Letters to the Editor (2/16/22) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (2/16/22)


Published February 16, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.

'Exceptionally Fine Article'

That was an exceptionally fine article on the journey of Nicholas Languerand into extremism ["Capitol Offense," February 2]. And also very disturbing.

John Thanassi

South Burlington

'Shame' on Seven Days

As a Black woman, retired at 65 and living happily in Vermont, I am appalled by the article that you chose to run regarding Nicholas Languerand and his "quest for 'belonging'" ["Capitol Offense," February 2].

I listened to the defense of the article offered by your two reporters, Derek Brouwer and Colin Flanders, in a "Vermont Edition" episode on Vermont Public Radio. Sadly, these men seem to be conflating free speech and representing all sides with what they have done. What they have done is given a platform to a disturbed, racist young man who asked them for the interview. As if that weren't enough, your newspaper decided to feature Nicholas' angelic face on the cover. Such a nice-looking boy. This is the subtlety of institutional racism. He looks just like "the average Vermonter."

And I don't.

So I don't appreciate your contributing to the racism/simple ignorance of difference that I must fight here daily. Would your readers like to listen to good reporting on who is who in rural Vermont? Try Erica Heilman's excellent story on VPR featuring another white Vermont male: "Finn and the Bell."

Now I use the only power that I have in this system, which is to boycott your newspaper. Meaning, not read it anymore. Such a shame. Yes, shame on you for giving so much space to this, simply to attract more readers.

Opeyemi Parham


Eye-Opening Coverage

Just like a pair of cheap leggings, media coverage is not one-size-fits-all. That some folks feel that telling Nicholas Languerand's story ["Capitol Offense," February 2] is glamorizing his misbehavior is an example. It's a narrower view than I hold.

Had Seven Days not published his story, I'd never have learned of him and his exploits. It's not that I don't access other media; it's that I'm overwhelmed by coverage in the other media. My home-state paper made a national issue accessible and did so without sensationalism — or a paywall. Nor did I encounter a slew of snarky readers' online comments, which illustrate perfectly the uninformed outrage so many harbor. That's the aspect of media coverage we don't need.

This kind of long-form journalism flies in the face of many folks' information sourcing (i.e., sound-bite/clickbait flashes across a mini screen). Long-form journalism is the granola to Google News' cotton candy.

Fortunately for us, Seven Days keeps giving us something to chew on, without forcing it down our throats.

Tricia Chatary



I find it ironic that in the February 1 edition of the Daily 7, the article about the Burlington City Council vote to not certify Jon Murad as police chief has a crawler across the top declaring "City Market, celebrating 20 years of cooperation in downtown Burlington."

Perhaps a message to all of us.

Pat Burns


Music Man

[Re WTF: "Why Do Local Radio Stations Play the Same Songs Over and Over?" February 2]: I think that the author hasn't heard the station I program.

An introduction: I'm Zeb Norris. I've been doing radio since 1976, including at WNCS and WCVT here in Vermont since 2005. Like most people I know in radio, I got into the business because I love music. I consider myself to be on the side of music fans.

These days, I do mornings on and program 101.7 WCVT Classic Hits Vermont. We play four to five times as many songs as a typical classic hits station. I pick the music, sometimes on the fly. The other morning, I played Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen" directly into Janis Ian's "Society's Child" just because they're great songs and the organ at the end of each reminds me of the other.

So that's my station. Then there are community stations like the Radiator, college stations like WRUV and WWVP, and internet station WBKM, whose programming is even looser. I guess the WTF question is really based on a false premise: that all radio stations flog their libraries to death. Some do; some don't. If you're bored, try something else!

Finally, Seven Days and local commercial radio stations compete for the same advertisers. Failure to disclose that simple fact in articles claiming that radio is badly programmed and losing audience is a rather obvious ethical failure.

I'm always happy to discuss music and radio programming: znorris@radiovermont.com.

