One of Vermont's big pluses is the almost total absence here of the lunatic fringe. We're lucky. We still have to import organized sickos from other states. The next batch, due to arrive Tuesday morning, is dropping in from Kansas, and this collection of twisted minds is bringing along a twister full of hate.
The folks from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka have scheduled an early-morning 90-minute protest in front of the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier. According to a July 23 letter sent to Tom Torti, state buildings commissioner, 10 members of the church "would like to stand peacefully on the sidewalk outside the State Capitol from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. with signs that are intended to warn/remind this generation of the judgment of God relating to, the promotion of homosexuality, heaven, hell and eternity."
Why Vermont? Why now?
The pending Vermont Supreme Court decision on gay marriage is the hook. The crackpot Kansas Christians just want to get their licks in early. Church spokesman Shirley L. Phelps-Roper, an attorney and mother of 10, tells Inside Track about 10 church members will 'show up on the sidewalk in front of the Statehouse Tuesday' morning. Since they appreciate we live in a sound bite" age, says Shirley, they’ll carry signs with snappy little sound bites like “God Hates Fags" and other catchy slogans.
A check of their lovely Web site — www.godhatesfags.com — indicates these scripture quoting wack-jobs have also picketed “filthy British fag Elton John,” “pervert Maya Angelou,” “pro-gay Jesse Jackson” and “Desmond Tutu, the archbishop of Sodom.” They also claim the recent death of John F. Kennedy Jr. was God’s retribution for the “Kennedy clan’s promotion of the filthy fag agenda.”
Yes, indeed, we’re talking about rare specimens.
The question is, what is the appropriate Vermont response to next Tuesday’s protest by the Kansas Legion of Hate?
Well, we could all just ignore ‘em. ‘Course the TV cameras will be there and they’ll be doing their thing, spouting their spew on the evening news.
It might be nice if, say, a few hundred Vermonters showed up Tuesday morning to welcome them to Montpelier. After all, we are known for our hospitality. Imagine a Vermont delegation standing in silent vigil alongside the Kansas Christians just to let them know their message is ugly, sickening and abhorrent to Vermont’s values and always will be.
Or maybe, a sizable gathering of Vermonters could politely surround the visiting religious fanatics, turn their backs on them and, on the count of three, drop trou! That way, we could show the hate squad from Topeka just what “moon” light in Vermont really looks like.
Here in Vermont you don’t have to be a churchgoer or a scripture quoter to know that God doesn't hate fags. No, no, no, no.
She hates hate.
Black & Blue — When two dozen middle-aged, middle-class baby boomer technicians and engineers from IBM line up in front of the TV cameras with Vermont's Independent Socialist Congressman Bernie Sanders, you know the world has changed.
And when you hear veteran IBMers describe the new pension plan that CEO Lou Gerstner just shoved down their throats in terms of Corporate America's greedy strategy to stick it to the middle class, you know Ol' Bernardo's message of 30 years is really sinking in.
When asked why they were lining up with Sanders instead of Sen. Jim Jeffords, the chairman of the senate committee that handles pension issues, they replied almost in unison, "We did contact Jeffords, but he didn't reply." Busy guy, that Jeezum Jim.
And in this week's edition of Roll Call (www.rollcall.com), Sanders and Jeffords battle it out head-to-head in competing op-ed articles on the pension issue. An email making the rounds in IBM land takes note of the two very different approaches they take. Bernie understands. Jeffords sounds clueless.
The Legend Plays Vermont — Interviewing Jack Nicklaus, the Jack Nicklaus, Sunday at Vermont National — the golf course, not the bank —ranks at the top of our all-time list of world-famous encounters. Right up t ere with an audience with John XXIII.
Nicklaus’ company designed the new links and he blew in to play a round before the local aristocracy. He missed the British Open due to his hip replacement, but would have given anything to be there. The Legend just rolled his eyes when asked about how the Frenchman kept reaching for the driver on the tee — despite the world’s narrowest fairways. He said he loved hearing the whining about the rough being “too tall” and the fairways “too narrow.” Mentally those complainers, Jack said, had only taken themselves out of the competition. If The Legend has proved one thing about golf, it is that despite the elements of fairway and rough, sand and water, golf is primarily a game played between one’s ears.
Author, Author! — The king of Vermont political pundits of the 1980s hit it big Sunday. Garrison Nelson, UVM political science professor who now works in Boston, is writing a biography of House Speaker John McCormack. Sunday’s Boston Globe featured a preview blowout by Garrison in the Focus section unlocking “the McCormack riddle” and breaking the bad news that the legendary speaker had boldly lied about his past from the get-go. Way to go, Garrison! The Professor anticipates returning to the lecture halls of Groovy UV in January.
Déjà Vu? — Vermont Public Radio is cracking down on pornography in their workplace. According to a memo that went into employee mailboxes Friday, management has learned some employees have been doing a little X-rated Web surfing lately. VPR Vice President Cindy Shuman writes, “During the past two weeks we have experienced a number of instances of company computers being used to visit pornographic Web sites. Such behavior is in direct violation of company policies.” She notes in underlined, bold letters that anyone caught in the act faces "immediate discipline — up to and including termination."
Wow! Sounds like a policy change to us. You may remember Inside Track's exposé two summers ago on the X-rated computer use by the station's director of development. At the time, he was on probation for buggering teenage boys. The gent wasn't fired at the time. Far from it. Then VPR board chairman Susan Crampton praised the chap as an "outstanding employee." In fact, the station's response back then was to bring in a shrink to counsel VPR staff members who objected to working with a convicted child molester caught viewing child pornography in his office.
All things considered, it sounds like VPR has learned a lesson. The hard way.
Deadman's Corner Update — Kudos to Burlap's Parks and Rec Department for taking swift action to remove a severe bike path safety hazard. "Deadman's Corner," described here last week in painful detail, exists no more. The dangerous, blind S-curve was defoliated shortly after Seven Days hit the street. Now you can see 'em coming. Whew! It makes all the difference.