Last week’s letter in response to a story about Burlington City Councilor Rachel Siegel offended at least a few readers. Running it was a tough call, but in the end, we decided the views expressed therein perfectly illustrate what Siegel went into politics to fight.
I just got finished reading the Feedback pieces about Rachel Siegel, and I am very disappointed that you printed “The Problem with Siegel” by Ron Ruloff. I understand that you think it’s important to include a variety of perspectives, but is this really the only anti-Siegel response you got? Even if it were, why would you publish something that includes so many myths and misconceptions not only about Siegel but also about several groups of human beings. It’s great you addressed Ruloff’s erroneous claim about the death rate from HIV/AIDS being higher than that from firearms. But you left too many other claims to stand without critique — for example, that queer women hate men; that gay or bisexual men are not “normal” and are of weak character; and that those who work for respectful treatment of the diversity of family forms and identities that we humans come in are teaching people that the traditional family form is “mentally and morally defective.” Then there’s the fact that you printed, without comment, a suggestion to quarantine homosexuals. This is hate speech, Seven Days. It’s clear I disagree with Ron Ruloff, but I do understand why he would write what he did. What I don’t get is why you would print it.
Jacqueline S. Weinstock
On July 31, Seven Days profiled Burlington’s newest city council member, Rachel Siegel [“Leftist, Militant and Queer: Rachel Siegel is Shaking Up the Burlington City Council”]. While the author, Kevin Kelley, outlined Siegel’s accomplishments on the council, the text drew the reader’s attention to Siegel’s personal history: her family composition and sexual identity. Kelley seemed to be saying that identity politics is an adequate platform on which to base municipal policy. Not so. For example, Siegel’s “most significant accomplishment,” an ordinance establishing a protest-free buffer zone around the Planned Parenthood clinic, while well intended, established a dangerous precedent. Protesters can now conceivably be prevented by the city from directly confronting those they protest against if their behavior impedes business-as-usual. Would this principle keep anti-F-35 activists from legally marching on the airport? The mayor’s office? The local redoubts of congressmen Sanders, Leahy and Welch? Hard to say when you create a precedent.
Further, politics-as-identity easily turns political dialogue into assertions and denunciations of “who one is.” Thus in the August 21 issue of Seven Days, a Burlington resident writes to savage Siegel, not for her legislative agenda but as a “hater of men, particularly white men” [Feedback, “The Problem with Siegel”]. He wonders, is she HIV-positive, suggesting she be “quarantined.” No elected official should be subjected to such an ad homonym rant. If she were a private individual, this letter would be slander and cause for a lawsuit. But Seven Days must shoulder some responsibility for inviting this diatribe.
What’s a better way to go? Just this week, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning showed us. While her revelations of government criminality made it possible for us to understand human rights atrocities in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib, she kept the personal “story” of her evolving gender identity out of the discussion until the gavel fell, sadistically and vengefully, sentencing her to 35 years in a military prison.
I don’t know Miss Siegel, and I don’t live in Burlington, but I was disgusted by last week’s Feedback from Ron Ruloff. Shame on Seven Days for printing such a hateful letter.
Ron Ruloff’s letter concerning City Councilor Rachel Siegel is an unfair, nasty and very personal attack on a very good individual. Mr. Ruloff signals that his dislike of Ms. Siegel has its origins in some experience he had in Ann Arbor in the 1960s, where he ran into women who, in his words, “were haters of men, particularly white men.” It needs to be pointed out that this was before Ms. Siegel was born. Nowhere in his letter does Mr. Ruloff indicate that he’s ever even met Ms. Siegel.
I am a heterosexual, white male who has worked closely with Councilor Siegel during the past year on an important issue involving a low-income neighborhood in Burlington. I have felt nothing but respect and encouragement from her. My interactions with Councilor Siegel demonstrate that she is warm, friendly, easy to work with and dedicated to the people of Burlington.
It’s too bad that Mr. Ruloff had an unfortunate experience with some women a half century ago in a city far from here. To tarnish a talented and wonderful young woman who had nothing to do with that experience is the cheapest of cheap shots. Mr. Ruloff ought to be ashamed of himself.
Amy Lilly’s recent article about the “Midcentury Master” — Modernist architect Edward Durell Stone — is itself masterful [“Modern Landmark,” July 31]. Amy’s style, insight and creativity produced a solid article, capturing with respect and grace Stone’s gem of a campus in the scenic hills of Putney, Vermont. I enjoyed reading it and commend your publication for publishing journalism that matters.
Betit is senior vice president of Landmark College.
Charlie Worth His Salt
I have worked with and for Chef Charlie, and he is a true master [“Grilling the Chef,” August 14]. His ability to conceive, create and prepare delicious food is a wonderful experience. I have seen hundreds of people enjoying his many dishes. I was very excited to read the article. We have not heard the last of Chef Charlie.
Brent H. Curtis
Ward is a Winner
My wife and I had the pleasure of being in Vermont for a while last year, and we feel your article accurately depicts Mr. Ward’s fairness and firmness to both sides of the rental equation [“Fix It, Man,” August 21]. Burlington is very lucky to have him.