Zeb Norris


Play It Again, Händel

[WTF: "Why Do Local Radio Stations Play the Same Songs Over and Over?" February 2] sure rings a bell ad nauseam, but it's not just in the arena of popular music. If I hear once more Sergei Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, Georges Bizet's first symphony or Gabriel Fauré's Masque et Bergamasque (all music that I love), I don't know what I'll do — certainly not contribute.

Do you only have 20 discs? And what about the pronunciation of foreign names? The latest gem was "George" Frideric Händel — with umlaut. Since he lived in Germany and England, respectively, Georg should be his first name, and the last should sound like "Hendel." The English side would be George Frideric Handel ("handle"), but to meld the two isn't right.

Tom MacDonald 


Moral Obligation to Kids

[Re "Learning, Interrupted," February 2]: It is horrifying to read about the plight of Vermont kids with special needs who have been abandoned by their schools and communities because it's become "just too hard" to meet their needs. My heart aches for them and their families. Where are our lawmakers in this? Are districts allowed to simply say, "Sorry, we give up"? What about those piles of federal grant money? Is the Agency of Education content with this? Secretary Dan French? The Department for Children and Families? The teachers' unions? Gov. Phil Scott? Hello?!

Our first obligation is a moral one to these children, who are entitled to an education and fulfilling lives just like everyone else. Of course, the school districts also have a financial obligation to the taxpayers who might start to wonder what they're paying for, if not to meet the needs of all Vermont children, especially the most vulnerable.

Brianne Goodspeed


Dark Side of School

While ["Learning, Interrupted," February 2] shows the heartbreaking reality for parents of special-needs children, it fails to show the other side of the story: the terribly broken educational system. If parents actually understood the reality of a typical day, they would be mortified. Having been a paraeducator myself, I can honestly tell you that it was one of the most challenging and mentally exhausting jobs I have ever had. A typical day would include anything from being covered in feces to getting screamed at, punched, kicked, bitten and spit on — for a paycheck that one could get from working at any fast-food joint.

However, that's only part of the problem. The truth is that with "inclusive education," everyone loses: the kiddos in the classroom who are trying to learn while pretending that they are not hearing or noticing a screaming kiddo tearing at the walls and throwing whatever they can get their hands on; the teacher trying their best to conduct a normal lesson and pretending that everything is fine, with all the other stressors that we've put upon our teachers; and, most importantly in this context, the special-needs kiddo who is expected to be and behave in a way that is beyond their capacity.

A better solution would be to allow for inclusion to happen a few times per week for a much shorter span, with special classrooms for those with severe disabilities. Unpopular but true.

Kashka Orlow


Satisfying Take

Thank you so much for the incredibly well written and nuanced "Hunger Gains" cover story [January 26]. I really appreciate how Seven Days food writer Melissa Pasanen understood that the common theme connecting all the different programs and new experiments profiled in the article is the issue of stigma, as well as her understanding of the efforts of all of us fighting hunger to create programs that leave participants with an experience of dignity and worth as members of our Vermont community.

She really got the essence of what all of us who work in the anti-hunger space are seeing and struggling with — two years into the COVID-19 pandemic and many decades into the hunger crisis in this country.

This story made a real contribution to raising awareness about hunger in Vermont and why we need new kinds of responses.

Anore Horton


Horton is the executive director of Hunger Free Vermont.

NOFA-VT Responds

Thank you for your cover story about some of the innovative programs ensuring that Vermonters are fed ["Hunger Gains," January 26]!

In addition to those you mentioned, I want to highlight some additional opportunities that fight hunger while supporting local farmers. Investing in programs that support food security and simultaneously bolster our local agricultural economy is key to building a food system that will be more just and resilient in the face of future disruptions.

• Farm Share: Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont subsidizes the cost of CSAs from local farms for limited-income Vermonters. It's a win-win: Farms receive full value for their food while more people have access to fresh, local food all season. Applications are open at nofavt.org/farmshare.

