The moral consequence of acceptance

The moral consequence of acceptance

Uncertain of our place, but standing with my sister and husband nonetheless, shoulder to shoulder, for others. Brattleboro Rally for Trans Justice. 2018.

I don’t feel safe to be a part of any community 
outside my own.

Of all the words spoken at last month’s Rally for Trans Justice | Brattleboro, these are the ones that most pierced my oblivion.

How affronting my hubris. How careless. How dangerous even. To dismiss another simply because he/she doesn’t look the way I expect she/he to look.

Acceptance is protection, declared one of the rally signs. I nodded my head in sobriety.

I have a responsibility here.

Hate is a choice. Trans is not, expressed another.

I felt that inside.

“Do better,” the speaker offered to those of us who identified as the sex to which we were born. “Talk to each other. Educate yourselves.”

I am and was so grateful to all those who were courageous enough and vulnerable enough to gather with people like me who want to be allies, but who have so much to learn.

I hope there are more and more spaces where people who identify as Trans feel safe and accepted and most of all feel that they—belong.

At one time I felt awkward around “them,” and then confused, and over time curious, and finally accepting, but now my heart is made glad when I see the woman at the register who kinda looks like a man but who is clearly a woman inside.

She’s always been warm and funny with me even when I accidently use the pronoun, He.

Where I belong

Where I belong

img_2220The Co-op is quiet this morning; the town itself demure–wet and waiting–for spring.

The ice spitting from the sky before dawn was the first sign that the winter was willing to surrender, something, before April.

I step through the tiny glistening shards as I cross the parking lot, thinking the day dark and heavy, just as the first flock of geese flies overhead, announcing its return.

The regulars are waiting. Mostly men. Mostly older men. Like an Italian piazza. They talk politics, instead of bocce ball, because this is Brattleboro. One has a wild, silvery beard and could be in Russia, playing chess. Talking treason. Instead he is running for office. Asking for signatures. Interrupting his companions’ reading of the cafe copies of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

There are 8 men now, some a bit younger, one on a computer with headphones, smiling. A single, middle-aged woman unpacks her morning pills, her breakfast, her book.

“It’s like we are home,” says the cafe attendant, as I step up to the sink to wash my dishes. “We all know each other. It’s the way it should be.”

I don’t know any of them, really, but I know their faces, and their smiles, and their bad days. I join them in their morning ritual, a few times a month, when I’m needing an escape from working on the hill, where I live, encrusted in snow.

The mountain across the river is our steady companion, in every season. The Co-op itself sits beside a brook that runs into that river. The black, grated iron along its banks defines and holds the space we occupy: captures our silent gaze, keeps us safe, serves as a leaning place for children tossing pebbles.

As we crest 9:00 am, the cafe empties and fills, new faces, a few women; and the traffic across the bridge and up the main thoroughfare picks up to a hum to fill in everything in between.

A father and son cross the street at the light, beside the tall amber grasses at the corner, which some kind souls planted to remind us that there are other colors coming even when the world has been monochrome for so long.

It is this time each year, March, when I seriously consider moving; but this morning I’m right where I belong.

Just when I thought it was safe to shop at the Co-op again…

Just when I thought it was safe to shop at the Co-op again…

Brattleboro-Food-Coop-_color-logo-2011-white-e1339968441518For months now, I’ve been able to go into the new Co-op without Richard.

He’s always there, of course, but he’s no longer in the front of my mind like he was each time I strolled into the wine department. (It hasn’t been Richard’s department in my mind for some time, and that feels good. And right.)

I don’t know about you, but I was shocked to see a whole section of The Commons devoted to what happened 2 years ago. Did you know that this was brewing? I had no clue. And I wrote something like 22 posts on the Co-op tragedy.

At first I felt left out, but as I read deeper, I knew it wasn’t for me.  For starters, I didn’t know Richard intimately, and I didn’t know Michael at all. I didn’t even recognize his name–or his face; which was odd, given how the faces at the Co-op become friends, and given how long Michael had apparently worked there.

I remember how relieved I was to find out that it wasn’t Alex. I’ve always liked Alex. I don’t know him intimately either, but I have interacted with him over the years in a number of different capacities–as an employee, as a shopper, as a member, as a blogger–and my sense of him is stable and kind and thoughtful.

But what does that matter? No one deserves to be killed. And anyone can point fingers. And find fault. In any direction.

There seems to be a lot of finger pointing in the Special Focus section of the Commons, and in the end, it left me feeling yucky inside. And dirty.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t value what they had to offer. I do. I think it was bold to share the voice of a killer, to keep him a part of the community, to humanize him and his friends and his family. I think every person deserves that. Or at least, I think it benefits the rest of us to tap that connection, whether or not it is deserved.

But overall, I think the section devoted too much time to “how” the Co-op played a part in Richard’s action. It’s not that this didn’t cross my mind as well. I was mad at the Co-op. Mad on behalf of Richard. Mad on behalf of all of us who had to endure such a devastating impact. (Not to mention what the family and friends and co-workers of Michael Martin have to endure–forever.)

