Never has the U.S. Congress been so polarized. It is now almost impossible to pass legislation to improve the state of the nation and its citizens — the parties are more intent on working on self-aggrandizement and the status of their political party. It’s gotten so bad that Sen. Olympia Snowe decided in disgust last month not to run again.

It was not always that way. There was a time when the country came first, not the party. Mainers don’t have to look beyond their state for excellent examples of bipartisanship and cordiality. Sens. Edmund Muskie, a Democrat, and Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican, were good friends who forged major legislation that benefited the nation and Maine.

Later, Republican Sen. William Cohen and Democratic Sen. George Mitchell worked in unison and harmony to sponsor major bills for the common good. The close friends even co-authored a novel. No wonder that President Bill Clinton crossed party lines to appoint Cohen as his secretary of state.

Out-of-state models of mutual respect and common goals also are plentiful. A few examples really stand out. In the 1996 race for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, Republican Gov. William Weld challenged Democratic incumbent John Kerry.

The two moderates agreed to wage a positive campaign based on issues, not personality or party. They even agreed on the financial parameters of their campaigns. The two politicians remained friends after Kerry defeated Weld for the Senate seat.

Also, who can forget President Ronald Reagan’s amicable relationship with House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill? The two Irishmen from opposing parties were known for their good-natured ribbing of each other and their collaboration on major beneficial legislation.

This country should follow the example of these effective and intelligent politicians.

Ross Paradis

Frenchville

I’ve been reading about lexicology and learning how meanings of words can change over time. A living room was once a lounge or parlor, but now those words are associated with alcohol and tattoos.

Last week’s news told me how outdated my vocabulary was. For example, there were once several suitable words for an elected official, who, without a second thought, voted to plunge our country into unnecessary wars that left thousands of crying orphans, widows and amputees in its wake. But in today’s lexicon, this official is called a “moderate.” Both of those wars continue to bankrupt the nation, so the term “fiscal conservative” is sometimes used.

Another example of a modern definition adjustment is the term for a person who has sworn to defend the Constitution, but instead defends the giant corporation that spies on Americans and violates that Constitution. That person, whose self-defense is, “What could they do? The president told them to!”, is now called a “sensible centrist.”

So, in my humble and outdated opinion, just listen to the politicians and accept their media-repeated talking points and you can avoid the steep learning curve that I had.

Carole Whelan

Military Families Speak Out (mfso.org)

Hope

It is indeed a shame that the self-centered, partisan and childish behavior of Washington politicans has caused Sen. Olympia Snowe to decide to walk away.

I admire her for her years of service and her decision not to be part of a problem she cannot solve.

We Mainers can only hope that our other senator, Susan Collins, will follow suit. I believe Collins told us when she first ran she would only be a two-term senator, but now she is in her third term. She has completely ignored my requests for assistance for more than seven years and is, in my opnion, not interested in the problems facing Maine citizens or in resolving the issues in Washington that keep our country in gridlock. The time has come for her to be gone.

I sincerely hope Collins will also decide to walk away at the end of her current term and allow Maine to elect a new senator who cares about Maine and Maine citizens and who will end, rather than participate in, the foolishness running rampant in Washington.

Gary Phillips

Wells

State would be shortsighted to end child care resources

Stop the Department of Health and Human Services from closing Maine’s Child Care Resource Development Centers. Scheduled to close on March 31, Maine’s RDC system has been the glue for the child care industry for almost 30 years.

They’ve helped thousands of Maine’s working parents find child care. Child care providers receive training, education, and local information about the business of child care. RDC staff provide technical assistance that moves providers through the maze of regulations and Maine’s quality-rating system.

All of this is done with the ultimate goal of benefiting children during their most formative years while assuring their parents have peace of mind while they participate in the labor force.

A stable child care system is an essential function of a healthy economy now and for the future work force.

While early childhood education is woefully underfunded, millions of dollars have been invested in Maine’s system, and the system works.

Most of the funding has been federal, since the only money that Maine invests in child care comes from the Fund for Healthy Maine.

When the system is dismantled April 1, DHHS will centralize the referral and information component while Maine Roads to Quality will take over core knowledge training.

Maine’s child care system is fragile. DHHS staff are overburdened already. State government does not have the capacity to do this service well.

I believe this plan is completely short-sighted. While we all expect sacrifice when times are lean, we must be ready for when the economy improves. When that happens, we will need a strong RDC system. Starting from scratch would be more expensive.

Don’t let this administration decimate Maine’s child care system.

Lori Moses

former director of Child Care Connections

Cumberland County Child Care Resource Development Center

Scarborough