Kudos to Margaret Grayson for writing about the impact of the pandemic on chronically ill people ["High Stakes," June 17]! Chronic illness frequently means invisibility, and fighting to be heard is hard — especially when you have very limited energy, as most of us do. Grayson did a great job of amplifying our voices and sharing complex stories and issues in very few words.
I want to clarify some of my comments that were shared in the article. I do receive EBT (food stamp) benefits. The original article stated that I also run a "profitable" life-coaching business. Put those two statements together, and you might think I was scamming the system! There is a lot of information missing, though.
I've been working toward getting off Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, which is really going against a system that is designed to keep people trapped. It should be simple to get off disability, but it's next to impossible. I receive food stamps because I'm a participant in a Social Security program called PASS — Plan to Achieve Self-Support. It requires more documentation than you can imagine. It's even more convoluted because I must use multiple different work incentive programs to achieve my goal, each requiring a whole different set of documentation (under close government scrutiny).
My business can't support me yet, and what I'm doing is the opposite of scamming the system. I'm actually doing all I can to become completely self-sufficient and to end my reliance on government benefits.
Next Down: Ethan Allen?
[Re Off Message: "Burlington Council Passes Mask Mandate, Orders Controversial Mural Removed," May 19]: Perhaps now is the time to retire Ethan Allen from the steps of the Statehouse. Most Vermont history paints him as a patriot and founding father. What he and his brother Ira found were communities: villages of Abenaki living along the rivers, fishing, farming the land, hunting the forests and joining in confederacy with other Indigenous nations to preserve sovereignty over it.
Well, how do we think the Allen bros acquired real estate and declared Vermont Indian-free? Why, they went to the Continental Congress and swore there were none living in Vermont; they had all gone away or died of disease. To avoid extermination after seeing the damage the invaders could render, the Abenaki hid in plain sight in caves, in swamps and deep in the woods. Both of the brothers would benefit from the genocide of Abenaki, if not directly participate in it.
It's all good to kick Christopher Columbus off his pedestal and raise flags against injustice and racism, but the very heart of racism in this state lies in the breast of the European invasion and ensuing colonizers. Ethan Allen is a symbol of the wrongs done to Abenaki who never ceded land, abandoned it nor were conquered — the three criteria for transfer of property in 1776.
Perhaps his statue could be moved to the entrance of the Ethan Allen Homestead or the entrance of the Vermont Air National Guard — the so-called "Green Mountain Boys," named after Rogers' Raiders, who carried out the Abenaki massacres at Odanak.
COVID-19 has brought home a deeper crisis and an opportunity ["How Can We Help You?" June 10]. Unfortunately, our contemporary sensibility tends to focus on crisis as a pathology that needs to be cured or denied. The word itself comes from the Greek, krisis, "turning point," from krinein, "to separate, decide." We now have an opportunity to turn and to decide on how we want to live differently.
The great turning, to borrow a phrase, can be summed up neatly: a turn from the "I" to the "we," from power-over to power-with, to mutuality. Most of us, whether we realize it or not, operate within power-over, of individual empowerment in competition with others. We might be friends and neighbors, but we are not communities. In order for us to wake up to who and what we are as human beings, this must be honestly faced and frankly admitted.
What this means is that we have a choice: Go back to the status quo of us versus others, of participating in an economic game that destroys the fabric of community and the ecological foundations of our well-being and the well-being of all life; or transition to a just, ecologically sustainable planetary society.
The idea of a unified humanity, rich in its wondrous diversity and pregnant with the promise of unleashing its immense creativity, is before us like never before. I am not hopeful that we will ever reach this humanity. But we can at least speak it. We can at least try to hear the call.
Keep It Civil
Gordon Spencer's personal, mean-spirited and inaccurate attack on Katherine Sims and Craftsbury [Feedback: "Trust-Fund Candidate?" June 17] did not have the reasonable tone I think of Vermonters as having when they air their differences. I hope we can all be civil during this long election season.
