Comments to Lamoille Family Center Annual Meeting – 6/20/18

Many thanks. It’s an honor to be invited home to be with you all tonight. I greatly appreciate the work you do on behalf of Lamoille County’s families and communities.

I want to bring forth a few ideas that I believe are consistent with your mission and values.

First, we know that investing in the determinants of child, family, and community well-being is vastly more cost-effective than trying to remediate the damage done by bad policy investments or, worse, neglect. The child who is hungry, homeless, abused, ill, or lacks access to daycare, education, or health services will inevitably show up in our emergency rooms, on our court dockets, in our prisons or in need of some relief from our overburdened social-safety net. Such a child’s future chances of good health, educational success, and employment security are vastly diminished and guaranteed to burden the system.

As a society and as a state, we must re-focus our resources on the preventive work that you and others like you are doing. Our upfront investments now as a society will save us money in the long run, money taxpayers will only foot the bill for later on. Recently, regulators have allowed much of the fund surplus of UVM Medical Center, Vermont’s largest healthcare network provider, to be reinvested in the determinants of mental and physical well-being – affordable housing, nutrition programs, childcare etc. This is a positive trend.

A few examples of our backwards priorities… we invest $180M a year on corrections and half that amount on our four state colleges. A single emergency room visit costs more than several years’ worth of well-child visits. Why does DCF (Dept of Children & Families) have the second-highest per capita child-removal rate in the country? Why do the lion’s share of Vermont’s opiate addiction problems stem from prescribed not street drugs when we’ve known its addictive properties since the opium wars between Britain and China in the 19th century? Perhaps because we allowed Pharma to spend $240M on lobbying and $27B on drug marketing last year and have only recently begun to consider serious regulation.

Furthermore, congress is paralyzed in an ideological war between those who believe in minimal taxation, regulation, and government services and those who believe that reasonable, tax-based government services in certain areas play a beneficial role in the economic and social well-being of our citizens. Our country’s polarization around this has generated funding chaos in social services, health care, education, and in infrastructure investment. Government minimalists would push many social services into the non-profit or philanthropic sector and some traditional government services like military, post-office, and public transportation into the private sector. We’re currently watching this strategy under Thatcher unravel painfully in Britain. As long as this deadlock continues, we’ll have no clear path forward, either in prevention or mitigation.

Social and economic stability initiatives get lobbed back and forth between the philanthropic and the government sectors like a hot potato. Government contracts some services in the non-profit sector, provides certain others, and relies entirely on the non-profit or business sector to do the rest. Before we can ever really advance your important work, we will need to come to some compromise agreement on the appropriate roles and responsibilities of government.

Another challenge – we’re a tiny state with 620,000 people, about 340,000 of whom file income tax returns and just about 170,000 of whom must include a check. The income tax contributes about 25% of our budget and property tax about 33%. The rest of our $5.8B budget comes from the federal government. Unlike most other blue states, we’re dependent on Washington. This dependency on mercurial national resources and the small scale of our own resources means we can’t afford either redundancy or competition. (i.e. day care – public education model) Furthermore philanthropic and business funders increasingly demand collaboration and accountability for mission as you all model so well in your Results-based Accountability commitment.

Finally, even as we revere our past and our rich traditions, they can blind us to fast-paced changes in the real world around us. Globalization, disparity in wealth accumulation, automation, addiction, and e-commerce have all disrupted our communities. When I lived here… Morrisville is different today.

We must really come to grips with these problems sooner rather than later. We must be willing to think long-term and take risks. I worry that we’re merely tinkering around the edges of our past, adding complexity and expense, rather than questioning the purpose and desired outcomes of our myriad programs with the courage to reinvent. We’re small enough so we can still take risks, try new initiatives, succeed and even fail occasionally. But we’ll need to be bold. We’ll need to choose leaders motivated by service rather than career… leaders who can tolerate political risk in the hopes of a better future. While, we must not flag in our efforts to alleviate the effects of and decriminalize poverty, we’ll need to keep redirecting our finite investments toward prevention… supporting our children, families, and communities, as you all do so well here.

