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Forum, July 8: Principal was treated as a moral outcast

Published: 7/7/2020 10:00:14 PM
Modified: 7/7/2020 10:00:08 PM
Principal was treated as a moral outcast

Windsor principal Tiffany Riley’s private Facebook post criticized Black Lives Matter on two grounds: that it was coercive in insisting that a person was either all for the movement or all against it, so that any criticism was heresy; and that its policy proposals for police departments might be bad for law enforcement generally, and police officers especially.

I’m with her on these issues. When I see on a placard “White Silence Equals White Violence” at a BLM gathering, I see a message both aggressive and intolerant. Mantras may make good bumper stickers, but not good policy. “Defund the Police” is another one, to the degree that it implies reducing their number. The BLM movement has made it clear that changes must be made so that minorities no longer fear assaults on their bodies or their dignity with every police encounter. That will require better, not fewer, police. No civil life can exist without something like a police force.

Riley’s criticisms of BLM troubled some students, who complained to the School Board. Since the board had continued Riley in her position for five years, the presumption is that her performance had been satisfactory, at least up to the moment she wrote her fateful post, for which she did not apologize. The board evidently did not weigh her years of good service in the balance. Instead, it treated her as a moral outcast. It placed her on paid administrative leave with demeaning speed: “the ignorance, prejudice, and lack of judgment in these statements are utterly contrary to the values we espouse” (one of which was plainly not freedom of speech). As with the board, the fact that some of the complaining students had liked her right up to the end became a matter of no relevance. Heresy is the great canceler.

Not only has her job been threatened, but perhaps her entire career as an educator. Her accusers may congratulate themselves that a great danger has been destroyed, and rejoice that the next dispensation will be informed by acolytes of the Great Awokening, who will watch what everybody says.

ROGERS ELLIOTT

Lebanon

Is history repeating?

Looking back on the pandemic that exploded between March and July, what will historians say? That there was heartache and misery? Most certainly. That it was a punishment from God? Perhaps. That it originated in the East? Indeed.

That the afflicted were forbidden to travel? Yes. That there was no apparent remedy? Too true. That in many cases death occurred not long after symptoms appeared? Regrettably so. That when the afflicted mixed with the unaffected, the unaffected were quickly stricken? That the dead could not be mourned publicly but had their bodies taken to graves not of their own choosing?

Alas, it was so.

The human response, readers will learn, was diverse. Some locked themselves away, lived in isolation, and entertained themselves with music and such other amusements they were able to devise. Others fled the city for the country. Still others believed they could ward off evil by visiting taverns, drinking, gratifying all cravings — shrugging the whole thing off as an enormous joke.

We shall also read that commerce came to a standstill, that social disorder grew in leaps and bounds, that states were pitted against one another, that politicians pursued personal advantage rather than the well-being of the whole, and that militias threatened those with whom they disagreed.

So we will learn. But is this the record of coronavirus in 2020 — or of the Black Death in 1348, so well described by Boccaccio in the opening pages of The Decameron?

The more things change ...

CHRISTOPHER L. CHASE

Hanover

Our racial injustice impedes climate fight

In Bill Nichols’ June 28 column, “Notes from my evolution: What half a century of journaling tells me about Black lives in America,” he quotes Jane Fonda as saying, “Frankly, climate and racial injustice don’t seem like two causes anymore.”

The turmoil around racial injustice in the minds of the nation and much of world has been clearly demonstrated over the last few weeks. Injustice of any kind causes anger, panic and pain in the minds of those being unjustly treated. And the damage, both psychological and physical, is especially powerful in conflicts engendered around race and culture.

Such conflict at the heart and soul of the world’s population damages its ability to deal with many things, but especially climate change, a complex and seemingly more distant issue.

Racial injustice is not just an American problem. It’s global. And it debilitates everyone. As long as it is allowed to exist unchallenged, it greatly cripples the potential of the world population to function as a team in a coordinated challenge to climate change. In the long run our entire civilization loses.

Over the past 45 years, climate change has become more obviously dangerous and better understood. Yet little is being done to hold it back, let alone reverse it. It is crying out for global action. Yet nothing moves.

A solution that avoids catastrophic climate change will require that every nation and every person contribute to the effort. Yet today, the global mind is fractured, its emotions crippled, tied up in the mechanics, malpractices and structures of racial and economic injustice. The global elite, who created and maintain these structures in their attempts to assure their hold on power and wealth resist all efforts to challenge climate change and environmental destruction, even though science tells us it will eventually threaten all life on the planet.

Tearing down the structures of racial and cultural injustice must begin before there can be a full-throated and successful challenge to climate change. Will future generations be able to say that both these challenges were well undertaken?

CHARLES McKENNA

Wilder

Hatred in some people’s hearts is frightening

Reading the Forum letters over the last few months has been eye-opening. The hatred in some people’s hearts and lives is sad and frightening. Somehow Democrats, as well as people who are demanding that their voices be heard, are called “terrorists,” as Forum contributor Jim Argentati did (“Left planned this all along,” July2).

Those in the highest positions of the current administration have encouraged and allowed Americans to oppress, victimize and persecute one another, and the president celebrates hate speech and this outrageous behavior at rallies and in tweets. Conspiracy theories do not originate on the left. Intolerance and fear don’t either. Black Lives Matter is not a conspiracy. Greta Thunberg is not a conspiracy.

