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Forum, Nov. 27: Extending the Season


Sunday, November 26, 2017
Extending the Season 

The Rev. Guy Collins’ recent letter praising Christmas trees reminded me of a friend from Boston who one year cut a tree at Noda Farm in Plainfield and took it home with great enthusiasm, telling us that she intended to make it last for as long as possible. And she succeeded. She decorated it for  Christmas, and when it made it to Valentine’s Day, it became a Valentine’s tree. And when it was still around on St. Patrick’s Day in March it became a St. Patrick’s Day tree. Finally, in May, after it had lost all its needles, it became a maypole.

Christmas trees that are cut fresh and kept carefully watered can last quite a long time. We cut ours 10 days or so before Christmas and keep it decorated until the beginning of March, when we take it down. By then it is a bit shriveled but we have had the pleasure of looking at it and its bright lights and beautiful decorations for nearly three months.

Chris Dye

Manager, Noda Farm

Plainfield

Past Our Comfort Zone 

In my opinion it really doesn’t matter how a piece of information is presented to white people when learning about racial injustice: If it’s jarring, searing, urgent or considered too abrupt, it’s still important that people receive it, try to understand it, agree that it exists and begin to have a dialogue. Only then can we confront the horrors of systemic racism. Sometimes we need to go further than we thought we could. We need to go past our comfort zone, around the bend, give that extra push in order to get to where we need to be. Let’s eliminate the bigotry and the hate. Yes, “When Black Lives Matter, Then All Lives Will Matter.”

Brenda Reeser

White River Junction

How We Use Our Biases 

I was surprised by E.J. Dionne’s opinion in the Nov. 14 Valley News; here, I paraphrase: “the right’s allegiance to Trump depends on wealthy conservatives, and his program serves mostly those with enormous wealth … explaining why few congressional Republicans denounce him, no matter how close he edges toward autocracy.” The surprise is that Dionne agrees with my take on Trump’s autocratic aims, which illustrates the bias in both of us.

As sentient creatures, we acquire many biases through learning. If we combine that with our penchant for generalization, it allows us to abstract a bias into a tool to measure our surroundings (as a tot I might have learned it’s as much fun to hang with the kid next door as with my siblings). Also note, bias as a tool for quickly assessing new environments can work the other way. As a tot I might have thought twice about hanging with the neighbor kid since no way could she be as cool as my siblings.

Read Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. It encapsulates some of my biases, such as all life’s a spectrum, where we (for example) differ functionally from other creatures only by degree. We owe respect to all life, since generalized, they are us. People deserve respect for the same reason.

My Nov. 5 letter “Trickle-Down Toxicity” addressed bullying by cops. Then there’s the Justice Department’s bias as reported in a story that ran in the Nov. 19 Valley News headlined “Report on ‘Extremists’ Spark Fear.” It reported that the the FBI is targeting “black identity extremists” (extreme bias practiced on innocent citizens). You might have also read I witnessed the take-down of a youth in a public library (Valley News, Nov. 15, “Police Cite Possibility of Deleted Evidence”) where Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello argued that the law allows the use of force by police to dominate their adversary. (Peace officer?)

We can choose biases as tools for good or bad; we can imagine the consequences they entail, but we only benefit from them when expressed with openness to modification; when we understand without interpreting, and allow everyone enough latitude. I hope those involved in Hartford’s Committee on Racial Inequality patch their differences: further good work is needed.

 

Kevin McEvoy Leveret

White River Junction.

Needed Dose of Reality 

I was gratified to see two articles concerning the Eastern coyote in the Nov. 20 issue of the Valley News. The restoration of large(ish) predators to the region should provide both an improved ecological balance and a badly needed dose of reality to our excessively disneyfied society. The fact that they eat cats and small dogs is just icing on the cake.

Anthony Stimson

Lebanon

Progress Has Been Made 

I don't know what Olivia LaPierre said at the symposium on racism in Hartford. I was not there. It is to be hoped that she did not declare that all whites are racists. Yes, there is widespread racism in America. But is it systemic?

 “Systemic” is a strong word. It implies that all institutions, including governments, schools, churches, etc are rife with racists. I don’ believe it. There are many whites working hard for minorities, no matter the color. Let's be honest. African-Americans have come a long way in the last 50 or 60 years, thanks to Lyndon Johnson with his civil rights legislation. There many good things to think about. We have black men and women in both houses of Congress. We have doctors, lawyers, professors, nurses, teachers, scientists. We have had at least one black astronaut. 

There have been two black men on the Supreme Court — Justices Marshall and Thomas. There are black people in high positions in all American institutions. If I remember correctly we recently had a black president. Racism does exist and black people and white people have to deal with it together without fanning the flames that already exist. Is racism systemic? I hope not. Are all whites racist? I think not.

Bob Cattabriga

West Lebanon