I’m happy to take questions or challenges. Thank you for all you do to make Vermont a better place.

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May Newsletter from Magic Hill

Stories and News From Magic Hill

An Ode To May

Greetings, I’ve been burned enough this spring not to offer the promise of more clement weather and, like us all, just wake up and look outdoors for the odd bit of sun and new flowers. On a positive note, the sour cherry tree is full of robust robins and the wood is stacked for next year.

Mother’s Day Gift Idea

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. Sunday, May 13th, to be exact. Whether it’s your in-law or step mom, show her your love with brunch at her favorite restaurant, some flowers, and a copy of Lila &Theron, a Vermont love story that takes place in the early 1900s.

You can find Lila & Theron and my other books at the following locations. Thank you for supporting me and your local independent bookstores.

Northshire Lila & Theron Link
Phoenix Lila & Theron order link
Flying Pig Lila & Theron order link
Vermont Bookshop Lila & Theron order link
Norwich Bookstore Lila & Theron order link
Bear Pond Books Lila & Theron order link Lila & Theron link
Amazon Lila & Theron Link
Amazon Schubart author link

Facebook Mother’s Day Giveaway

Speaking of Mother’s Day, I am holding a Mother’s Day Giveaway on Facebook. The winner will receive all 7 of my books (Lila & Theron, The Lamoille Stories, The Lamoille Stories 2, I Am Baybie, Fat People, Panhead, and Photographic Memory). Give a copy or two to your moms, as graduation presents, or save for holiday gift-giving.

I will sign and write a personalized message in each. This is a $100 value.

How do you enter to win?

You must:
1. Like my Facebook page
2. Share the post with a friend
3. Repost on your timeline

The winner will be announced Wednesday, May 3rd.

Book Recommendation

On Brassard’s Farm: Vermont resident Daniel Hecht’s newest book explores the ties that bind Vermonters to their land and work. It’s a deeply personal prose elegy on how working one’s land and tending one’s animals can transform the spirit. This transformation is realized largely through the eyes of Ann Turner, an émigré in search of something beyond the roller-coaster life she’s been leading. Hecht’s terrific capacity for natural description and personal epiphany bring this book and its characters vividly to life and I cannot recommend it enough.

Lisa & Theron Wins Silver at IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards

I’m pleased to announce that the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) announced winners in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award™ Program for Excellence in Book Publishing. Lila & Theron placed Second for Popular Fiction nationally! For 30 years, the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award™ program has been regarded as one of the highest national honors for small and independent publishers. Over 150 librarians, booksellers, and design and editorial experts judge the 1,500 books submitted to the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award™ program.

Thank you, Swanton Public Library!

A great turnout Saturday, April 7 at the Swanton Public Library where they hosted a panel of writers –novelist Stephen Payne; graphic novelist Don Mabott; poet Chloe Viner; children’s author Sarah Stewart Taylor; novelist and non-fiction writer Rebecca Rupp; and myself for a Q&A session. It was terrific meeting and  talking with these budding writers.

What I’m working on now

I’m plugging away on my new novel about a priest who struggles to sustain his faith in God and his church. After review by several critical readers, I’m on my fourth rewrite. Expect it to be finished in June or July and on the market in the fall.

Stone Boat Story

Some of you may have seen the stone boat on my Facebook post. Thanks to all who commented on that post. It seems everyone who has come across one of these in their lives has a story to tell. I have one as well.

It was one of those wonderful auction moments. The farm equipment and large tools had all been sold and the crowd was drifting off toward their cars. The auctioneer was anxious to sell off the “odd lots” and held up a heavy cast iron triangle by its chain, saying, “No idea what it is, anyone give me a coupl’a bucks for it? Iron alone’s worth that, weighs a ton.”

I knew right away what it was, bid three bucks holding up my number, and heard “sold to the big guy in the back.”

It was cast in Randolph, VT in the 1880’s and only needed some 4″ thick maple planks bolted to it to make into the fine stone boat you see in the picture. I don’t have a team so I pull it behind my John Deere 2240.