Words Aren't Enough
[Re Advertisement: "Burlington Businesses Support Black Lives," June 10]: What great sentiments Tom Torti and Kelly Devine express about the commitment of their member businesses to equal treatment: "equal justice" "respect" and "opportunity for all people" in the case of Torti of Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the need for justice to create a "vibrant economy," as Devine, director of the Burlington Business Association, put it.
How easy the words are compared to actual change. I'd challenge both of them and their organizations to take an anonymous poll of members that would include these questions: How often have your staff members followed people of color around your store? How many times have potential customers of color waited longer than white customers to be waited on? What have you done or will you do to change disdainful attitudes among your staff toward potential Black or brown customers regardless of cultural differences in dress or manner? How many Black and brown staffers work for you? How many business owners of color are among your members?
When you release the anonymous answers, we'll see how real those fine words are and how strong that commitment to equality and justice for all really is.
Or maybe not: Given the outpouring against law enforcement murders of Black people, even some white conservatives can see what they need to say.
I find it unbelievable that your paper continues not to allow readers to comment on articles, with all that is happening today, both locally, statewide and nationally. Not the publication you once were.
Editor's note: Seven Days discontinued commenting on its stories in April, prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating reader feedback online.
No 'Defense' for F-35s
[Re Off Message: "Data Show Vermont Air Guard F-35 Flights Spiked in April," April 24; Feedback: "The $116 Million Question," May 6]: I am glad that someone finally brought up the issue of what these F-35 aircraft cost. Each one costs approximately $100 million, give or take a few cool million. The cost of each and every training flight is about 40 grand per flight.
To all of you patriotic Americans who think these F-35s are actually necessary, I have to ask the following question: What about defense of our economy? What role do these aircraft actually play in defending our country? At the same time we splurge on these aircraft in the name of "defense," we are told that we don't have enough money for everything else that we actually need. America is the poorest rich country in the world, and I believe this is a big part of the problem. Ask questions; it's good for your health.
[Re Off Message: "UVM Details Plan to Resume In-Person Classes This Fall," June 15]: The University of Vermont's plan to bring students back this fall is ill advised and possibly catastrophic. A psychologist writing in the June 15 New York Times points to research showing that 18- to 24-year-olds are the most likely segment of the population to engage in risky behavior and that it may not be such a good idea to flood the community with thousands of them returning en masse to college campuses this fall.
This is a case in which social science research corroborates common sense and experience. Especially considering that the much-feared "second wave" is expected to strike in the autumn, it is a very poor choice to "reopen" the university for on-campus education while tools requiring self-discipline and a careful weighing of risks — namely social distancing, mask wearing and handwashing — remain our only effective means of coping with a deadly pandemic.
Concentrated populations of college students, however well meaning, cannot be trusted to maintain the social discipline needed to maintain these controls. A realistic, adult assessment of risk should lead UVM officials to conclude that they can best serve the community by persevering with distance learning for the time being, until effective medical treatments and a vaccine are in place. Otherwise, they are playing dice with Vermonters' health in a casino owned by the coronavirus. And, as we all know, the house always wins.
You have so portrayed the members who said no as villains against Juneteenth [Off Message: "VT House Republicans Decry Reference to 'Racist' Trump Tweets in Juneteenth Resolution," June 19]. You couldn't have been more wrong.
I am so totally not a racist. I have biracial grandchildren that I love dearly and worry every day when they head out of their home if they are going to be a target.
But just because the Dems want to pass a resolution to call out the president as a racist and our police force to be cut to nothing is totally pathetic. God only knows when any one of them may need the police in an emergency. Sorry, 911 is off police duty today...
That was totally a political venture in the House last Friday. They should be ashamed using today's movements to further their agendas. So sad for the people of Vermont. We will recess Friday and return August 25 ... More to come, I am sure.
Martel (R-Waterford), a rep from Caledonia County, voted against the resolution.
