This does not seem believable here
Recent anti-Semitic defacement of a stop sign in Brattleboro, one of a number of recent incidents in Vermont.

This does not seem believable here

This country is in crisis, and Vermont is not immune when swastikas and a Nazi flag appear in broad daylight. We need to understand what is going on — and work together.

It is 10:30 p.m. in Vermont, and I am typing on my laptop by the light of an emergency lamp I bought many years ago, when I was compelled to buy survival equipment.

I spent enormous sums on a tent that could withstand freezing temperatures as well as heat, packs of freeze-dried food, water purifying tablets, magnetic compasses, folding forks and knives and spoons and pots and pans, and a solar stove, not to mention a large red canvas escape pack, in case I had to leave my residence by car.

I had cardboard boxes filled with every sort of medicine one might require in a flood, hurricane, or war. I kept this equipment stored in a large closet, ready to grab in case of an emergency.

This is just a blackout that will end shortly and is inconvenient, but it makes me think of people in other parts of the world who daily suffer not only from blackouts but from floods, bombs, lack of food, or safe drinking water.

I think about this while sitting in Vermont, which I always believed to be inviolate and somehow separated from the rest of the United States. The best of the best.

Now I read that swastikas have been painted on stop signs in Putney and at Brattleboro Union High School, while in Townsend a private citizen has raised a Nazi flag on his front lawn.

This does not seem believable here.

This is the state that has large windmills and highways without billboards.

This is the state of cheddar cheese, meadows filled with wildflowers, and black-and-white cows.

This is the state that welcomes refugees.

This is the state that has town meetings and practices democracy.

Still, signs of hate have surfaced here.

* * *

I must quell my anger and fear. I tell myself that feelings come and go. I let my breath become my anchor, as a Buddhist would. I want to understand what is happening.

The country is polarized politically, and there is an enormous gap between the rich and poor. We have homeless people in Vermont just like the rest of the country; yes, they were allowed to stay in hotels and motels due to Covid, but the government keeps changing the rules.

Abraham Maslow, the psychiatrist, said that when people's safety is threatened, they become angry and afraid. The middle class is being squeezed to death, and the prices of oil, gas, mortgages, and food are rising rapidly. The elderly who live on Social Security cannot afford dental care or get eyeglasses. The rich are afraid that laws will be passed to redistribute their wealth.

When things are this uncertain, people want someone to blame.

In addition, we are dealing with the Delta variant of the Coronavirus and debating whether or not to get boosters, and this, too, has become politicized instead of remaining a simple matter of health and survival.

To top it off, there is global warming with severe weather changes, extinction of species, and mass migration.

It feels overwhelming.

* * *

How did Hitler rise to power and succeed in the murder of six million Jews? That question should be asked in every single school, yet it is not mandated that the Holocaust be taught.

If we do not know what has happened, we cannot learn from history.

Most young people do not know the dates and facts of either world history or U.S. history. The internet leaves them open to any conspiracy theory tossed into the air.

The more hits a person or group gets on social media, the more similar content will be recommended, so pretty soon the average teenager is totally inundated with false information that they accept as fact and do not question. Research skills are not mandated to be taught in most schools.

When the economy is thriving and people are not worried about how to pay their bills, democracy slides along as smooth as a skater on ice, but when people are suffering financially, democracy takes a hit.

People become entrenched in their political views and believe that only their opinion is right. They set up walls of words and use questionable statistics to back them up.

They feel like victims and are filled with rage. They shut their ears and cannot hear people, even friends, who have different views. They want to blame someone for what is making them suffer - it might be the Arabs or the Jews or the Catholics.

* * *

This country is in crisis, and Vermont is not immune when signs of hate appear in broad daylight. There are people here who have trust funds. There are people here who are homeless. There are people here who struggle to hold onto their homes.

But we are all Vermonters - and proud of it.

If we do not stand up and defend whatever group is attacked, hatred is guaranteed to spread, and it will infiltrate every single nook and crack.

And as we do so, we can overcome hatred with love, as Martin Luther King Jr. said. We can figure out what we have in common, whether we are Democrats, Independents, or Republicans. We can work together in spite of fear and stress.

We can hold hands and walk out of this tunnel of darkness.

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