Copyright © 2018  Bill Schubart, All rights reserved.
April 2018 Newsletter
Our mailing address is:
Bill Schubart
144 Magic Hill Rd
Hinesburg, VT 05461
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June Newsletter from Magic Hill

Stories and News From Magic Hill

Possibilities Feel Endless In June

Odd, the irony that as I get older and my time on earth diminishes, the promises of spring expand.

Enjoy your June.

Lamoille Stories and Lamoille Stories 2:
A Great Father’s Day Gift and Summer Read

In the last decade I’ve had seven books come to market, three story collections and four novels. A decade on the perennial best seller is The Lamoille Stories. It traffics in the funny, odd, mischievous, and occasionally sad goings-on in the county I grew up in and is peopled with characters I knew (or made up to protect their reputations.) If you haven’t met them, now’s a good time. The Lamoille Stories (Vols I & II) have become my very best sellers.

It’s the perfect summer read for fathers both young and old who are drawn to nostalgia and descriptions of a day and age before simplicity became a hip lifestyle trend. You can findLamoille Stories and Lamoille Stories II  and my other books at the following locations. Thank you for supporting me and your local independent bookstores.

Northshire Lila & Theron Link
Phoenix Lila & Theron order link
Flying Pig Lila & Theron order link
Vermont Bookshop Lila & Theron order link
Norwich Bookstore Lila & Theron order link
Bear Pond Books Lila & Theron order link Lila & Theron link
Amazon Lila & Theron Link
Amazon Schubart author link

What I’m Reading Now

I’m deep into Michael Ondaatje’s new book, Warlightand finding it riveting. Ondaatje is best known for the book and film The English Patient. His newest new novel about about two siblings’ mother’s enigmatic disappearance and role in British Intelligence in WW II is keeping me from things I should be doing.

“Reflections” Shared at The United Church of Hinesburg

I was asked to give a talk to the congregation at The United Church of Hinesburg in May. It was about exigent life, the hardship and work that life doles out to us that forms character. Here’s what I said:

“Ever since word went out that this old hippy was about to stand behind a pulpit and presume to speak with any authority about salvation, I’ve suffered the slings and arrows of a few skeptical friends. One local pub-owner predicted …Read more

Check Out This Vermont Writer

Be sure and track down Bernie Lambek’s new novel Uncivil Liberties. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy. It takes place in Vermont and goes deep into the civil liberties we enjoy, even when they don’t serve us well. If you like court room drama and local politics, you’ll enjoy Bernie’s new book.

What I’m Working On Now

I’m on my final read-edit for my own new novel, as yet untitled – a fictional exploration into how the Catholic Church has changed or failed to change during my lifetime – as told through the eyes of a priest who struggles to reconcile Church doctrine with his knowledge of the Life of Christ and his own human instincts.

Curved-Head Adze or The Gouger

In May, I posted this impressive hand tool on my social media with the questions, “What is this tool?”

If you guessed curved-head adze, you are correct. I call it The Gouger, as it is used for gouging out wooden bowls or creating voids in wood. I found it in France many years ago and fell in love with it.

Closing this month’s newsletter with “I’m tired of everything being so green!”
Copyright © 2018  Bill Schubart, All rights reserved.
April 2018 Newsletter
Our mailing address is:
Bill Schubart
144 Magic Hill Rd
Hinesburg, VT 05461
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The Dignity of All Work

Neighbors in an upscale condo development were speculating about what the guy in the end-unit must do for a living to afford a sailboat, motorcycle, and camper. Curious, one strolled over and asked.

“Plumber,” came the answer.

As a society, we stratify careers as a vertical hierarchy reflecting the accumulation of wealth and power as enviable social values. Service, agriculture, and skilled trades populate the lower rungs of the metaphorical ladder of success.

And this ladder implies a value system that today ill serves both our economy and our communities, since our ongoing allegiance to it assures generational continuity at the top, thus furthering a disproportionate accumulation of wealth.

The spectrum of career and employment opportunities could be better represented on a lateral axis, implying no judgement or value structure. After all, even the wealthy need housekeepers and electricians.

But sadly, the “ladder of success” model is also reflected in our educational system. Not only have we bought into the idea that every child must have a college education, the well-heeled now vie to get their children into preschools that claim to guarantee collegiate success and rival private colleges in tuition costs – even as 1.3 trillion dollars in college debt burdens forty percent of American graduates beginning their careers.

Imagine hanging the ladder sideways – so that career guidance, breadth of educational opportunity, and compensation expectations clearly reflect and encourage the dignity of all forms of work. The nurse, carpenter, farmer, home caregiver, mechanic, and teacher are all vital to a functioning society and our educational system should mirror that reality.

As someone who was privileged to have a fine education in prep school and at UVM, I know the value of an education based in the humanities. But this need not preclude learning other work-based life skills. Such competence builds self- confidence.

In the 20th century Morrisville of my youth, some kids graduated from high school and went to work on the farm, some went to college, while others went on to the St. Johnsbury Trade School to learn the complexities of engineering and mechanics. There was no “right path,” the ladder to success had few rungs, and Vance Packard’s book “The Status Seekers” had not yet been written. Work was dignity.

It’s time to rethink our educational and compensation systems in a way that honors the dignity of all work.

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Roads Scholar and Gravel Slalom

I’ve finally reached that mind-body equilibrium we all seek. I’m both a Roads Scholar and a Gravel-road Slalom competitor. You’re probably not familiar with either unless you live at the end of four miles of a dirt road in Vermont and live here year-round.

For many of us the primal terror of “mud season” faded with the invention of Tyvek, now underlying the uppermost gravel layer on our back roads. The white lingerie gracing many unfinished homes in our backwoods turned out also to be a boon for those of us living on back roads where in spring the water-table overtakes the road surface. Tyvek has drastically reduced the boggy swales that mired our cars each spring.

Visitors driving along our back-country roads after a few days of inclement weather may be surprised to see locals slaloming along the full width of our two-lane roads even as they approach hilltops. Unless you’re born to the sport of gravel-road slalom, it will seem odd at first, if not fatal.

Gravel-road slalom lacks the grace of a great snow skier following the fall line through a tight web of bamboo poles throwing up clouds of snow from side to side. The gravel moguls we toss up on the roadbed as we carve our way through the aggregate only makes matters worse for the next sportif driver. After several broken tie-rods and a blown shock or two, you’ll learn to appreciate this unique Yankee sport.

If you see a hand-painted roadside notice offering to buy recyclable metal, look sharp for a whopper pothole. Tie rods, blown shocks, hubcaps, bent wheel hubs, even the occasional ancient Subaru rusting in a nearby field should serve as a warning, and by the way if you imagine that speeding over a pot-hole will incur less damage, you’re in for a costly surprise.

It’s assumed that sober folks driving on paved roads drive in a straight line and drunk drivers zig-zag, but on our gravel roads the opposite is true. Intoxicated drivers drive straight down the middle while sober drivers zig-zag.

The few imported Yugos, Ladas, and Renaults that made it to Vermont rarely lasted a year on Vermont’s secondary roads. One Yugo was found buried deep in mud on a road in Eden when a trout fisherman spotted a side-view mirror sticking out of the ditch on the side of the road.

At my age, I’m proud of my Roads Scholarship and my skill at Gravel-road slalom, a skill to which most newcomers only aspire.

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A Heedless Death

I grew up reading Vermont Life in the fifties and continued reading it until shortly after the turn of the century. It always had a prominent place in our home, moving quarterly from the coffee table to the bathroom magazine rack – where its continued perusal was assured – and finally to a shelf in the den. Back then, Vermont Life was collectible not disposable.

Eventually I lost interest as the magazine shifted away from the substantive features and images that define us toward lifestyle and marketing.

