Thank you, thank you, for publishing the story about Peter Freyne and the wonderful people at Speeder’s [“Friends of Freyne,” December 24]. It warms my heart to think there are people out in our community who put themselves out for others. When it is really cold, I think about moving to a warmer climate, but where would I go? Vermont is such a wonderful place, and I am blessed to live here with people like Paula Sperry and Marie Claire who really care.
KAREN IS NOT BURMESE
After reading that the “Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program began resettling three new groups in the Burlington area” — Bhutanese, Burmese, Iraqi — in Ken Picard’s article on the Iraqi refugees [“Exiles on North Street,” December 10], I felt it necessary to write on behalf of the refugee family I have been assigned to as a volunteer with VRRP. Ethnically and culturally, they belong to none of these three groups.
In fact, they are Karen; and although their home lies on the Myanmar (Burma) side of the unclearly marked Thailand border, they are a distinct ethnic group — as different from the Burmese as the Tibetans are from the Chinese.
After being told by the program that they were Burmese, a member of the family informed me, “We speak Burmese . . . only little bit.” The only language they can read and write is Karen. Though I realize how in the U.S. we tend to label people based on the nation they come from, it is incorrect and unfair to label the Karen as “Burmese.” This is not just an issue of language, but of identity.
While I was with a 12-year-old Karen girl at Edmunds Middle School recently, a teacher asked her, “Where are you from? Bhutanese? Burmese? Iraqi?” Shyly, she responded, “Karen.” None of the three school officials and teachers who had been helping the girl over the past few weeks had any clue what the word meant. The Burmese military junta has already tried to alienate her into obscurity. For now, it seems, they have succeeded.
I know of at least eight other Karen families that have been resettled in Burlington, though I would guess there are more. To learn about the Karen struggle, check www.tbbc.org and www.drumpublications.org. In the case of both the Karen and Iraqi refugees, I believe the key to providing better help lies, first and foremost, in a community-based effort to really understand where they are coming from.
Is it just me, or in his yearly wrap-up of the movies [“At the Movies,” December 24], did Rick Kisonak pick out a movie for “Most Annoying Performance” that he freely admits to having never seen? It seems like it would have been easier to just pick some bad acting you had actually witnessed. How hard can it be for a movie reviewer to hold off on reviewing movies he hasn’t bothered to watch?
Rick Kisonak responds: Like most people, I know a piece of crap when I don’t see it. Nobody had to buy a ticket to Bangkok Dangerous to know it reeked; you could smell it a mile away. (The film ultimately earned a bottom-of-the-barrel Metacritic score of just 24 and an almost unprecedented low 9 percent favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes). And besides, I made perfectly clear my annoyance stemmed from Cage’s consistent squandering of his talent in exchange for an easy paycheck, and not from the movie itself. The category was “Most Annoying Performance,” and I was annoyed that an actor of his caliber would insist on wasting his time performing in pictures so obviously unworthy of him. You don’t need to see Gigli or Pluto Nash to know the talent involved could have made better use of their time. And ours.
If you don’t get paid, are you still selling out? That was my question after reading “‘America’s Army Storms Winooski” [Local Matters, December 24] about Champlain College’s software development work for the Army’s popular first-person shooter recruiting game. I was struck that “EMC got no financial compensation for its Army work.” Champlain College, you’re doing it wrong. After all, look how much [other companies are] making in Iraq, despite shoddy work that has electrocuted and poisoned U.S. soldiers. And what about General Electric, Lockheed Martin and others making billions protecting “our interests” in Iraq? After all, their products end up vaporized if they’re used correctly. Sure, software, too, is ephemeral, but at least the same product will be reused thousands of times, luring kids who can’t afford a Champlain education into a career some will have for the rest of their (short) lives.
How lucky that Peter has friends like you [“Friends of Freyne,” December 24]. He is a truly good guy who has never taken the safe path. Running into him at the Statehouse, on Church Street, or some political event, he had that devilish gleam in his eye and a smile. I hope his recovery is swift, and that he is back to writing whatever he damn well pleases soon. “No man is an island,” Peter. You are missed.
A REFUGEE’S VIEW
I read your article on the Iraqi refugees with great interest [“Exiles on North Street,” December 10]. As someone who has moved to Vermont from New York, I found it shocking and scary that Vermont offers help to refugees but little in the way of a helping hand to its own people. While my heart goes out to the refugees, Vermont is certainly not the place to resettle them. Good jobs are scarce in Vermont, and factory jobs for the ordinary citizen are nonexistent. Civil-service work pays next to nothing here, but the cost of living is very similar to New York. Apartments and housing are similar in cost to New York as well as the cost of food, which in some cases is significantly more expensive than New York. I was shocked to note the abundance of minimum-wage jobs and the scarcity of decent-paying work for the average Vermonter. Good medical care is hard to find as well . . . All in all, I was shocked at the conditions and lack of opportunity that most Vermonters seem to take for granted.
I want to thank Seven Days for the lovely article about my store Sweet Cecily in Middlebury [LocalStore, December 17]. It’s been a few years since I have been able to afford much advertising, and, when I was contacted by the paper, I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled. Both the photographer and the writer who came were wonderful and reflect well on those who work at the paper. I don’t know what any of us in Vermont would do without Seven Days; it is such an integral part of the Vermont scene.
So, thanks to all for the amazing feature — so many people came in this season and mentioned it. Best to all in 2009, a year I hope we can collectively learn to love ourselves and our nation again!
I think the best way to cut expenses in Montpelier is to cut the salaries of the legislators [“Fair Game,” December 24]. Everyone else is tightening their belts, and they should, too! Also, no overtime. If they can’t get done what needs to be done in the allotted time, it doesn’t get done!
CORRECTION: In Suzanne Podhaizer’s December 17 “Side Dishes” column, we reported that Junior’s restaurant was responsible for a senior holiday dinner at Burlington High School. This was incorrect. Although Junior’s did put on a special meal for area seniors at Meñores, the one at BHS was orchestrated by local artist Meghan Humphrey.