Can’t the Co-op be better than this, I thought. Aren’t they supposed to be? Why didn’t they see this coming?

But as the events of August 2011 receded, those rants softened, and what was left was Richard’s culpability. (No matter what was happening at work.)

That’s my bias.

If his wife had no idea that he could act like this, if he had no idea, how was the Co-op supposed to know? Do we maybe expect too much from it? It is, after all, a grocery store.

I have friends who have stopped shopping there over the years. They don’t like its politics. “How do you like the politics of Price Chopper?” I ask.

Relationships are messy. Families are complicated. Organizations with relationships, like a family, are… Impossible? Worthy? Complex.

I worked at the Co-op, for a handful of years, part-time, and honestly didn’t love it in the end. I’d always been one of those employees with glowing reviews, typically in leadership positions, but that was before I became a parent; and this was one of my first times as an hourly employee.  In many ways, I didn’t like how I was treated, and I thought to myself, even though I’m not a professional, I deserve respect.

I went to the management because I cared about the Co-op and wanted it to be an exceptionally good place to work; and they listened. Alex listened. Another manager stepped in on my behalf, and I felt heard and supported. But ultimately, I chose to leave, because little changed in my department, and despite my writing to Human Resources, no one seemed to care. (Lots of people left before me, and lots would leave after.)

I think it’s a worthy cause to look at the work place issues that surrounded this tragedy. I really do. I think it’s okay to air the dirty laundry. But I think it’s misguided to give so much attention to explaining what led to Richard’s action–on the outside, when to me it has everything to do with what was going on inside–of him. (And I think it’s odd that a smiling photo of him highlights it all.)

As someone who wrote profusely about the tragedy, I was approached by many who wanted to confide their views (on and off the record.) I heard how terrible it was to work with Michael. I heard how terrible it was to work with Richard. I heard how terrible it was to work at the Co-op. I heard how wonderful the Co-op was.

The only thing in my mind that was definitive was: Richard’s act and Michael’s death.

The editor of the Commons asks, What can we learn?

What I learned is that we each need to be responsible for what eats us up inside.

Kelly Salasin, July 2013

A related post: Blame and Hindsight to the Rescue

Co-op Killing Anniversary

Co-op Killing Anniversary

Photo: i Brattleboro, C. Grotke

That’s a disturbing title, I know; and I hate to bring it up, but I know it’s there inside all of us, waiting to be expressed.

Anniversaries are like that. They come whether we want them to or not. Especially first anniversaries. Especially when a loved one is lost.

August 9 is the day that Richard brought a gun to work

How apropos that the old Co-op is being demolished as this anniversary approaches. What if we each threw something into the wreckage that we no longer wanted: guns, unresolved anger, bitterness?

I wonder how the Co-op will mark the anniversary? I know it will be a day full of anguish for the family of Michael Martin. I know that the days leading up to the anniversary will be particularly hard. I can already feel it in my own body.

What about Richard? What will his body relive of that day? What choices might he wish differently?

Would he do it all over again?

Would he get “help”?

What about the rest of us?

If you haven’t experienced the anniversary of a deep loss, then know that it takes its toll. Drink lots of water. Get a massage. Talk to a friend. Plant something beautiful–in the ground, in your life, in a relationship. Breath.



With love,


Even the Potatoes Are Sad

Dissing the New Co-op

Dissing the New Co-op

“It feels just like a Whole Foods now,” some complain.

“I prefer Putney,” others say. “That’s a real Co-op.”

What is a real Co-op, I wonder? BFC is the only Co-op that I’ve ever intimately known, and in my 20 years in Vermont, I’ve seen it undergo some pretty radical changes.

Lucky for me, I love all things new. New people. New places. New spaces. But change on this large of a scale is challenging.

I miss the old-old-old kids room. By the front door. With the slide. But I could see how a kids room near an exit could be a misfit. I was especially glad when they moved it a third time–away from the added noise of the smoothie blenders. I come upon the kids room in the new Co-op yet, but I keep hearing about it. That’s how gigantic the new store is.

We all like to complain, don’t we? Especially when we’re anxious.

A bunch of us are complaining about the cheese department, but we’re also thrilled about the sliced cheese in the deli and the promise of pizza. Heck, I’m overjoyed that I don’t have to wait for someone to pour my chai anymore.

Some people say that they might as well shop at Price Chopper or Hannafords, that there’s no difference, especially since they have “natural food” selections too.

For me the greatest difference has always been the cereal aisle. I hardly ever have to fight with my kids in the Co-op.  Generally there’s not going to be candy masquerading as breakfast.

“We own the Co-op, right Mom?” they ask.

“Yep,” I say.

Now that’s a difference that makes ALL the difference.

Kelly Salasin, July 2012