We got a lot of feedback on last week's Off Message news story "Trio With Confederate Flag Interrupts Anti-Racism Rally in Craftsbury" [June 16]. Author Sasha Goldstein did not attend the event but used provided video footage to write about how it was disrupted by some guys displaying the Confederate flag. Many of the protesters felt the story misrepresented their gathering, which was otherwise peaceful and hopeful.
A minuscule Vermont town that is 99 percent white held an awesome event, on its iconic country green, surrounded by white picket fences and white houses in celebration and recognition of Black Lives Matter. But, with no more content than "he said, she said" or any consideration for the larger issues playing out in the United States, the article reduced the event to a sideshow that was reflective of something that might be featured in the National Enquirer.
In a town of 1,200, 200 showed up, three people counterprotested, and 997 were not present. This makes me ask, where were the other 997? At home because of the virus? Supportive from a distance? Did they choose to remain silent or have valid concerns for being afraid of conflict? (I was not asked any of these questions, but rather if I went to school with the counterprotester.) There was an opportunity to examine the differences and similarities between the protests in New York City and the one here in Craftsbury — the challenges and successes the city has had, versus a country town that does not have a police force. Opportunity missed.
P.S. Let it be noted that there was nothing "harmless" in that situation or any situation that threatens, scares or targets a race of people, whether or not you grew up here.
The headline should read: "Large Craftsbury Anti-Racist Rally Goes Ahead Despite Disruption." The headline shouldn't mention the guys with the Confederate flag. Further, it was in extremely poor taste to print a picture of the driver and flag. You gave the flaggers more importance than the rally and undercut the attendees' message. Quotes from the flaggers are sufficient. Headlines and pictures give them too much attention.
That the flagger doesn't understand how he could scare people illustrates the need for communication on both sides. This is a perfect example of when someone with proper de-escalation techniques could've intervened, because the protesters or the flaggers could've been hurt.
I was deeply saddened to see a Confederate flag used to disrupt an anti-racism rally in Craftsbury. It got me thinking about something I'd noticed before but not thought much about: As I've driven around the state, I've certainly spotted the flag flying several times. This leads me to my question: Why do Vermonters fly that flag?
The Green Mountain Boys mustered for the Civil War (which started, in the words of the founders of the Confederacy, explicitly for their continued ability to keep Black people as slaves). Many Vermonters fought in the Union Army — in fact, Vermont regiments were credited with stopping Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. Many towns in Vermont even have memorials dedicated to those who served!
Beyond that, the flag commonly associated as the flag of the Confederacy is not actually the original flag of the Confederacy — it's a niche battle flag that was flown by Robert E. Lee's troops that only became popular after states started flying it in support of segregation laws. Setting aside that the Confederate States of America existed for a mere five years, that flag has been associated with untold suffering and the denial of human rights for its entire existence.
Which brings me back to my question: When our armed forces branches are banning the flag and considering renaming bases named for Confederate officers, and it's no longer welcome at NASCAR, can we assert it has no place in our state?
Perhaps because Seven Days writer Sasha Goldstein was not at the Craftsbury Black Lives Matter rally, he wrote a piece that misses the most important point! That it was a worthwhile examination of Black Lives Matter issues, not a couple of wing nuts. I was there from 5 to 6:10 p.m., when it seemed to be winding down. Many people had made statements from the gazebo. I did not feel completely safe from COVID-19, so I left. There were careful handmade signs by kids, teens, adults and grandparents. For example: "No Justice — No Peace," "Black Lives Matter," "Only White People Can End Racism" and "All Lives Can Not Matter Until Black Lives Matter."
I have been going to demonstrations since 1963, when I went to the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I Have a Dream" speech. This Vermont one was inspiring in its own way. I did not see police; there was no tear gas, no flag of the people who fought the Civil War because they did not want their enslaved people set free. There were some signs about ending police brutality. Everyone practiced social distancing and wore masks. The Confederate flag you write about must have happened later. It was not the main happening. I did see the "Small Dicks Matter" smart alecks.
I am disappointed that Seven Days, such an excellent paper, chose to focus on and even use the name of one person there to make a ruckus — and not talk about the rest. I think that was shallow.