My only real business savvy in life has been marketing, and I’ve always believed that the best marketing conveys substance rather than fluff. Consumers have largely become inured to marketing yet still crave substance conveyed through story, image, history, culture, and intellectual curiosity.

Vermont’s many entrepreneurial craft, food, and hospitality businesses are integral to who we are. They serve the aspirational as well as the native Vermonter, but they remain secondary to what truly defines us and intrigues re-settlers and visitors.

In nature, things end, but human decisions are too often binary – sustain or close. To our loss, we forget reinvention.

I am deeply saddened by the demise of Vermont Life, it feels not only like the end of an era, but an unimaginative concession to the stresses of media change.

Vermont Life should be a chronicle that expresses Vermont, its people, history, culture, enterprise, and landscape – a go-to publication for definition of the Vermont brand, featuring a balanced array of articles, images, and online media appealing to people of all ages, and, if we care, it could still become so.

Imagine if Vermont Life were to remain a semi-annual print vehicle partnered and co-branded with seminal Vermont media to broaden its reach. Imagine a wider curatorial and co-production role as well as editorial, commissioning the best writers and photographers in the state for articles on contemporary subjects and ones that explore Vermont’s colorful past, but that also draw on the rich media archives and creative resources of Vermont cultural non-profits specializing in the fine arts, folk arts, history, humanities, and the natural and built environment.

Magazines are struggling, print advertising’s almost gone, but new media’s rising in its place. I can’t help thinking we could – and should – have imagined better.

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Who Really Made America Great?

An epiphany is a spontaneous event that inexplicably alters one’s life, a​ manifestation​ of some force in the universe greater than oneself. ​

My wife and I both experienced this recently when we brought our foreign-exchange host student to see New York City during her spring break. She wanted to see the major American landmarks and we obliged her – as much as ​the ​crowds of tourist visitors allowed.

Because Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty involved a three-hour wait, we chose the free Staten Island Ferry ride instead. It passes close by Miss Liberty, so we could take our pictures with her towering above us – on a ship full of people who all had the same idea.

In the boarding line, we found ourselves among people from all over the world. We heard no English, only the wonderful cacophony of many languages. We were awash in a sea of multi-hued faces, earnest parents, eager children, all aspiring to connect with America’s genesis.

Th​e​ ferry ​transports ​70,000 people a day beneath the benign and non-discriminating gaze of Miss Liberty, twenty-two million people a year. It also chugs by Ellis Island, the entry point for twelve million of our European ancestors ​who sought freedom or simply a new start, the very people who went on to make America truly great, unlike the jingoistic autocrat today.

Amid this sea of international visitors, ​I felt a deep affinity for and connection not only to my own European roots but​ to all hopeful human beings. Call me a “globalist” if you wish but even today America remains the hope of millions.

We also explored the extraordinary accomplishments of other New World newcomers: The Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Morgan Library, the Metropolitan Museum, Central Park – all standing in dignified contrast to the largely empty phallic apartment towers now looming over the city and owned by absentee billionaires

I’d lost my connection to the New York of my birth family and my brief home when I was young and first married. But seeing it through the eyes of our exchange student and revisiting the landmarks that really embody this country’s greatness, I recovered my sense of what we stand for and what we can be again​ should we continue to welcome those who venture with hope and aspiration to our shores.

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United Church of Hinesburg: “Reflections” Bill Schubart May 6, 2018

Ever since word went out that this old hippy was about to stand behind a pulpit and presume to speak with any authority about salvation, I’ve suffered the slings and arrows of a few skeptical friends. One local pub-owner predicted I’d have you all speaking in tongues and offered to bring me a few garter snakes from his woodpile to hold in each hand as I delivered my message of hellfire and damnation. But, alas, life has brought me low as it does all of us, and instead I’m here to talk with you about the exigent life.

What is the exigent life? Exigency is what life imposes on us by way of work and hardship to enable us to survive and even thrive in this world.

The many farm families with whom I grew up in Morrisville in the fifties understood exigency even though the word might have been unfamiliar to them.

