One Voice~from Vermont to Paris~and the world

One Voice~from Vermont to Paris~and the world

When they ask me at the Post Office if my package contains anything dangerous, I never know quite how to answer. It contains books, and if a book isn’t dangerous, then why was it written?
~Karen Oberst


If the Native American saying is true–that it takes a thousand voices to tell a single story–then maybe a mother’s voice from the backroads of Vermont can lend something to this story of free speech.

I entered the conversation with a tweet because I didn’t know what else to say:

12. Terrorist. Paris. Satire. Press. Cartoonists. Religion. Fanaticism. Freedom.
Not sure which point is the sharpest.

Later, I shared a Rushdie quote:

The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.

He should know. Remember?
I remember because I was 25 at the time–coming to terms with my own mortality–and feeling particularly unnerved at the thought of a man with a price on his head for writing a book.

A book.

Later, I became a writer myself–a memoirist in fact–which brought me face to face with the threat we authors pose. I shouldn’t have been surprised. As a child, I was sent to my prison often–my room–for my mouth. Spanked. Slapped. Silenced.

I grew up passionate about voice.

So passionate, that speaking truth became more important than saving face, or staying safe or even being understood.

Then I had kids.
Fast forward to this week and an argument with my youngest. He’s 14. At times infuriating.

Instead of anger, I resort to sarcasm or mockery. This enrages him. I mock more in defense.

Both my sons tell me that my mockery makes them livid.
I listen to them, and wonder why I do it.
I never used sarcasm and such as a teacher. I knew it was toxic, particularly for adolescents.

I probe a bit and discover that underneath the mockery is my fierce need for boundaries and non-violence.

“I don’t want to give it up,” I tell my husband.

He reminds me that mockery and power share some poignant history for me. We recall the time, when at 18, I stood up to my father’s tyranny by mocking his orders. At his 6 foot 4 to my 5 foot 2, mockery was my only weapon.

He knocked me to the floor.
Three times.

I don’t see the world in good and evil; and so what I’m trying to understand is what possesses three men to bring automatic rifles into an editorial meeting to execute cartoonists.

But then I remember that even my mild-mannered husband has been provoked to violence by words. How as a boy, he once said to his mother: “Words hurt more than hitting.”

I’d like to figure out how to set boundaries with the men in my life without mockery, how to engage them in what really matters without provocation; but the bottom line is that I can do both–mock and provoke–without giving permission to violence.

“Free speech is non-negotiable,” tweeted the organization Index on Censorship.

“Allahu Akbar,” God is great shouted the masked intruders.

Respect for religion has become code phrase meaning fear of religion,” writes Salman Rushdie.

“We are all just prisoners here, of our own device,” sing the Eagles.

I’m developing a deepening appreciation for satire. For its comic relief. For the way it softens the unbearable. Illuminates the densest of matter.

I think maybe humor is the path to the future.
But only the humor that I like.

“Humor that offends absolutely no one is not humor,” writes Andy Borowitz, about Paris.

I’d never heard of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo before today, and I doubt that I would appreciate the tone of their work.
But I am in the middle of reading Salman Rushdie’s, Haroun and the Sea of Stories to my second son; and when I delightfully discover that this longtime favorite has been selected by Vermont Reads as the state book of the year, I dispatch a digital copy to my sister and her family who are living in Cambodia as missionaries.

Now I cringe when I read what Rushdie has to say about yesterday’s tragedy, imagining how those words would feel to my sister and her husband. Not necessarily the disrespect part, but the “medieval form of unreason” part:

Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today.

I imagine he knows what he’s talking about, given that the Ayatollah of Iran put a fatwa on him, but I also know that the heart of those in love with the Divine can be pure; but maybe that’s different than religion.

BBC presenter Simon Schama tweets: “Satire was the father of true political freedom, born in the 18th century; the scourge of bigots and tyrants. Sing its praises,” and I think he’s right, but maybe now we need a mother of freedom too. Both fierce and gentle.

Mothers talk to your sons.
Men give your women voice.
Children, demand it.

