Forum, Jan. 4: A Lesson in Interpreting the Media

Wednesday, January 03, 2018
A Lesson in Interpreting the Media

Thank you for publishing the Washington Post commentary “How to Arm Kids Against Fake News” in Tuesday’s Close-Up section. Its valuable suggestions apply to adults as well as kids.

I was fortunate to have good classes on interpreting the media in both high school and college, back in the 1970s, and I learned more strategies from this column. The media is far more complicated today, and we’d all do well to take heed.

Debra L. Diegoli

Weathersfield Bow

The Two Realities of Race

I have been thinking a lot about race lately. The reasons for this include discussions with my family, reading at their recommendation Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me, the recent production of Antigone in Ferguson at the Hopkins Center, a president of the United States who incites racial prejudices and discrimination, and — most recently — reading in the Valley News about the Hartford Committee on Racial Inequality.

As a concerned citizen, I offer here a simple thought with the hope that it might be useful to those seeking to understand and diminish racism.

My thought is that there are two coexisting realities. The first is that systemic racism exists, as Coates’ vividly describes in his book. The second is that many persons who exist within systems that manifest racism do not have racist hearts and minds. It seems to me that discussions of racism easily get stuck when participants focus on one of these realities, and are more likely to be productive when both realities are recognized.

Lee Lynd


Right Approach to Battling Racism

At a Hartford Committee on Racial Inequality meeting in October, members of a community came together to address the intractable problem of racism. Unfortunately one member’s ugly reaction to difficult truths about whiteness overshadowed an important presentation by Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten.

His presentation gave me reason to believe he will work in good faith with those in the community looking to fight racial bias. He impressed me as a smart and caring man — someone who is deeply invested in the community. With kids in the schools, he has a clear stake in the social health of the town. He speaks with awareness of the problems of crime, poverty and difference, and seems to want to approach his job humanely and with respect.

I was left feeling that maybe if my son, just learning to drive, gets pulled over for a minor traffic violation in Hartford, he could be given the same respect Chief Kasten’s own son would get. He might get the chance to be seen as the gentle and respectful young man that he is and not as a threat and a reason to draw a weapon simply because of his brown skin and dreadlocks. I think the chief is interested in working toward that ideal in a meaningful way. I hope he proves me right.

One comment by the chief did bother me though. It relates to a claim I’ve heard many people make regarding race and power dynamics — the idea that, based on their historical disenfranchisement, women and minorities need time to “catch up” with the rest of society. This thinking is wrong.

The real catching up that’s needed is that of privileged people who don’t understand true equality, justice, respect and understanding. They are the ones who are behind and keeping the rest of us from reaching the ideals that our democracy professes.

James Graham


Avoiding the Main GMO Question

Maybe you read the Valley News piece by Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana, about genetically modified organisms titled “GMO Opposition is Fundamentally Immoral” (Dec. 29).

Humans have modified plants and animals from the beginning of civilization through selective breeding. Genetic modification is a logical extension of this, and I think few people would deny the benefits. But Daniels, and most all pro-GMO people, avoid the real issue entirely: GMO seeds are engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup.

While the genetically modified organism itself may be pretty safe​, the herbicide​​ it’s engineered to withstand kills non-genetically modified plants. You’re going to get some of it in your GMO food and it’s likely a pretty major environmental concern. Considering the consumer, the water, the wildlife and the other plants, twisting the argument to focus on the safety of GMOs is a clever way to avoid the question of chemical-based farming.

​Brad Goedkoop


Preserving Our Rural Landscape

In the Dec. 23 article about ongoing efforts to preserve the Manning Farm (“Strafford Farm Eyed for Preservation”), David Hall suggests the goals of the NewVistas Foundation are compatible with the goals of the Alliance for Vermont Communities and our allies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The NewVistas project aims to purchase and stockpile thousands of acres of land for a very intensive development in line with Hall’s vision of a new 20,000-person city in our region.

By contrast, the Alliance and the many landowners and other organizations we are working with seek to maintain the rural landscape at the intersection of Royalton, Sharon, Strafford and Tunbridge in order to support traditional agriculture and productive forestry, to preserve the land we need for hiking, hunting and other recreational pursuits, and to maintain the landscape the citizens of the towns cherish and want to see protected.

The Manning Farm project is a great step in the right direction, and in opposition to Hall’s destructive scheme targeting our communities.

Alex Buskey

Board member, Alliance for Vermont Communities