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Letters to the Editor 

Published December 2, 2009 at 9:06 a.m.

Vet This

I would like to address the recent apology to vets about the mayor’s stand-in’s remarks [“Fair Game,” November 18]. First, if not for protesters, you vets would still be in Vietnam. Second, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were all because of a vicious lie to the American public, killing and harming so many Americans and the innocent peoples of the many nations we have invaded. This year we are setting a new world record for suicides in the U.S. military. How much collateral damage can you take? Stop all wars and go live life. Love your family, and we will stand by you.

Mark Seymanski

North Ferrisburgh

Why Walls?

Lauren Ober’s excellent piece on the tightening of the U.S.-Canadian border touched a raw nerve [“Choosing Sides,” November 18].

There is nothing necessary or desirable about any of this “enhancement.” It represents a shattering failure: a failure of policy in the first instance, but also and no less a failure of imagination, a failure of nerve, and a failure of the human spirit.

Is Europe so much more skillful and advanced a civilization that 24 countries can agree to open their borders to each other and manage their external frontiers together? Or that they can overcome the obstacles posed by more than a dozen languages and cultures, not to mention the living memory of millions who recall firsthand the slaughter, rape, disfigurement, plunder, flight and ruin of millions more at the hands of their neighbors?

We would only have to work out such an arrangement with one neighbor — one! — that shares our language and culture and with which we haven’t crossed swords since the War of 1812. The Europeans have thoughtfully come up with a working prototype for us to copy or improve upon. International affairs rarely get much easier than that.

Why does the U.S. insist on marching in the wrong direction? Vermont can only suffer from the strangulation of our natural lines of trade and communication between Montréal and metropolitan New England.

I never imagined that, 20 years after the Fall, I would have to say: President Obama, tear down this wall!

Scott Thompson


Serif Sheriff

In response to Michele Patenaude’s letter in “Feedback” [November 11]: [Seven Days editors] are right: Serifs help in reading. They carry the eye along from letter to letter. I suspect that sans-serif-type fonts are so popular on computers because of a tendency for the serifs not to show up well on screens.

Many years ago, a font, New Century Schoolbook, derived from Times New Roman, was developed to make reading as easy as possible for students. It is a little more “open” than Times New Roman and works well in modern times in many books. So, please, stick with serifs.

Mary G. Lighthall


Done “Dishing”

Please, please, please stop using the verb “to dish” in your food columns as a cute synonym for “to say.”

Christine Staffa


Christian Cult?

I suggest the current legal action against the Twinams is far more about protecting the cash flow of an international commercial system masquerading under the guise of a Christian church than the purported copyright infringement they claim it to be [“Might v. Site,” November 4].

While the Exclusive Brethren may try to claim they are a simple, God-fearing group of believers, their actions belie their words: They may have been what they claim decades ago but, like many cults, have metamorphosed into something very, very different from their predecessors, who were an evangelical, faith-based church.

Indeed, the paradox of this case is when the Exclusive Brethren were actually an evangelical church inviting people to “come in and hear the gospel,” they freely made their ministry available to any and all who asked for it — whereas now they attempt to tightly control it, as this court case proves.

The real question is: What are they hiding? What are they protecting? What is there about them they don’t want people to know? This is the United States with constitutionally entrenched rights of freedom of speech and association — not a fundamentalist Muslim regime imposing Sharia law.

Peter Clarke

Victoria, B.C.

(Editor’s note: Since our cover story about the Twinams, the couple have settled their lawsuit with the Exclusive Brethren.)

Changing Vermont

My wife and I read your article concerning the changing face of Chittenden County’s nonwhite communities with great interest [“Minority Rule,” November 11]. Thank you for such a well-written, balanced piece.

I saw the racial-ethnic complexity firsthand when Jeanne Collins gave us a tour of the Burlington School District back in the fall of 2007. (I attended Goddard College back in the ’70s and was exploring the possibility of dusting off my Vermont teaching certificate — which I have done — and returning to Vermont. We currently live in Washington, D.C.)

This was not the Chittenden County of, say, 30 years ago. I am African American and remember when seeing another black or brown face on the street was a big deal. I suppose it still is in many parts of the state, but it is as if the world has come to your part of Vermont — and it has brought complexities and tensions along with it.

It is going to be interesting to see what, for example, happens with the schools. Economy notwithstanding, I sense a kind of stonewalling on the part of administrators when it comes to (well, let’s call it what it is) integrating school faculties. It is also clear that this matter of color is broader than black and white — which will make the question of leadership even more of a challenge.

I also applaud you for discussing matters (ethnic tensions, the high incarceration rate of black men in the state) that a lot of my longtime “progressive” Vermont friends will not. That tells me that Vermont is also struggling with the same brand of “demographic anxiety” as the rest of the country. Like I said, this is going to be interesting.

Thanks again for such a fine article.

Reuben Jackson

Washington, D.C.

Jackson is associate curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Archives Center.

Foreclosure Help

I was pleased to read your profile of John Abry of RE/MAX North Professionals [“Work”] in the November 18 issue of Seven Days. It is great to publicize the work he’s doing to help homeowners in distress sell their homes prior to foreclosure and avoid a major hit to their credit. I was struck by his point that three in four homeowners who go into foreclosure never seek assistance. I want to make sure that people know that Champlain Housing Trust’s HomeOwnership Center offers free foreclosure-prevention counseling that is open to the public. We have counseled more than 200 homeowners in difficult situations over the past year and are here to help.

Emily Higgins


Higgins is director of the HomeOwnership Center at Champlain Housing Trust.

Telecom Trouble

The Democratic and Republican city councilors claim friendly intentions toward Burlington Telecom. Yet in their current attacks on the Progressive administration in City Hall, they recklessly endanger this … municipally owned telecommunication enterprise.

Regardless of their stated support of BT, the major parties passed a resolution which, if enacted, would be the end of Burlington Telecom and put out of business this vital tool of economic development for our city … Unlike competitors, BT offers advanced and cutting-edge technology for businesses and job creation; unlike competitors who are governed in their programming decisions only by the market, BT is a city-owned utility and is therefore constitutionally mandated to guarantee free speech.

The resolution passed by the Democrats, with one exception, and the Republicans called for “no further funding for BT.” Some councilors went further and said “no further hook-ups.” Any concerned citizen would be hard-pressed to interpret this deadly resolution in any other way than an attempt to paralyze Burlington Telecom.

The attack on BT has only deepened. The city appears to have found a resolution to BT’s debt by a refinancing offer. Now the major parties delay, still more interested in pointing fingers and finding blame, if any is due, than in supporting BT. In their fight with the administration, they don’t care that they falsely cast doubt on a strong public utility or that they benefit not the city or its citizens, but only the private, monopolistic, corporate utilities who laugh all the way to the bank.

Sandy Baird


Hoard Lesson

Sad how people can’t get to the bathroom because all of their crap is in the way [“Buried in Stuff,” November 25]. Even sadder that we have become a culture of Accumulation Disorder. The fat just get fatter, and the thin just try to survive. With the holiday season in full gear, perhaps it’s time to reflect on whether our yearly spending ritual could use more worthy collectors?

Heather Corey


DCF Is Trying

In Ken Picard’s article “Is Vermont’s Department for Children and Families Doing Enough to Address Abuse and Neglect?” [November 4], I wish that he provided in-depth coverage of how recent cuts have impacted resources, staff morale and our ability to provide services to Vermont’s children. Instead, he barely scratched the surface.

I work for DCF, and I can say firsthand that we are doing everything we can to protect children in the state, but frankly, the administration’s cuts have put more than a strain on staff and resources; they’ve all but broken us. It is out of touch to think that a department like DCF can handle the cuts that we’ve received without jeopardizing the safety of Vermont’s children. Front-line employees will tell you that we are spread too thin, every day we fear that children will be hurt because of Douglas’ cuts.

On top of this, the administration has chosen to vilify state employees in the press, casting us as selfish and unwilling to help the state, when in the end, it’s his ideology that is getting in the way of us doing the important job that we need to do: protecting Vermont’s children. We’re lucky to have the commissioner we have, but if Mr. Picard wanted a more accurate picture of what is happening in the state, he should have spoken with several front-line state employees. He would have discovered a theme: Yes, the cuts do have a negative impact on services to Vermont’s children.

Kara Haynes


Be More Sensitive

First of all, I am very thankful that reporter Lauren [Ober] saw my flyer, participated in Forza class, and thought it worthy of an article [“Sword Play,” November 4]. This is fantastic publicity for someone like me who is just starting out, and overall, I really liked the story.

My criticism is not about any of the content related to Forza, rather it is the description of another of my jobs. It was written that I am a “caretaker of special-needs children.” I cringed in embarrassment when I read that, hoping that no one would think that those were my actual words. I have been involved with Kids on the Block-Vermont since 1993 as a volunteer puppeteer, an employee and a friend. The most important thing that I have learned from that experience is person-first language. I worked at Burlington EEE for four years, and have been taking care of a few children with special needs for several years. Any of my friends will tell you that I always correct them for saying something like “Down’s Syndrome kid, crippled guy, autistic child.” We should literally recognize the person before the difference: as in “children with special needs,” not “special-needs children.”

I realize that this is a commonly used phrase, but that doesn’t make it right. I hope that you will catch something like this before it gets printed next time. I’m so sorry to criticize, but I will sleep better at night now that I have said my piece.

Stephanie Shohet


Language Police

The queer inquisitor who said Lauren Ober used “spazzes” in a politically incorrect manner in her article “Sword Play” [November 4] possibly wrote the most retarded rebuke ever. Caring so much about a freaking word that you’ll write about it is so gay.

Words take on new meanings and must be observed in context. If every word that has personal meaning is considered cancerous, there are no aids for creative writing, we’ll have to niggardly approach every article.

I don’t take offense to people calling me hippie. I don’t reproach them because my hips are not that big and I don’t appreciate them commenting on my figure. No, it’s just a word, and words gain separate definitions, like “lead” and “lead” or “bass” and “bass.” Language evolves.

Words might be our handicap, but such a medium of expression will never be disabled because it’s how everyone, whether African American or Oriental, cracker or fag, Ze will always be writing. Maybe this is a midget concern to me, and I don’t want to nitpick. It’s just something to think about.

John Powell


Strength Through Diversity

Thanks to Ken Picard for turning our attention to some of Vermont’s most dynamic emerging leaders in “Minority Rule” [November 11]. Leadership from within communities of color is essential to building social change, but let’s not limit these individuals to being leaders of their specific racial group only. If the incarceration rate is any indication, the state of our state suggests that we need every voice at the table. Vermont town and state leaders must seek opportunities to create access and remove barriers that will facilitate successful multiracial leadership. It is YWCA Vermont’s belief that equitable, diverse communities are created through conscious action and long-term commitment across relationships and policies. With more diverse leadership, we gain richer dialogue and more satisfying results.

Rebecca Gurney


Gurney is executive director of YWCA Vermont.


There were several errors in last week’s story about hoarding, entitled “Buried in Stuff.” The subject, “Brenda,” got help from the Agency of Human Services Field Services — not Burlington Housing Authority — and she does not live in subsidized housing. Nicole Grubman, who does work for BHA, has a housing retention budget of $25 a month — not $25 per year.

In last week’s “State of the Arts,” “Quick Shots” mistakenly stated that Frank O’Neil’s film Work a Double had been shown on VPR. It was on RETN.

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