Opinion

A Heedless Death

I grew up reading Vermont Life in the fifties and continued reading it until shortly after the turn of the century. It always had a prominent place in our home, moving quarterly from the coffee table to the bathroom magazine rack – where its continued perusal was assured – and finally to a shelf in the den. Back then, Vermont Life was collectible not disposable. Eventually I lost interest as the magazine shifted away from the substantive features and images that define us toward lifestyle and marketing. My only real business savvy in life has been marketing, and I’ve always believed that the best marketing conveys substance rather than fluff. Consumers have largely become inured to marketing yet still crave …
Continue reading

Posted in VPR Commentary, Opinion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Who Really Made America Great?

An epiphany is a spontaneous event that inexplicably alters one’s life, a​ manifestation​ of some force in the universe greater than oneself. ​ My wife and I both experienced this recently when we brought our foreign-exchange host student to see New York City during her spring break. She wanted to see the major American landmarks and we obliged her – as much as ​the ​crowds of tourist visitors allowed. Because Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty involved a three-hour wait, we chose the free Staten Island Ferry ride instead. It passes close by Miss Liberty, so we could take our pictures with her towering above us – on a ship full of people who all had the same idea. …
Continue reading

Posted in VPR Commentary, Opinion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

United Church of Hinesburg: “Reflections” Bill Schubart May 6, 2018

Ever since word went out that this old hippy was about to stand behind a pulpit and presume to speak with any authority about salvation, I’ve suffered the slings and arrows of a few skeptical friends. One local pub-owner predicted I’d have you all speaking in tongues and offered to bring me a few garter snakes from his woodpile to hold in each hand as I delivered my message of hellfire and damnation. But, alas, life has brought me low as it does all of us, and instead I’m here to talk with you about the exigent life. What is the exigent life? Exigency is what life imposes on us by way of work and hardship to enable us to …
Continue reading

Posted in Speeches, Opinion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Language, Fear, & Leadership

Without notice or comment, The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) recently removed from its mission statement a century-old introductory phrase… “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants…” At the same time, it added, “protecting Americans” and “securing the homeland” begging the question “From whom?” The implication is that Americans all must of a sudden now be protected from refugees, asylum seekers, and those seeking freedom and opportunity – just as our own grandparents did. It’s a chilling shift in attitude. The most destructive weapon against civil discourse lies in a leader’s effort to generate irrational fear. All the great autocrats have done this – fear of minorities, immigrants, women, the poor, intellectuals, the mentally handicapped, the “other.” A fearful …
Continue reading

Posted in VPR Commentary, Opinion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Identity Politics

I’ve recently learned I’m a “privileged, cisgendered, white male.” This feels somewhat alien to me still – but it’s new so I’m willing to try it on and figure out what it means in today’s definitional taxonomy of “identity politics.” Like the few obese kids I knew growing up in Vermont or later at prep school, the only imposed identity I’ve ever known in my seventy-three years has been as a fat person. I was often isolated, teased, or “baited,” as they said at Exeter, where I was known as “Dumbo.” It was painful and gave me a sense of what it meant to be “other.” I believed in my “otherness” until I lost weight – for a time – …
Continue reading

Posted in VPR Commentary, Opinion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Death for All Drug Dealers?

While most of the civilized world has abandoned execution for moral as well as practical reasons, President Trump is now proposing an expanded application of the death penalty – traditionally applied only in first degree murder cases – for all “major” drug dealers. And even then, the death penalty has become so problematic and costly that the thirty-one states where it’s still legal only executed, or tried to execute, twenty-three people last year. The legal and correctional cost of execution vastly exceeds the cost of a life sentence. The image of a blind-folded Lady Justice carrying a sword and a set of scales symbolizes for Americans the fair and equal administration of the law without corruption, greed, prejudice, or favor. And with …
Continue reading

Posted in VPR Commentary, Opinion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Brave New World of Publishng

I grew up amid two publishing families. Roger Straus (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Alfred and Blanche Knopf. They were both family cousins and close friends of my paternal grandparents. In the fifties, the publishing world had two entities, vanity publishers (Vantage Press et al.) and the traditional publishing houses. The traditional publishers enjoyed their reader’s brand respect. Today, in this Amazon-driven maelstrom of buying, publishing, and distribution options, most publishers have lost any cohesive brand equity. By “brand equity”, I simply mean value recognition – whether a publisher’s name evokes any specific quality or characteristic in the consumer’s mind. If I say, “Harper Collins,” does anything come to mind? Does anyone go into a bookstore and ask, “What’s new …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Business-as-usual or…?

“Build it and they will come” is the oft-misquoted meme from the classic movie Field of Dreams. And in the case of the proposal by CoreCivic, a private prison firm, to build and lease back to the State a 925-bed prison in Franklin County, this meme embodies the worst fears of the corrections reform movement. Many Vermont leaders already oppose the idea, including former head of Corrections, Con Hogan, the Attorney General, the ACLU, NAACP, and Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform. In the face of such headwinds, few believe the prison will ever be built. Meanwhile, Vermont spends nearly double on corrections what it does supporting our five state colleges, two of which are struggling with declining admissions and rising …
Continue reading

Posted in VPR Commentary, Opinion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light”

The long-accepted stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As in grief, there are similar stages through which one must pass to acquire wisdom and learning. As humans, we all acquire perceptual data through our senses. We only process this into information by aggregating and contextualizing it. Knowledge comes only when that information is tested against other sources of information and fairly assessed. We graduate to wisdom when we measure our acquired knowledge against our life experience and against the lives of others we learn about through reading or friendships. If these paths eventually lead us to acceptance and wisdom about life’s complexities, might they also apply to the current political standoffs and the demise of political …
Continue reading

Posted in VPR Commentary, Opinion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Town Meeting Day is Upon Us

Soon, it’ll be March and Town Meeting will again be upon us. Our venerable system of local government – where it’s still practiced – calls townsfolk together to debate and make decisions of local and global import with a mix of comity and comedy. The characters and issues vary from town to town, but there are some regulars one can count on seeing and hearing from. I’m especially fond of the harumphers, those with the ageing teenage-pout who glower at the moderator with their arms firmly crossed on an ample bosom or chest. When recognized, their pronouncements are usually terse and glacially clear, after which they settle back into their harrumph posture with a “go ahead and top that!” look …
Continue reading

Posted in Humor, Opinion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment