Selected Letters

 

Readers are invited to contribute letters on the subject of not what is popular but what is important, on the themes of quality of life, and spirit of place.


Writers should say their whole name — no anonymous or unreachable contributions will be published.


Address contributions to Letters


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My guests are more interested in discussing the state of things than everyday news; more about what it means to be human.”


Studs Terkel; Voices Of Our Time

 

How Can an Educated Person be Poor in Our Affluent Society?


Anonymous


Magazine policy is not to publish anonymous letters.

Exceptionally, if the writer is identified to the publisher or editor, a anonymous contribution is warranted. This is one.




Some people are born into poverty, and never get out. Others, like me, slid down into it, like quicksand. I was raised by a loving mother and father who inculcated me with the Work Ethnic. After academic success (SAT 1600), and five degrees in completely different fields, (including a PhD) I lived a comfortable life in the suburbs of Santa Monica, San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia, NJ, and NY.  Vacations in Europe, Canada, Florida, Las Vegas, and the Bahamas, and many foreign sports cars were all part of my lifestyle. I quit several excellent positions, (IBM, etc.) to explore interesting opportunities in a variety of fields. Lack of focus and multiple marriages were contributing factors.


I am now almost eighty years old, and don’t have more than $50 in my checking or savings account! I am not homeless, but I would be if I had not found a small room I could afford on my small Social Security check. Financially, I am poor. There have been times when the checking account was overdrawn, and I didn’t have more than $5.00! Emotionally and spiritually, I am in good health.


So where are my savings? Why don’t I have any money or property? Didn’t I save at least 10% a year? What about my pensions, (Never stayed on a job more than 3 years.) my 401-K, my Home Equity, my stocks or bonds, my Roth IRA account? Didn’t I wait until I was 70 before I began to collect my Social Security? (Had to take it at 62 to get on Medicare for health insurance.)


The truth is I lived on the edge. I was always being offered exciting positions and innovative opportunities, I was on a roll, and the finite nature of my lifestyle rarely struck me. I was busy educating three daughters and thought my PhD and great friends would provide a cushion in my older years. Being a leader in extensive community activities nationwide also occupied much of my life. As I got older and less employable, I used up all of my retirement savings to cover expenses. All three children attended Montessori schools! One went to a private elementary school in Langley, Virginia for the children of diplomats. Another passed intelligence tests to attend the Kindergarten for the children of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. For the third child we moved to Moorestown, New Jersey (Ranked #1 in the United States by Money Magazine as “The best place to live in America.”) for her to attend the most prestigious elementary school in the state. All went to college, but had to drop out because I could not afford to continue to pay their tuitions. Luckily, they are all now have professional positions, and are finishing up on their degrees on their own.   


One of my many administrative positions was as the Director of Planning for an agency in one of our largest cities. One would think I should have done a better job in planning for my own retirement. I also worked at several colleges and universities as an adjunct professor teaching up to three different classes in the same semester in Psychology, Sociology and Criminal Justice. As “contingent faculty” — those who aren’t on a tenure track, I had no benefits and zero job security.


I know this could never happen to you. You’re too smart. Your retirement package is secure and guaranteed. Neither you nor any of your relatives will never get sick or have an accident. You will never be laid off, and your employer will always be there for you. (Some employers, however, have instructed their employment office to screen out all applicants over 40.) No way could you ever become one of those sad senior citizens whose only meal each day is from Meals on Wheels. However, even if things seem manageable now, you too could be just a few inexplicable setbacks away from a total collapse.


Why am I telling you my sad story? Perhaps I’m trying to help you have some compassion and understanding for those less fortunate than you. Think carefully about the expression: “And this, too, shall pass away." (Perhaps your fame and fortune?) How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! And another old saying to remember is: “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.”



Compassion is volunteering to feed the hungry


JANE SOUTHWORTH



With Brattleboro voting overwhelmingly to become part of the international Charter for Compassion, the Reformer and The Commons have agreed to publish a "compassion story of the month." This is the eleventh. Information on submissions from Brattleboro area residents is offered below.

BY JANE SOUTHWORTH


My response to the call to write about compassion is a bit mixed. It makes me imagine a group of "Compassion Searchers," rather like the plane spotters of World War II England. The acts of compassion, like the planes don’t come regularly. But when they come, we notice.


The planes we defend against. The compassionate acts we welcome. Would that they arrived more often. It makes me think of those "days" we have scattered about the calendar for mothers and fathers, grandparents and secretaries. Why one day a year? Why can we not just praise and thank these wonderful people every day?


And why is it that we need to search for compassionate acts? The point, of course, is that our world on the whole, as it is now, is far from compassionate, and woefully needs to become more so.


Yet – even so – often below the surface, and sometimes even organized and on an ongoing basis, some things are happening. Compassionate people do exist everywhere, and are performing compassionate acts. We just don’t see enough of them.


Take, for a good example, the "Loaves and Fishes" meal program, sponsored and housed by the Centre Congregational Church. Loaves and Fishes serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday in the Church basement. Together with similarly compassionate groups in town, persons in need can now get a free meal every day of the week. Of course these things don’t just happen. As it take a village to raise children, it takes a legion of volunteers to provide these meals for hungry people.


At about 7 a.m. on Fridays (the day I know best), the kitchen in Centre Church’s basement is warm with heat from stoves and hard work. Phil, Josie and Ruth (our organizer and captain) are cooking. William is doing dishes. Diane is setting the eight tables.  [Editorial note:  Both John and Ryan are usually members of the 7am crew, or actually 6:30-ish, Phil]


Food has come from the Food Bank and been donated by super-markets, the Co-op, and other generous food suppliers. Vince, Toni, Barbara, and Nancy chop veggies, make salads, peel potatoes and squash. Lloyd chops carrots or onions or grates cheese. Later he will wash floors. Bob and Hollis oversee organizing the donations, and place items in 3 refrigerators, 4 freezers, the newly refurbished "coolbot" for produce, and 4 pantry storage rooms. Meanwhile, Jane and Claudia prepare week-end groceries for the families who use or work at the Centre Church Day-Care program and prepare food for the day-care children. And, of course, not to be forgotten, Centre Church supports the volunteers with facilities and, this year, new appliances.


At 11:30 a.m., a bell rings and 80 or 90 people line up to choose among the meat and vegetarian entrees, salads and desserts. Some of those attending are regulars, some are occasional drop-ins, some are transients passing through.


Most take "to-go" containers to help tide them over through the weekend.

If you count the meals provided to those who dine-in, and/or take out, the day care family groceries, and the daycare meals, we may well provide 350 meals on a typical Friday. Not bad. So here’s some "new math" we might consider. Perhaps we can say that community = communion + compassion.


Submissions, from Brattleboro area residents, for future publication, not to exceed 650 words, should be emailed to: compassionstory@gmail.com or mailed to: Compassion Story of the Month, c/o Robert Oeser, PO Box 6001, Brattleboro, VT 05302. Please include your name, address, phone number and email address. Earlier submitted stories will automatically be considered in subsequent months.



Wonderful Letter


Vincent Panella


[Editorial Note: I received a request from Columnist Offie Wortham to connect him with another columnist who knew about Sicily, here is the wonderful reply by Vince Panella.]


Hello  Offie - I had a note from Phil about your trip to Sicily so I’m cc-ing this to him to acknowledge his request.

         I don’t know your interests or how much time you have. My maternal side is from a little mountain town called Petralia Soprana, the highest town in Palermo Province [Illus.].  If you draw a straight line from Cefalu to Agrigento, Petralia  is about halfway in between.  Rural Sicily is full of such towns, interesting to sight see, the people friendly and not jaded by tourists, but then again I can speak fairly well and can always claim I’m one of them. I find southern Italy more comfy than northern —— but here are my favorite places.

       
Cefalu is  tourist and fishing town on the coast about halfway between Palermo and Messina. Good for walking  through the old town and visiting a dramatic Norman church with a famous Painting of the Madonna inside. At this time of year it should free of tourists.  The town is built under a massive rock and there’s a temple to Apollo (I think) on top and a path you can walk up to with spectacular views of the ocean - and I believe the Lipari islands in the distance. The there isn’t much left of the temple but the walk and the view are salutary and to me unforgettable.

        A little east of Cefalu is Santo Stefano di Camastra - a pottery town which I haven’t visited in a while but full of pottery shops with original work….good for gift buying.

        Palermo itself has many churches which were formerly mosques  — beautiful places —  I had a cousin give me a tour but I’m sure the guide books can provide you with info.

        One of my favorites  is Agrigento where the Greek temples near the coast are pretty well preserved and you can get a hotel such that you can walk out the door and you are right there.

        Taormina - at the base of Mt  Etna - is a favorite tourist spot but I can take it or leave it.

        Cefalu is probably my favorite — the fishing pier, the old town, the big church, the rock, and like all of Italy good restaurants everywhere.

        If you are a wine drinker - as you travel through Italy you will see how the local wines differ — especially in Sicily.  There’s a fishing town on the southern coast called Sciacca (Pronounced Shock-A) which has an amber colored local wine with an effect like morphine. You can think of Odysseus passing through here as the Cyclops cave is reputed to be near by.The same goes for listening to Italians speak their local dialects. They change.  In Sicily which was conquered by the muslims  (Palermo was once called Bal-Arm) there’s also a French influence on their vocab and pronunciation.

        Anyway it sounds like you are going to many places - my philosophy is to stay in one place for as long as possible instead of moving too quickly from one place to another. I’d take Cefalu — a nice sand beach, a  great old town for walking, and the church and the rock. You can check it out in any guide book or online.

        My second would be Agrigento for its sense of ancient history.  In general the greeks colonized eastern Sicily and the Africans -Muslims - the western side.

        I hope this helps…if you need to know more you can return e mail or give me a call at 348-7452 — a conversation would be easier.

        If you can’t speak Italian don’t worry - English works everywhere and the Italians are not fussy.

        Have a great trip.

        Vincent


Ode to My Pediatrician


Nicola Metcalf

Jan 5th 2018



I grew up in a small town in southern Vermont, pop. 500, a gateway to one of Vermont’s popular ski resorts.  During my childhood, we would drive 45 minutes to the closest large town for services like a department store, movie theatre, and medical care.  My pediatrician, Dr. White, was a well-respected physician whose office was in an older, elegant home in the nice part of town.  My mother thought he was an excellent doctor.


We would enter the large front door and climb a sweeping staircase up to the secretary’s desk and waiting room in his offices on the 2nd floor.   There were toys to play with when I was younger, but going to the doctor made me nervous.  I would make an attempt to settle in with the toys.  Then, when I heard the summons that it was our turn, my stomach lurched in fear.  A pretty ordinary response for a young child visiting the doctor.


The exam room was a large corner room with lovely wooden floors and oak trim.  Tall windows let in lots of light, but were drafty and cold in the winter.  An exam table was to the right as you walked in, with a sitting area to the left in a dark corner.  A desk, assorted bookshelves and cabinets occupied the remaining light filled portion of the room. 


My mother waited in the sitting area while I undressed.  She sat with a book or magazine, curious and quietly spectating as was her habit.   I sat on the crinkly paper on an exam table in a johnny, nervous and waiting for the doctor.   I was going to have a pelvic exam.  It was my first and I had only the vaguest idea of what that entailed.  I don’t believe I had started menstruating.  I was not sexually active beyond making out with my first boyfriend.  At 12, this region of my body was a precious secret just beginning to reveal its mysteries to me, to unfold and evolve toward womanhood.


I knew there was something not right about this doctor.  I had heard rumors that other young women were not happy with his care.  I went in for a fight, knowing there was going to be trouble.  My mother had refused my pleas to find another doctor.


When I was younger, Dr. White had me do the usual touching of fingers to nose and jumping on one leg in the center of the room in a johnny.  During this exam, I stood in the middle of the room again.  Then he examined my breasts, squeezing, pressing, and touching them with his bare hands and asking me what I called them.   My mother watched and listened.  Using the best defense I could find, through my fury and humiliation, I replied in a trembling and sarcastic voice, “if you don’t know what they are, then I guess I shouldn’t be here.”

Next, up on the exam table, I remember the nurse guiding me to put my feet in the stirrups.  It was terrifying.  I don’t remember any details.  Perhaps I cried, or didn’t relax when he told me to, or refused to part my legs.  There were instruments.  I only remember that because I do remember him tossing them down and leaving the room in a huff of displeasure when he was unable to complete the exam. 


As after all my appointments with this doctor, we were dismissed to the main waiting room.  Then my mother was summoned to his private office near his secretary’s desk.  They would talk for a long time.


On the way home, my mother read me the riot act.  She was furious!  She felt humiliated because he was “an important man who didn’t have time for [my] foolishness and rudeness”.  I had deeply embarrassed her with my “bad behavior”, had not demonstrated my proper role in submitting to his male power when every fiber of my body was not ok with what was at play.  


Maybe he felt anger as a dominant, white, medical professional whose authority had been thwarted by a young girl.  His actions may have been sexually overt or not, but that’s not what mattered to me.  What mattered was learning a big lesson about where my mother and I stood in the world of men.  That my mother was as much a part of it as he was.  The world where women don’t choose who touches them and when. 


Many decades later my mother admitted, “There was something not right about him”, and that’s as close as she got to acknowledging what had happened.  It was I who ended up angry and feeling humiliated by two people who could have been caring for a young girl’s best interests – my mother and my pediatrician – but had only their own in mind.

 1/4/18


Thanks


Why Do Fools Fall In Love


Hi Phil,


Thanks for running the piece. You do like to get into heavy topics, don't you?

       It is pretty clear that the imprinting done by our parents or guardians is almost indelible. Human beings are like little lumps of clay, to be shaped and manipulated by adults who often have no idea of the lasting effects of their efforts to mold and shape the beliefs, emotions, fears, hopes, and even worldview of the totally dependent  human being they have to experiment with.

      Those of us, like myself, who were lucky enough to have been raised in (or picked) a home where there was no example of a specific religion that had to be followed or believed, or no political agenda pushed, or even no strong emphasis put upon the importance of any ethnic group or race…we had the opportunity to form our own opinions without having to rid ourselves of ideas drilled into our brains since birth (and sometimes before birth).

         People like me are odd-balls always studying and observing events, and often people. I think we are as objective as any human can be. We often “see things” that others have not seen yet.

         I feel no need to have any specific racial or ethnic identity, I am not ethncentric. I also have never had a clear vision of what I was supposed to do for a living. Why do I have a degree in International Relations? A degree in Liberal Arts? A degree in Community Psychology? And a PhD in Interracial Relations? I have a Regents Diploma from high school in Art? A Certificate from IBM in Computer Technology? Two years of Physics at Antioch College? Fifty different business cards. Four wives. Lived in 7 houses and at least 10 apartments in over 15 places across the country.

         When I tell you I might be an observer from another Galaxy you might think I am crazy. Well tell me then, how did I get the highest score ever on the AFOQT (the 6 hour exam that must be passed by all pilots in the Armed Services). I also got the highest score ever on the basic entrance exam to the Air Force and Air National Guard. (The answers just seemed to come out of nowhere, as I finished ahead of everyone and just looked around the room, completely calm.) I was straight A until my father had a stroke when I was 12. In high school I did well and never took home any homework. Students picked me upon graduation as “Did Most for Student Council”, “Best Artist”, and “Best in Track”. Girlfriend was captain of the cheerleaders, Creole, and one of the prettiest girls in the school.

         I have mentioned all of the above crap to let you see that my world has been an adventure, and it is not over yet. A friend has booked a tour to Europe for me for my 80th birthday! Next month I will go on a cruise from Rome to Sicily, to Sardinia, to Tunisia, to Algeria, to Valencia, and finally to Barcelona. Last month my oldest daughter flew me to Florida for a week. I am working on a book with the last surviving member of "The Teenagers", the title will be "Why Do Fools Fall In Love."

         So as you can see, I am a pretty lucky guy. My health is excellent, except for the constant ringing in my ears (tinnitus).  

         I don’t think things are going to get better any time soon in this country. The masses are so ignorant and manipulated that it looks hopeless for at least the next decade. Great progress is being made in race relations as far as interracial couples and children are concerned. Look at the way the English have welcomed the latest addition to the Royal Family. The more we get mixed up the better!


Peace,

Offie


A Rational Solution to our Dilemma in Afghanistan.


“Waist deep in the big muddy, and the big fool said to push on.” Does this remind you of anyone in particular? It’s the chorus of a song Pete Seeger wrote in 1967. The song was considered symbolic of the Vietnam War and President Johnson’s irrational policy of escalation, which was widely seen as pushing the country, and the world, deeper into a losing war.


Is our president really getting ready to make the same mistakes this country made in Vietnam? If it is widely accepted that this war will never be won by the United States on the battlefield, why are we getting ready to sacrifice hundreds, if not thousands of American troops in a losing battle? Not to mention the countless numbers of civilians who will be crippled and killed by our hundreds of mindless drones guided by an individual from a cornfield in Kansas.


The United States should begin a massive worldwide refugee resettlement program for Afghan citizens who want to leave the country, now, before it is taken over again by the Taliban. Arrangements should begin with any country that is willing to take in a specific number of refugees. The United Nations should coordinate this effort, and the US and other developed nations could be responsible for transportation, food and supplies.


Vietnam was a shameful time in our nation’s history, and the weekly body count of Americans being killed in the war was the major factor in turning people against the war, even more so than the massive anti-war demonstrations. It took eight more years, after the publication of “Waist Deep In The Big Muddy,” and hundreds of thousands of people on both sides killed, before the United States was forced to admit defeat in April of 1975 when the last two American soldiers died in a tragic helicopter crash trying to escape.


Such a resettlement program will save billions of dollars for the United States, and save thousands of lives. If the Taliban is destined to take over the country, why should we continue to attempt to “sweep back the tide?”  


Offie C. Wortham, PhD

125 Vermont RT 100C



Letter from the Governor on Immigrants in Vermont


Dear Robert (Oeser, JP):


Thank you for reaching out to me about the recent arrests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I, too, am troubled by recent events. As I’ve said, I will continue to protect our state’s values, and uphold the legal, ethical and moral standards – and Constitutional rights and liberties – that have distinguished America from the rest of the world for generations.


My team and I have reached out to ICE in order to meet and discuss recent arrests and deportation proceedings. We have also been in contact with Vermont’s congressional delegation to collaborate over this issue. One of the interesting facts we have learned is that there are just 10-12 immigration arrests in Vermont each year, and almost all of them are because the individual was convicted of a criminal offense. 


I will do everything in my power to ensure that ICE is only taking actions for which they have authority under federal law. Furthermore, I have signed into law Act 5 which protects Vermont residents from compulsory collection of information regarding religious beliefs, practices, or affiliation, or the disclosure of religious and other personally identifying information for purposes of establishing a federal registry or database based on that information. I believe that all Vermonters should be afforded government benefits and protections without regard to their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, race, color, religion, national origin, immigration status, age, or disability. 


I assure you that I will remain vigilant concerning this issue as the situation develops. Thank you again for taking the time to write.


Sincerely,

Philip B. Scott

Governor


Bill Kelly


Bill Kelly, 75, died peacefully at home on Friday morning, February 24th. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and moved to Vermont in 1970 where he and his wife, Marty, raised three wonderful children, Sarah, Benjamin and Adam.


As a young man, Bill was about to start graduate school when he was drafted by the Army and assigned to the National Security Agency. In the NSA Bill was stationed in Ethiopia where he served as a code-breaker.


After the Army Bill taught English for a number of years in East Harlem. It was there he met his wife. Bill had a knack for keeping his students well behaved. Marty did not. While Bill reined in Marty's unruly charges, a romance was born. They were married on July 4th, 1970. [Caption: Bill with back to camera at Loaves and Fishes.]


When Bill first came to Vermont he worked as a carpenter. He taught English at Leland and Gray High School and was a guidance counselor there before opening his own psychotherapy practice.


Bill never forgave the Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn, but did have fun coaching Small Fry when his children were young. He enjoyed his work as a psychotherapist , and he always looked forward to his Tuesday mornings at Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen.


Above all he loved his time with his grandchildren, Sonia, Bea, Emmett and Henry, and was looking forward to the arrival of another grandson in April.


Aside from his wife and three children, Bill is also survived by his son-in-law, Brent Reynolds, his daughters- in-law, Corey Kelly and Haegi Kwon, his sister Jill and brother Jeff. A brother Peter died in 2007.


As Bill would want, no service is planned. Those wishing to honor his memory may donate to a charity of their choice or to Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen at Loaves and Fishes, c/o Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main St., Brattleboro, VT 05301.


~~~~~~~


Bill Kelly was a faithful Loaves & Fishes volunteer, known for quietly going about and fixing whatever needed to be done, watering the plants and staffing the dish sink, where he would greet visitors returning their dishes and flatware.


When someone offered a witty remark, if you were quick enough, you could catch a glint in Bill's eye and a sly smile. He was always paying attention.  If you asked him, "How are you doing?" he would reply, "so far"  a response perhaps we can all relate to.    Robert Oeser.


~~~~~~~


Last Tuesday I was leaving the kitchen and he was coming in. He couldn't seem to move his right hand much, so I grabbed his left, and shook it. I think he liked that.


What I like is that he spent his time doing what he liked, being among friends who were altogether in support of other people who needed help.


And he also always had that look about him some have where they could see right through you, and whether he liked what he saw or not you might not know, but you knew he could see and he could accept you anyway. Phil Innes



Marbles


Offie Wortham July 29, 2016



During the weeks and months ahead we will see many of Trump's major supporters publicly announce that they are no longer with him in his quest to become President of the United States. Most will not publicly say that they are going to support Hillary, but they will let everyone know that they no longer think Donald Trump is qualified to be President of the United States. They may quote the results of famous psychologists and Social and Political Scientists who have objectively examined the words and actions of Trump during the past year. Others will bow to the judgement of hundreds of military and political leaders who have stated that Trump is a dangerous and sick person. Whatever the reasons, watch Trump react violently to those who will no longer support him. Anyone who cannot read a book, and who only gets his news from television, is too ignorant to be a national leader. I'm not saying that all those who are beginning to desert Trump will publicly back Hillary, but they are realizing the mistake they made in endorsing an individual who should just pick up his marbles and get off the playground.


In Memoriam


Dorothy M. Rice, 1919 - 2016



Dorothy "Dodo" M. Rice, born Dorothea Marianne Straus, New Year's Day, 1919, in Mannheim, Germany, was the third child of Elisabeth and Ludwig Straus. From an early age, she was interested in cooking and the needle arts and, as an adult, became well known for her knitting and mending skills and for the many chair cushions and church kneelers she needle pointed. In October, 1937, she married Kurt David Reiss. A year later, sensing the dangerous times unfolding in Germany, they fled to Holland, then to America, and eventually settled in New York City. When their eldest son was conceived, they went in search of the faith that was to be central and formative to their lives. In 1952, they moved to Chappaqua, New York, looking for a quality education for their young sons, Edward (Ted) and Andrew (Andy). They became quite active in the community, particularly in Scouting and at St. Mark's Episcopal Church of Mt. Kisco, where, among other things, Dodo worked with the women's prison in Bedford and among the poor in the South Bronx. Three weeks after her husband died quite suddenly in 1971, Dodo began a catering business which was to sustain her and bring much satisfaction and fulfilment. In 1989, she retired and moved to Brattleboro, Vermont, not far from her son, Andy, and his family. There, she became active at St. Michael's Episcopal Church where she is now considered as a "matriarch" of the parish. She also immersed herself in the work of Loaves and Fishes, the Drop-In Center and the Visiting Committee of Holton Home, eventually serving on its Board of Directors. Throughout much of her life, and certainly ahead of her times, she was an advocate for equal rights for minorities, particularly gays and lesbians. Her community involvement, leadership and advocacy led to her being named Volunteer of the Year on several occasions. She moved to Holton Home in 2009 and lived there until her death on June 18, 2016. Dodo is survived by her brother Karl Straus, the person who, unable to pronounce "Dorothea", first called her "Dodo"; son Ted, former daughter-in-law, Judith, their children Megan and Joshua; and son, Andy, his wife Linda, and their sons Jacob and Gabriel. Dodo took particular satisfaction in the wonderful relationships she had with her grandchildren. She will always be "Omi" to them and their friends. A memorial service will be held at St. Michael's, Brattleboro, in the near future. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Holton Home,Groundworks Collaborative or St. Michael's Church.


