Opinion

The Arts: Soul Food

Efforts to defund the National Endowment of the Arts are a quadrennial budget issue here at home. And in many countries, artists, like journalists, are censored, jailed, or even assassinated. Dictators, nativists, and fundamentalists of all stripes are suspicious of art. And for good reason – because art calls on our better angels, challenges orthodoxy, asks impolitic questions, and may even subvert established class order. The enduring enemy of art is fear. Countless works of great art have rocked the world, like the songs of Woody Guthrie and The Freedom Singers, or Billy Holiday’s Strange Fruit. Alvin Ailey Dance Company, To Kill a Mockingbird, and George Orwell’s 1984 all changed how we think. Many momentous shifts in our world order …
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Comments to Lamoille Family Center Annual Meeting – 6/20/18

Many thanks. It’s an honor to be invited home to be with you all tonight. I greatly appreciate the work you do on behalf of Lamoille County’s families and communities. I want to bring forth a few ideas that I believe are consistent with your mission and values. First, we know that investing in the determinants of child, family, and community well-being is vastly more cost-effective than trying to remediate the damage done by bad policy investments or, worse, neglect. The child who is hungry, homeless, abused, ill, or lacks access to daycare, education, or health services will inevitably show up in our emergency rooms, on our court dockets, in our prisons or in need of some relief from our …
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The Dignity of All Work

Neighbors in an upscale condo development were speculating about what the guy in the end-unit must do for a living to afford a sailboat, motorcycle, and camper. Curious, one strolled over and asked. “Plumber,” came the answer. As a society, we stratify careers as a vertical hierarchy reflecting the accumulation of wealth and power as enviable social values. Service, agriculture, and skilled trades populate the lower rungs of the metaphorical ladder of success. And this ladder implies a value system that today ill serves both our economy and our communities, since our ongoing allegiance to it assures generational continuity at the top, thus furthering a disproportionate accumulation of wealth. The spectrum of career and employment opportunities could be better represented …
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Roads Scholar and Gravel Slalom

I’ve finally reached that mind-body equilibrium we all seek. I’m both a Roads Scholar and a Gravel-road Slalom competitor. You’re probably not familiar with either unless you live at the end of four miles of a dirt road in Vermont and live here year-round. For many of us the primal terror of “mud season” faded with the invention of Tyvek, now underlying the uppermost gravel layer on our back roads. The white lingerie gracing many unfinished homes in our backwoods turned out also to be a boon for those of us living on back roads where in spring the water-table overtakes the road surface. Tyvek has drastically reduced the boggy swales that mired our cars each spring. Visitors driving along …
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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 …
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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. …
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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 …
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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 …
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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 – …
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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 …
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