People need to make a commitment like never before to get out and vote. The risk is too great if we do not.

AUDRA SMITH

Lebanon

Examine all aspects of school funding

I was happy to see that the Rivendell School budget passed (“Rivendell passes school budget on second try,” July 2). Discussions over the past month have led me to believe that towns such as Orford, with much more than 50% of lands in current use, will be unlikely to fund our schools adequately.

I am for the concept of current use and have land in current use, but I feel strongly about providing quality education for our kids. It is time to discuss all aspects of school funding, including the existing current use tax rates.

PORTER MILLER

Orford

School ruling an attack on the Bill of Rights

For all intents and purposes, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue ends the Establishment Clause (“Religious schools win in ruling,” July 1). It allows states to require mandatory tithing to support religious establishments. Tax breaks for contributions to religious establishments taxes the rest of us; we pay the difference. One of the primary reasons for the inclusion of the Establishment Clause was to prohibit required tithing. This violates my individual rights under the U.S. Constitution.

This ruling is itself unconstitutional, and indicates this Supreme Court is willing to attack the Bill of Rights. If the court can nullify one part of the Bill of Rights, it can nullify them all.

MARK R. ALLEN

Thetford

A better approach to unemployment

Some members of Congress don’t want to extend the COVID-19 program that gives people who lost their jobs an extra $600 a week on top of regular unemployment benefits. They argue that this creates incentives for people not to return to work. Perhaps. But the real problem is that regular unemployment benefits are too stingy, wages are too low and the economy is on life support.

The maximum unemployment benefit in New Hampshire is $427 a week, equivalent to $10.68 an hour for a 40-hour work week. According to researchers at MIT, this falls far short of the “living wage” required to obtain basic necessities in New Hampshire. The federal supplement raises the state’s maximum unemployment benefit to the equivalent of $25.68 and hour, which is the same as or more than the living wage for most residents. No wonder some unemployed workers receiving the supplement may have an incentive to stay at home.

So why not get rid of the federal supplement? Because without it, many people can’t make ends meet. The New Hampshire unemployment rate in May was over 14%, which means that, regardless of the incentives, lots of people can’t find jobs even if they want to. Good luck living on the equivalent of $10.68 an hour. Regular unemployment benefits alone just won’t do. In fact, depending on their family structure, even workers earning the state’s median wage of $19.95 and hour often fall short of a living wage.

Other countries have done better. Aside from more effectively containing the virus, Denmark, one of the most competitive and prosperous capitalist economies in the world, extended unemployment benefits indefinitely during the COVID-19 crisis and agreed to pay 75% of most workers’ salaries if they were laid off. It also subsidized salaries for workers if they were furloughed. The Danes could afford to do this partly because they had paid down their national debt during prosperous times with revenues raised from their national sales tax and high progressive income tax. Other European countries have done similar things. We should have too.

JOHN CAMPBELL

Lyme

Prentiss is the clear choice for NH Senate

Voters in New Hampshire Senate District 5 will choose their Democratic nominee for state Senate in September. They should choose former Lebanon Mayor Sue Prentiss, not just because of her accomplishments, but because of her character.

Her experience overseeing Lebanon’s economy, coupled with her 20 years working in the emergency medical community, make her uniquely qualified for the twin economic and health crises facing our state. But it isn’t just her resume that makes her the clear choice to represent our district.

Prentiss summarizes her career in one word — service. She understands that our representatives should serve the people who put them there, and she has lived by this ideal in Lebanon by volunteering as an EMT for more than 20 years while simultaneously raising a daughter and occasionally holding down several jobs.

I got to know her personally during former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, for which she served as a state co-chair. Her ability to inspire, bring out the best in people and build coalitions leaves her uniquely qualified for not just this district, but this moment.

Please join me in September to make Sue Prentiss our next state senator.

CHRIS GUNDERMANN

Hanover

Kirk White cares deeply

I have lived in Bethel for more than 30 years. Have I seen many changes since then? Surely. Like many small towns in Vermont, Bethel has had its ups and downs. Of course, Tropical Storm Irene hit us hard, as it did our neighbors in Stockbridge, Pittsfield and Rochester. But as the license plate says, we are “Vermont strong” and all of our communities rebounded and became stronger.

This strength came in no small part from its citizens. Many residents dove right in to tackle some of our most pressing problems. A great deal of time and effort was spent to make our towns more productive, unified and resilient.

Kirk White, a lifelong resident of Bethel, is one of those outstanding individuals who was in the forefront of the community effort to revitalize our town. He has spent countless hours, whether it was with the Bethel Revitalization Initiative or Bethel University, to make our town a better place to live. Now he wants to represent Bethel, Pittsfield, Rochester and Stockbridge in the Vermont House of Representatives. I enthusiastically support his effort to take over for Sandy Haas, who is retiring.

White cares deeply about our small towns and the challenges we face. He knows how fragile our economies can be, especially in light of the pandemic. He knows that funding our vital schools, from pre-kindergarten all the way up to Vermont Technical College, is of the utmost importance, and an alternative to funding by property taxes must be examined.

Finally, he is a very creative person who is open-minded, thoughtful and committed to do what is in the best interest of all of our towns. I ask you to please support Kirk White with your vote in the primary on Aug. 11.

MARK HECKMANN

Bethel




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