Robert Oeser



Tennessee Tensions


A letter from Robert Mitchell, Murfreesboro, Tennessee




Debate over retaining the name of a former Confederate general on an ROTC Building has come into prominence recently. Several groups with interlocking membership have come forward. Some as moderate as the NAACP or as militant radical as the Black Lives Matter movement. (The latter group publicly and falsely claimed the MTSU student newspaper Sidelines had gotten death threats from the KKK. This was repudiated as false by the student newspaper editor herself!) The third group, "The Talented Tenth" is the one I will address.


"The Talented Tenth" is title of an essay that some have adopted to self-named themselves who are protesting on the MTSU campus. I understand the premise of the essay. At that time, DuBois and the Northern philanthropists of the American Baptist Home Society hoped men of color would become leaders and example of quality through education in the liberal arts.


" the object of the work of the schools–intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it–this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life." wrote WEB DuBois in The Talented Tenth. This direct quote from DuBois, which he based upon the principles of Morehouse seven years prior, calls for full education and understanding of the world as it was and as it is. These students are being done a disservice. Those fueling and orchestrating this protest I believe have missed the point. I am embarrassed by their actions and lack of leadership. They created a hostile and threatening atmosphere to those alumni and students who did not share their beliefs. They are creating a schisms both internally within the University and between the University and the community.


I have reviewed many of the arguments and comments by the students and activists. One of the most prevalent comments was that Forrest's past evils were not undone by his renouncement of racism, slavery and brutality against former slaves and people of color. This presupposes his conduct was abhorrent for the period in which he lived. Condemning someone of a crime or a moral offense during a period in history when slavery was not illegal and its moral acceptance was supported by a great number of religious institutions is intellectually dishonest. Furthermore it is contrary the premise of "The Talented Tenth" which states," the object of the work of the schools–intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it–this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life."


This Easter holiday I am immediately reminded of the story of Saul. Forrest had become a Christian, just as Saul had become a Christian. Both renounced the brutality of their past beliefs and worked to resolve the injustices they saw. Each went to their "people" to bring a message of tolerance and the gospel of reconciliation. Forrest may have simply died too young before the full measure his redemption could be widely acknowledged and celebrated.


In the long run, if the name stays or goes will not effect my life, my beliefs or my love of MTSU. I want our University to be a place that is objective in it's presentations; especially it's presentation of history. Justice is supposed to be blind. How can that ever happen if we do not allow history to be color blind. That is the position the actor Morgan Freeman professes. When it comes to naming or renaming our campus buildings; let us act with full knowledge of what it is we are doing. When we are discussing issues that may divide us ;let us do it with respect and understanding of the lives and humanity of those whom we may disagree. That is being #TRUEBLUE.




Fire Chief Mike Bucossi in conversation with Robert Oeser


·         We're not the only Town facing fire station improvement issues; what has been learned, if anything, from other jurisdictions?


“Fire trucks” (engines, ladders, rescue trucks, etc) have become bigger and heavier over the years for many reasons including safety features, what fire departments look for the truck to do,  and community infrastructure, among other factors. As part of looking at the “fixes” from many different angles some of the alternatives investigated have been “raising the ceiling” for more height, lowering or digging out the floor(s) to gain height, or trying to widen door openings (alternatives other communities look at). These alternatives have all proven to be impractical or impossible due to existing building construction, lack of physical room, cost or a combination. Central Station is built on ledge with a partial basement. The floor over the partial basement holds a truck that weighs much more than it was designed for and has been repaired once already, a repair that is beginning to fail. Chesterfield, Newfane, Keene, Williston, Putney and South Burlington have all faced similar problems in the “recent” past and have all constructed new facilities. Greenfield and Hinsdale are presently proposing new stations. As far as lessons learned, I would say what I have heard most from Chiefs that have gone through it is not to throw good money at a bad situation. Fix it right the first time because you will end up paying out more in the long run if you try to piece meal it.


·         Is it a viable alternative to  refurbish older engines, with the considerable work around/ expertise and maybe self warranty required? Do we have the capability to do that?


Brattleboro refurbished 2 engines back in the ‘80’s and in both circumstances, though the results “weren’t bad”, you were still putting $100,000+ into 20 year old trucks which sometimes doesn’t answer any of the problems. Additionally, trucks are built much differently today, workmanship is not as good, materials are not as good, etc. During this last budget preparation I declined a budget increase of $40,000 to do work on the body & frame of one of our trucks because I don’t think the truck is worth that money and it is good money being spent on a bad situation. It is important to remember that you can refurbish a 20 year old truck but there will still be 20 year old components in the truck. The cost outweighs the benefit. So, is it an alternative, but I do not feel it is a viable one.


·         But are there unintended consequences to bigger fire engines? How can we avoid them?


When we spec a truck for our needs  we list the size water tank, hose bed size that we need to carry the needed hose, the size motor and right down to where the ladders are stored, how far the bumper(s) can stick out and how wide the mirrors can be. All of this goes into determining the size that the truck will be. They have to carry enough hose for us. They have to carry enough water for us. They have to carry enough tools for us as well as have enough seating for staff. Anything less does not serve the community effectively or efficiently and the tax payers get cheated.


·         Mutual Aid into our Town ……. 


One final, unseen consequence of “stations that are too small”; when all of Brattleboro personnel and equipment are committed to an emergency we request “cover trucks”, other towns that bring their trucks to Brattleboro to answer other emergency calls. Many of the towns around us that we use to “cover” have trucks that will not fit into our stations. A good example, Hinsdale has the only ladder truck for miles that will fit into our station. That is because they have our old one…. Putney, Keene, Greenfield, Westminster all have ladders but they will not fit in. If they come into Brattleboro they need to leave their truck outside, is it fair to them to have their truck freeze up and split the water pump because they are here. Very recently a mutual aid cover truck was damaged trying to fit into Station 2. Does the time come when they say sorry, we can’t do this anymore? I realize we don’t build the stations for other towns but it is certainly an issue that needs to be considered.

 

Though this only scratches the surface I hope this helps and certainly encourage anyone with any questions to contact either Asst Chief Lynch or me.

 

Michael Bucossi                
Fire Chief
Brattleboro Fire Department
103 Elliot Street                                    
Brattleboro, VT 05301
(802) 254-4831
www.brattleborofire.org


* If you have not yet completed the survey you can do so here:    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CFSF6R5) or go to the “News” section on the Town’s website www.brattleboro.org


 


Qi Gong on Black Mountain


Dear Phil.,

 

Such a pleasure to receive the photos below; thank you. As I meditated on that rocky outcrop, I did wonder whether Native Americans had been there before me; felt something that encouraged me into the Dao Hua Qi Gong ‘Bird’ Form. Perhaps there were some traces of their intangible shamanic presence; information in quantum time. I loved this natural neighbourhood, with our walk up Black Mountain through near hollow-ways to its flattish summit, crowned with a broad circlet of pines, and what followed.

 

So our visit there remains precious to me, and hopefully implicitly relevant to our present NI discussions and of potential interest; so I offer this human-scale account to you, Alan and our NI friends, which I also hope you will enjoy...

 

Some 20 years or so ago, when visiting Brattleboro’ VT to (Circle-) dance, our friend Parker walked me up the relatively nearby Mt Monadnock. [caption: Mt Monadnock as photographed from Black Mountain] We took the easier, more gently ambient way, spending some 2 hours on the mountain. What most impressed, attracted and inspired me then, were the considerable number of eagles gliding and swooping around the summit. I had been doing shamanic work at that time, and Eagles had emerged as my ‘power-animals’. I had had dreams... How to gain some sense of connectivity in situ with these wonderful birds, with awesome intangible presences, (though I would not have put it like that then)? I had no idea, and they were disinterested. (I had been enthused and intrigued earlier by an encounter with a golden eagle when on holiday in the Scottish Highlands with my wife and young family.)

 

Before my most recent visit, I learned several things; one was that the eagles had departed; also that Parker is a considerable expert on Thoreau, and I thus imagined the loss of eagles as also a loss to the romantic grandeur of Monadnock. How important might that be to me? How do I nowadays relate to landscape? (I explore, ‘Inclusionally’ and with Qi Gong practice, in intention.) I asked if we could revisit,with my brother, knowing that this would be, in Parker’s terms and mine, a different mode of ‘communion’ with a Mountain that had its own sacredness. We spent some 7 hours, this time, on what I was told was the 3d most climbed mountain in the world. There was no easy way up, and another companion struggled with the climb. Our mutuality with each other was an aspect of the Communion. I used the Hua Gong Bear Form to climb; and the Tiger Form to come down, when I could. There were hawks en route, but no eagles, and I did experience this as a lack, and a sadness, hoping that they had found somewhere else to go. My sense of ‘respect for’, being-with’,  this Mountain felt, non-the-less, very deep. We stopped to dance on the way down, and I played the Andes tune ‘Dolciendes’, otherwise known as ‘Condor’, for the birds, on my tenor recorder, which always helps me to be more fully present.

 

When we met the next day, you offered to introduce me to Black Mountain, explaining that often eagles soared there in the updrafts from their nests in the fairly precipitous, cascading bluff-outcrops that you can see on the photos below. With reasonable fortune, we would see them.

 

We walked up with your lovely Beagle, ascending gently through those near hollow-ways. I commented on the bird-quiet. Was this because of the dog, our presence, or the relaxing intangible presence of the hollow-ways, drawing us up? It did not occur to me that there might be something else...

 

The summit is flattish, with a beautiful circlet of tall pines. A wonderful spot for a human settlement. When reached, we explored a little. We looked for the eagles; none in view, although the updrafts were strong. Still no bird-song in a prime neighbourhood that I anticipated would be replete with twitter. The quiet was almost uncanny. I greatly appreciated your invitation to meditational privacy, and then descended a little to the bluffs, finding the rock. It was sufficiently flat for me to stand securely, with the ‘Bird’ Form, by then, in mind. I sat in half-lotus for a while, then, feeling settled and tuned-in with good earth and cosmic connection, stood for the Form, with not an eagle in sight, after looking. I did wonder what I would do if one actually came to check-out this strange human behaviour, swooping down with ancient ancestral memory!

 

Five animal Qi Gong is a very ancient Chinese practice, with I believe, tribal–shamanic roots. Master Xhixing Wang, who has developed this practice in the UK/Europe along full authentic lines, tells a story about a Native American doing a particular sequence of movements. ‘You look like a bear’, someone said to him. ‘Look like a bear? I AM a bear’! In doing this, and other practice or ’Gong’, we experience our own non-substantiality/intangibility; perceiving energetic flow within, around and through our bodies. Major qualities of Bird, include lightness, strength, grace, economy of effort, with receptivity and directional response in context. The Form starts and ends with ‘sleep’/relaxation, and moves through take off, strong flight, hovering and landing, while maintaining a sense of aware earth- and cosmic- connection all the time. It has a symbolic, initiatory significance.

 

So, I released any concern with eagle-absences, or presences; and with a light focus, enjoyed being a Hua Gong Bird in that very special place. I repeated the movements, felt the timelessness, the non-action. (Bird was moving me, stretching; no struggle; a sense of privilege, freedom and deep communion. )


[Caption: Black Mountain with eagle]

 

Eventually, you called, and, releasing from an already grounded and rested position, I collected my sac and walked back up to the summit plateau, enjoying the deep green and shade of the trees, distinct but not discrete from the more exposed white of the rocks.

 

                                                                                **********************************

 

Almost immediately, there was an extravagant explosion of fierce twittering and tweets from all around the crown. What was happening? We looked up. As literal bolts from the blue, two huge Eagles swooped down very low, at and below tree-top height. They above and around the canopies, but not inside the circlet. They were tiny-bird-mobbed from safe distances, but persisted in their investigations-of us? They did not appear to be hunting in the bird-multitudes which had been there all the time, in that previous, strangely intense silence.

 

Had I actually summoned -or provoked the eagles? You told me that you had never seen them fly so low...

 

Challenging to remain grounded! Would those Eagle Braves have just stood there, so securely-rooted and receptive that they could sustain a closer ‘communing’; or, like us, show respect by retiring from Eagle territory? How would Bill Yidumduma Harney have been with equivalent totemic creatures within his Wardaman natural neighbourhood/the Cosmoscape? I am reminded of Hugh Cairn’s description in ‘Dark Sparklers: ‘To him, animals feel and communicate, trees bleed and speak, birds understand and sing, rocks have inside secrets and weep—everything on earth is family. Eagle transforms in the spiritual way from egg to predator, from lord of the skies to the ritual human, imperious in initiation education and ceremony.’

 

This experience, for me, was a wondrous education, and Bird-Form remains even more poignant. What would have happened if you had not called me, and they had descended whilst I was still on that rock? ‘Transformation of, all through all’ might have gone farther than I bargained for! How far, and with what quality had my intangible presence, more coherent through the Practice, and relevant to place, extended beyond my body envelope? I was nearly tangibly, as well as intangibly-touched by true wildness. Alternatively, These eagles had been watching me/us from their exalted height, beyond vision, and had tolerated, accepted my own birdy presence, inherited a healthy wariness of men, and descended only when

 

Perhaps, though, as I said to you as we quite quickly left the summit area, they were not interested in me/us, but the dog as their next meal? Eagle presences remained with me for a long time that day, and after. It remains when I most need it.

 

This experience also illustrates, for me, the importance of Qi Gong practice; more fully inhabiting my body than when attempting to knock myself into shape intellectually, attempting to grasp those elusively-classified, very small, or very large scale physics-processes in esoteric, abstracted language...meanwhile, I did not recognise the geo-cache, and left it for someone tuned-in a in different but related mode, to find. It is wonderful to be gifted with the photos.

 

I will always be grateful for this walk, and our conversations. My respect and very good wishes to Parker, and Brattleboro’ friends.

 

Ken Masters




Meeting Mrs. Roosevelt


Phil- You may have seen an earlier post from a month or so when I was reminiscing about Eleanor Roosevelt visiting our school in Collingswood NJ in 1962- the year she passed away. I was nearly finished 9th grade, and I remember her like I just met her yesterday. She was absolutely magnificent in her flowy brown dress, tilted hat, and coordinating sensible low heeled shoes. Her energy was enormous and her voice seemed to shake the rapters in the school gymnasium, as she talked about the pursuit of Peace through cooperation and service (at least that what my heart remembers)! The story goes that when she arrived, she needed to use the ladies room, which had been gussied up and locked before her visit. Somehow, the key got misplaced, and she had to use the filthy boys room!! She took it all in stride! The teacher who'd made all the arrangements was mortified!


Elizabeth J. Hill