The Maine Health Access Foundation promotes access to health care, especially for those who are uninsured and underserved, and seeks to improve the health of everyone in Maine. We achieve our mission grounded in a core set of values, including equity, integrity, collaboration, and community engagement. In theory, our country shares a similar guiding set of values and beliefs. Unfortunately, last week’s mob attacks in Washington, DC lay plain that we do not, and perhaps never had, such a common understanding or commitment.
 
The violence in the United States Capitol was a call to understand what happened and why. This was not an unanticipated event.  More and more, disinformation designed to stoke hatred, violence, and white supremacy swirl together in a toxic mix that polarizes people and builds walls between communities. All of this has rightly resulted in anger and driven calls for immediate action to bring those accountable to justice, and for long-term change. We condemn the actions and add our voice to those calls.
 
The armed attacks were a stark example of the deeply entrenched systemic racism and social divisions in this country. These long-standing divisions have caused deep disparities in health status, and continue to prove deadly on a daily basis within the context of the current pandemic, just as they have in the past in ways too often unseen or ignored. Seeing these divides can make it feel like the forces behind them are too big to overcome. They are not. We can and must build a common understanding of and commitment to truth and act from this basis.
 
We have learned over time that we achieve MeHAF’s mission by grounding our work in anti-racism and understanding of the experiences of those who have been actively disenfranchised and disempowered in this country. We are committed to continue on our path of bringing diverse voices and viewpoints into the leadership of our organization and ensuring they guide our work. 
 
Meeting our mission also depends on effective functioning of government at all levels, to ensure the policies and funding that support health and access to care are strong and equitable. We frame our work and take actions based on community-informed data, and support the responsible sharing of information with others to support their decision-making. We believe governments and leaders at all levels should do the same, and must be held accountable to doing their job in a manner that is equitable, transparent, inclusive, responsible, and based in facts. 
 
As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 18, we may consider his words. In an April 1960 address at Spellman College, Dr. King said, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving.” In his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, he declared, “. . .violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers . . .”  and further, “. . .unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
 
Let us all take his words to heart as we step forward – as we must.