or in our Congress or Senate.

Leadership comes from the top down, and our current leader comes from a place of hatred, not hope. Fueling his supporters with fear and creating policies that many see as harmful to the middle class, the belly of our society clings onto the rhetoric because they can’t get behind the policies — they either don’t exist, or don’t coincide with morality.

The recent decision to exit the Paris Climate Accord symbolizes where we are at. Aligned with the rest of the world, 195 countries negotiated and signed this agreement in 2016, including the United States. By reneging on this, we join two countries who did not sign on, Syria and Nicaragua.

It is not leadership when we align ourselves with these two countries and abandon 195 countries who all understand that global warming is not a “hoax,” as Trump professes. We also recently distanced ourselves from our allies at NATO with threats and innuendos. It is arrogant to think we should unilaterally have the power to renegotiate the Climate Accord and it is bullying to threaten our allies that we will desert the “all for one” pact that NATO was built on unless they pay up.

The thing about leadership is, we know it when we see it. In our present situation, the carnage is everywhere. Most of us have been in dysfunctional situations at work, in relationships or with our family and, until someone steps up and inspires us, nothing changes and things continue to deteriorate.

The dysfunction from the top is trickling down. With both the House and Senate in Republican control, the hope is that someone will step up and say “enough”; our place in the world is too important for petulance to rule the day.

We need someone who wants to build bridges, not walls. Someone who will inspire the masses and lead us through the abyss. As an eternal optimist, I believe that person is out there, ready to step up and stem the tide. We need someone who understands that kindness and a hand up are more powerful than the fear of a backhand to the head or a body blow to the stomach.

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In a note sent out by Maine’s Sen. Angus King, he shares an inane headline asking us, his constituents, to consider this no-brainer: “Does educational opportunity matter more than line spacing?”

The senator writes: “When the University of Maine at Presque Isle applied to participate in the Upward Bound program – which helps low-income kids access college – their application was denied by the Department of Education without even being considered. The reason? Two infographics in the 65-page application used 1.5 line spacing instead of the required double spacing.”

“Seriously. The Department of Education has decided a tiny formatting issue matters more than educational opportunity for young people. And because of that decision, there are now hundreds of low-income high school students in rural Aroostook County, Maine, who don’t have this shot at extra support to prepare them for college.”

“This is one of the dumbest decisions I’ve ever seen – a complete joke. That’s why I’ve joined the rest of the Maine congressional delegation to ask Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education to put common sense ahead of bureaucracy and not disqualify these applications. Will you join me?”

King includes a graphic to show the difference between the line spacing used and what was required – it was indistinguishable. He then asks whether we, his constituents, think this meets commonsense principles.

The senator offers his opinion; “I don’t – what I find truly unacceptable is that real kids could be hurt by this decision, denied an opportunity in a way that might impact them for the rest of their lives. It’s exactly the type of nonsensical bureaucratic move that drives people crazy about government – and I won’t stand for it. Let’s come together to stand up for our students – and stand against senseless bureaucracy.”

He asks his constituents to add their name to a petition; add your name, if you like: https://petitions.signforgood.com/king_umpi_linespacing?code=jtk322-core

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Reade Brower can be reached at: reade@freepressonline.com

Disclosure: Reade Brower is owner of these newspapers. The opinions expressed in his columns are his own, and do not represent those of the newspapers, or their editorial boards.