• Crop Cash: When farmers market shoppers use 3SquaresVT or SNAP benefits, NOFA-VT provides a match in Crop Cash to spend on local fruits and vegetables, seeds and starts. Through the end of April, folks get $20 Crop Cash for every $10 in benefits spent. Learn more at nofavt.org/cropcash.

• Local Foods Incentive: Last June, the legislature passed and Gov. Phil Scott enacted Act 67, creating a grant program that incentivizes Vermont schools to buy more local food. In the first year of the program, demand has already reached the $500,000 allocated. Tell your legislators that you want their continued support of this important program!

Helen Rortvedt


Rortvedt is the farm-to-school and food access programs director for NOFA-VT.

Unfair to Victim

[Re "Sentence Served? Prosecutor Sarah George Offers Chance at Parole to Man Who Murdered His Wife in 1993," January 26]: As a former victim advocate for the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office and also the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations, I agree with Sarah George that a defendant's taking full responsibility for his acts and taking steps to rehabilitate himself are factors that should be considered in some cases. But those principles do not apply in Gregory Fitzgerald's case.

First, Fitzgerald availed himself of his right to a trial by jury of his peers and was convicted of aggravated murder. The legislature set the penalty for this conviction as life without parole, which was the sentence imposed. Second, throughout the trial process and after his conviction, Fitzgerald expressed no remorse for his acts. His recent expression of remorse in exchange for the reduction of his sentence is not to be believed and is not a basis for leniency.

Most crucially, George failed to fully involve the victim's family in her plan to reduce the defendant's sentence. George's decision to impose her politics in place of the penalty imposed by law was wrong. Crime victims have rights, too. George failed to protect the victim's rights in this case and similarly failed to protect public safety.

Therese Surdek


Supporting House

[Re "Power Struggle: Control of the Burlington City Council Likely Hinges on One Race: Ward 8," February 9]: I know Ali House well, as she has been my student and also served as my teaching assistant in a number of social work courses at the University of Vermont. She is a person of great integrity and brings a wonderful positive energy that would be so beneficial to our city and to the work of the Burlington City Council. She holds a deep commitment to issues of equity and social justice. Her work as a social worker and educator has given her deep, firsthand awareness about many of the most pressing issues in our community. I believe that her compassion, kindness, respectful curiosity about people's lives, bravery and humility are just what our city government needs right now. I am excited about her candidacy to represent Ward 8 and encourage you to learn more about her ideas and priorities.

Celia Cuddy


Nothing 'Progressive' About Sex Work

[Re "Bawdy Brouhaha: A Proposed Tweak to Burlington's Charter Sparks Impassioned Debate Over Sex Work," February 2]: Were it not disturbing, it would be funny how progressives champion white men, mostly at the expense of women and girls. In attempting to loosen laws against prostitution, progressives are taking the very stance that most empowers men — and since we live in one of the whitest states, that means empowering, in particular, white men. The number of women who buy sex is pretty close to zero. While progressives want to eliminate all sorts of dirty and dangerous jobs, for some reason when it comes to prostitution, progressives instead pursue that age-old goal of making it easier for men to get sex.

Burlington City Councilor Perri Freeman implies that religious groups against exploitation must be bad because, well, they're religious. Here the "progressive" resembles Fox News commentators, who naturally oppose anything the other team says. It is simplistic tribalism: taking stances solely because you think that your tribe believes it — or worse, only taking stances that are opposite of what perceived enemies believe. In that regard, color-by-number progressives resemble former president Donald Trump and Fox News.

Pew Research Center surveys show that progressives are mostly white. Although progressives believe that they speak for women and people of color, on average women are much more religious than men. Black people are by far the most religious — and most Christian — in the U.S. According to Pew, about the least likely people to be religious are white men. Living in their echo chamber, progressives both flippantly dismiss religious people's concerns and have incorrect perceptions of who religious people actually are.

Peter Dubrul