Living with scarcity and hardship, their days were determined for them less by choice than by the seasons, the weather, their tools, crops, and animals.

Well before dawn and after milking, haying, and watering thirty cows, farm families gathered while eating breakfast and waiting for the school bus in front of the Bakelite Zenith radio to listen to WDEV’s weather report, the crop and animal market reports, and The Trading Post.

A life in which choices are made for us by external forces takes us outside ourselves and diminishes our petty wants and desires to irrelevance when measured against survival. Just as for all growing things, such a life hardens us off to better cope with physical and spiritual challenges and instills in us perspective, humility, empathy, and endurance.

I recently read this wonderful passage from The Farm in the Green Mountains by Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer.

To wash and iron a piece of dirty laundry, to clean, scrub, wax the kitchen floor, to cover holes in stocking with a lattice of threads, to make a wearable garment from whole cloth, or to cook something from all sorts of raw ingredients – that was the same process again and again: namely going from a disorderly beginning to a state of clean orderliness or giving form and taste to unformed material. This endlessly repetitive, primitive process of accomplishment was a greater protection against care, anxiety, fear for one’s life than the application of all manner of understanding, reason and religion.

A classic book written in 1985 by Neil Postman called Amusing Ourselves to Death explains how many of us today have traded entertainment for substance, laying out the steep social and spiritual price we pay for this trade-off. Postman’s premise seems eerily prescient.

Postman’s book also raises for me the question of how we parent today. I’ve known three college presidents in Burlington. All of them have confided that they have on staff a full-time psychologist whose job it is to remove parents from campus after the college year starts. One recently noted that 25% of his incoming class are on some form of prescribed medication to cope with anxiety or depression.

I’m not sure what’s at work here but worry that as parents we’ve become so emotionally dependent on the affection of their children that we’ve lost sight of our purpose, to raise independent, resourceful, and resilient young people to carry our families and communities forward.

As youngsters, my generation was expected to have paying jobs during our teen years. Many of my friends from that time were members of Future Farmers of America or the Grange, Boy Scouts, or 4-H, all of which entailed raising and caring for one’s own animals, learning a craft, and public service.

As our theme today is growth and planting, perhaps a garden metaphor is in order. Think of how we take delicate seedlings from the comfort and warmth of the windowsill and set them out, first in a cold bed and then directly into the soil to fend for themselves, or how birds fledge their young by pushing them out of the nest to flutter to the ground and fend for themselves. The experience of having one’s days prescribed by forces greater than oneself is deeply formative and critical to the development of character and endurance. Do we do better by our garden plants than by our children?

We all know – and many of you sitting here today – have had to make your way through considerable adversity and strife to find the peace we enjoy here together giving thanks in a beautiful church in the heart of our community. This peace does not come from what we’ve accumulated but from our hard work, the challenges we’ve overcome, our families, the grace of friendships, and the gratitude of those who’ve called on us for help.

So, what happens when we’ve reaped the rewards of an exigent life… when the forces of nature exert less demand on us and our family needs are largely met?

How many of us know a friend who, having worked all their life with an eye toward retirement, finally reaches Barcalounger Valhalla, settles down in front of the TV, gets sick, and dies soon thereafter? We’re meant to both work and to play in a balance that continues to develop us physically and spiritually. God envisaged rest but speaks nowhere of retirement. Retirement doesn’t mean the end of work, it only means more choice in the work one does. God intends us to keep on keeping on.

We can choose to continue the exigent life. We can avoid the easier, softer way even in old age. We can still shovel snow, split our wood, handwash our dishes, and hang our clothes by the woodstove. We can walk to the mailbox. We can remind ourselves that our many modern conveniences often come at the expense of others.

Mindful of the gigantic eddies of swirling plastic threatening all ocean life, we can use our cloth grocery bags at Lantman’s. We can pay a bit more and buy our books locally. We can turn off the TV that only makes us lonelier and phone a friend. We can bake a casserole and bring it to an ailing stranger. We can work for social justice. The United Church of Hinesburg calls us all to lead an exigent life of the spirit, enriching ourselves and our community.

