Attitude is Everything
This is not an easy letter to write.
I am responding to the question posed in the article “Minority Rule” [November 11] regarding the percentage of African American men in the Department of Corrections and whether or not racial profiling has anything to do with it. I was born in Vermont and was brought up to believe in the equality of race, gender, culture, etc. I see in the ever-growing number of minority faces in the news for various crimes in Vermont a disturbing issue that needs to be addressed by those who would be leaders in the minority community, namely the “gangsta” mentality that has arrived along with the influx of African Americans in Vermont. There seems to be a bit of racial profiling in reverse going on, and it is uncomfortable at the least. I hope those who want minorities to be accepted and included in Vermont also realize that a big-city, “in-your-face” attitude does not endear them to the Vermonters who had no part in the creation of their attitudes.
[Re: “Segway Tours Seeks a ‘Roll’ in Burlington,” November 11 and “Segway Supporters Turn out for Bike Path Hearing,” Blurt, November 18]: My wife and I recently visited Richmond, Va. We took a tour of historic Richmond on Segways. There were only six of us that morning, and we found it to be well organized. Our guide was great, and we’d do it again given the opportunity. The way Burlington is laid out, this would be a great addition to the community and tourism along the waterfront. We had no problem as beginners taking steep hills or navigating crosswalks with pedestrians and traffic. Helmets are worn, and we were able to practice before heading out on the streets of the city. These machines are very easy to navigate once you understand how they function.
What a great idea! I hope this comes to fruition!
“Sword Play” Wounds
[In her “Sword Play” article, published on November 4, writer Lauren Ober wrote]: “Half of us are flinging our swords around like spazzes...” Try replacing that last word with any epithet of your choice. Does it offend? Sure offended me. Try looking up the word “spastic” in the dictionary. Try meeting a person with spasticity in her or his movement or speech; try getting to know that person. My guess is you’ll find that person … does not appreciate the ignorant, hurtful name-calling so common in our everyday language. “Lame” and “spaz” must be retired along with “retard” and “nigger,” and all of those words intended to wound, deeply.
Recently bought a house in Winooski. How embarrassing to have Doug Isham make this city appear so backward-thinking [“Is Doug Isham Imposing His Conservative Values on the Winooski Board of School Trustees?” November 11]. Best to just vote him off the school board and keep him out of politics. Time to make some positive, educated choices that move us forward.
Get the Lead Out
I, too, had concerns about the gun club contaminating the well water in the area [“Neighbors Target a Neighborhood Gun Club,” November 18]. We live on Sunset Hill Road — not far at all. Could the lead get into the aquifer that feeds my well? I have three young children 6 and under.
I asked my cousin, who has a doctorate in physical chemistry and teaches at Providence College, to explain what would have to happen in order for the lead to make it into the water supply. After listening to him, I was convinced there would be no problem. Maybe [reporter] Andy [Bromage] could inquire to one of the chemists at UVM and print their explanation. It may quell some fears that people have about lead contamination in well water.
I would like to state my appreciation for the response by Vermont Department of Children and Families Commissioner Stephen R. Dale [Letters, November 11] to Ken Picard’s Seven Days piece, “Is Vermont’s DCF Doing Enough to Address Abuse and Neglect?” [November 4]. It isn’t easy to write four paragraphs and say nothing, like Mr. Dale did.
Dale attempts to defend the DFC by stating Picard provided both inaccurate and incomplete answers to this question, but Dale skillfully ignores it. Was Mr. Picard inaccurate when he quoted the commissioner’s October 2 memo? Dale wrote: “We will see compromises in responsiveness and performance in many areas.” It appears the situation will only get worse, since reports of abuse and neglect are increasing. Picard’s charge is that the DCF “lacks the resources to investigate.” Dale tells us in his response to the story, “the number of reports accepted for investigation has risen by 40 percent” since 2008.
In fact, Vermont has the lowest rate of child abuse and neglect investigations of any state in the country, which has improved to 32 percent, but is still half the national average. The question Commissioner Dale needs to answer is, “How long does it take the department to respond to the reports of abuse and neglect accepted for investigation?” How long do children continue to be at risk after a report is accepted by DFC, until the time it is investigated and action is taken?
Mr. Picard is to be commended for bringing this issue to the public’s attention, and I hope he and Seven Days will pursue this story further.
Theodore A. Hoppe
The Price of Plastic
Re: “Seven Days Bags a Story the Free Press Wouldn’t Touch,” October 28: Recently the city of Toronto started charging a 5-cent fee for each bag used. Now stores throughout Ontario are charging the fee — even Home Depot! It makes you stop and think if you really need a bag or not, but is pretty inconvenient at times! I think banning them altogether would be worse. Why not do what California’s Whole Foods stores do and use paper bags?
With all her discussion about interns, I’m surprised that Judith Levine [“Poli Psy,” November 11] missed the latest news about internships for sale. Yep, people are now paying for the “right” to work. By the time today’s average youngster escapes the clutches of the education mafia, he’ll be deeper in debt than his parents ever were for a house, and now the corporate bosses say that, with all that education, junior is still unfit for gainful employment. Better charge him for the privilege of working for another five or 10 years, before they actually pay something. Another decade of this trend, and no one will be paid till they’re so old that it’s time to retire.
Why does the Dow always leap for joy over massive layoffs? What kind of economy “recovers” and “improves” when there’s been no decrease in joblessness? Whose economy is it, anyway? It sure as hell isn’t “economical” for most of us. It seems to me that, eventually, the supply of easy credit and cheap foreign labor will be exhausted. When they can’t make or finance stuff any cheaper, and when we can’t get any more credit to buy their stuff, maybe they’ll have to pay us to take it. I think what we need is a nationwide strike. Everybody just stop what he’s doing, and refuse to budge till they provide us with a plan which empties the prisons, and provides clothes, housing, food, education and health care for all. If we could stop wasting all our resources on war, debt and insurance, such a plan would be pretty easy.
Shunning Is Standard
From time immemorial, close-knit human communities have used shunning as perhaps the most humane and effective way of responding to members who violate the group’s taboos [“Might v. Site,” November 4]. In today’s “civilized” societies we simply put transgressors in jail or execute them, two very extreme forms of excommunication. America’s early settlers used shaming as a guarantor of public order.
The Exclusive (and Open) Brethren take their cues on shunning from the half dozen New Testament texts on the practice. The Catholic Church practiced extreme excommunication and shunning until 1983. Today an estimated 10 to 15 percent of Protestant evangelical churches use some form of this practice, as do some orthodox Jewish and Chasidic congregations. Relational shunning is found in various forms in such diverse religious communities as the Amish and Mennonites (which also, like the Plymouth Brethren, isolate themselves from the outside world), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of Scientology, Krishna Hindus, Baha’i and Wiccan. Shunning was also practiced in many hunter-gatherer societies.
While we may not agree with the rules of any particular religious community, in every case they are intended to protect the integrity of belief and practice, and being forced out of communion for violating taboos is a natural consequence of defiance. Like any system of justice, it can be and is abused. But for all the demonization of such cult-like groups as the Exclusive Brethren, let’s not forget that more harm has been inflicted on individuals and the world by mainstream religions than by all the minor ones combined. Given that fact, mandating a distancing from contemporary culture is not necessarily a foolish thing. And requiring that those who cross the line remain across the line is not unreasonable.