Here’s the poem with which I started my latest book, Lila & Theron:


Be cold

Forage and grow

Haul wood and stone

Go hungry

Use hand tools

Be bold

Raise children

Cure food

Walk without light

Keep animals

Grow old

Adore someone

Greet wildlife

Pay rapt attention

Forgive yourself and others

Thank you for doing me the honor of inviting me here today.

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Language, Fear, & Leadership

Without notice or comment, The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) recently removed from its mission statement a century-old introductory phrase… “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants…”

At the same time, it added, “protecting Americans” and “securing the homeland” begging the question “From whom?”

The implication is that Americans all must of a sudden now be protected from refugees, asylum seekers, and those seeking freedom and opportunity – just as our own grandparents did. It’s a chilling shift in attitude.

The most destructive weapon against civil discourse lies in a leader’s effort to generate irrational fear. All the great autocrats have done this – fear of minorities, immigrants, women, the poor, intellectuals, the mentally handicapped, the “other.” A fearful citizenry stops reasoning, and discourse turns to diatribe.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand just how little I really know, but I believe children are born curious and, nourished properly, they remain so for life. The capacity to pay attention to others is natural in children raised in healthy families and communities, and the courage to speak an informed truth with kindness and respect becomes the endgame.

I don’t really believe we’ve lost this in America. I see examples every day among friends, talking with strangers, and from responsible media organizations. But leaders must be held accountable for modelling civil discourse rather than debasing it in pursuit of their own self-serving agenda.

The long-accepted stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As in grief, there are similar stages through which one must pass to acquire the wisdom and learning leadership demands.

As humans, we acquire perceptual data through our senses. We process this data into information by aggregating and contextualizing it. Knowledge comes only when that information is tested against other sources of information and fairly assessed. We graduate to wisdom when we measure our acquired knowledge against our life experience and against the lives of others we learn about through various means.

If these paths eventually lead us to acceptance and wisdom about life’s complexities, how might they apply in the current political standoff with its lack of, curiosity, comity, and compromise? Perhaps admitting how little, in fact, we know and learning to listen respectfully, process, and then speak will finally rekindle in us the wisdom true leadership demands.

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Identity Politics

I’ve recently learned I’m aprivileged, cisgendered, white male.”

This feels somewhat alien to me still – but it’s new so I’m willing to try it on and figure out what it means in today’s definitional taxonomy of “identity politics.”

Like the few obese kids I knew growing up in Vermont or later at prep school, the only imposed identity I’ve ever known in my seventy-three years has been as a fat person. I was often isolated, teased, or “baited,” as they said at Exeter, where I was known as “Dumbo.” It was painful and gave me a sense of what it meant to be “other.” I believed in my “otherness” until I lost weight – for a time – and realized I was still myself.

I’ve listened with interest and empathy to the discussion around identity politics but I find it difficult to see myself in that frame – maybe itself a function of privilege, whether earned or inherited.

During the turmoil of the sixties, I thought much of this through for myself and it was clear to me that I wanted to be part of “us.” Like many of my peers, I yearned to be a member of not one but many of the communities radiating out from my own insignificance into a larger world: a Burlingtonian, a Vermonter, a New Englander, an American, and eventually a global citizen. I worked hard to retire the implicit biases with which we’re all born. I made friends across every divisive boundary I discovered and retain many of those friendships today.

So I worry that identity politics may lead us to ghettoize ourselves within our chosen identities and lose a common sense of purpose and connectedness – that we’ll focus on the “me” rather than the “us.” And I’m old enough to know how destructive that can be. But I’ll keep an open mind about identity politics, and trust the next generation to better educate me on the concept.

For now, I’ll continue to describe the world as I see it, with the humility to understand that truth, like beauty, may lie only in the eyes of the beholder. And I’ll work to beat my implicit biases into a shared humanity.

I’ll do my best to contribute to the creation of a diverse community and won’t judge those who belong to identity communities that are – perhaps forever – beyond my experience or understanding.

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