“They thought that the bullets would silence us,” spoke Malal Yousafzai of Pakistan, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. “And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices.”

May our voices join to tell this story and make it new.

Community Matters, Part III

Community Matters, Part III

Third and Final Community Visit, Monday, May 24

Marlboro Outback  6:30 – 9:00 PM

Marlboro Resident Polly Wilson votes at the Marlboro's Community Meeting (photo credit David Holzapfel)

This is a great opportunity to be part of the future planning for the town.



To Residents of Marlboro, Vermont

Come to the next meeting in the Community Visit process on Monday, May 24th from 6:30 to 9:00 at the Marlboro Elementary School. We’ll be looking at these 3 priorities:
Develop a Marlboro Community Center Building
– Improve Walk-ability and Expand Bike & Walking Paths
– Generate Energy

(Note that a meeting around the topic to “Advance New Zoning Bylaws to Include All Species” will be organized by VCRD and the Marlboro Planning Commission this coming fall)

VCRD will bring a new “Visiting Team” of state, federal, regional and non-profit leaders to Marlboro to develop task force work plans with action steps and resource lists that will help the town move forward.

Forrest Holzapfel, Marlboro Community Visit Chair
Paul Costello, VCRD Executive Director

Here’s some background and more detail:

On April 29th over 100 Marlboro residents gathered in a community meeting to consider the ideas that were discussed through the Marlboro Community Visit process and to set priorities for action.

At the meeting, the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) presented a list of all the key directions that residents had put on the table at the public forums on March 25th.

Following discussion, the top 2 priorities from the vote that night are those listed above. Community members also identified 2 ongoing priorities that need some fresh energy and they are also listed.

“A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.” (Proverb)

"Dot Party" The Town Votes/photo credit: David Holzapfel

“We shape our buildings, then our buildings shape us.”

— Winston Churchill

Marlboro Priorities:
Develop a Marlboro Community Center Building
Residents could create a stronger sense of Marlboro and improve the connections with others in the community by building or adapting a facility to serve as a unifying Marlboro Community Center. Features of such a center could include programs and activities ranging from meeting rooms and senior services to a gym, tourist information and WiFi center, library and reading room, entertainment space, parent/children playgroup room, community kitchen, teen center, café, or even a pub. Provision for parking and connection by trails to neighborhoods, the college, and other center points will be crucial to success. A Community Center Task Force could evaluate existing buildings and opportunities (like the Skyline Restaurant) and work with other groups in town to design a structure for multiple community activities, from country dances to social service meetings, movies or senior meals.

Michelle speaks to the viability of Skyline, photo credit: David Holzapfel

Task Force Signups So Far:
Sally Andrews
Augusta Bartlett
Lauren Beigel
Fred Bisbee
Alan Dater
Casey Deane
Esther Fielding
Will and Paula Fielding
Lucy Gratwick
Mary Greene
Marcia Hamilton
Richard Hamilton
Michelle Holzapfel
Francie Marbury
Andrea Matthews

Jean Boardman addresses the room/photo credit: David Holzapfel

Peter Mauss
Ellen McCulloch-Lovell
Lisa Merton
Ed Metcalfe
Julianne Mills
Lauren Poster
Mike Purcell
Kelly Salasin
Ede Thomas
Peggy Tiffany
Felicia Tober
Allison Turner
Liz Vick
Wendy Webb

Improve Walk-ability and Expand Bike and Walking Paths
Bike and walking paths can contribute to community interconnection, public health and community sustainability. A multi-use path from the school to the Town Offices, for example, could lessen the need for short car trips. A committee of Marlboro residents could look at the model developed by Kingdom Trails in the Northeast Kingdom for biking, walking and ski trails either for in-town personal transportation or to develop recreational assets for tourists and residents alike. The task force could map existing trails at the college and other community center-points, link them, map them, and encourage their use as ways to get around town, get exercise, and lower the number of regular car trips.

Task Force Signups So Far:
Gail MacArthur
Julianne Mills
Barbara Parker
Mike Purcell
Vanessa Redfield
Brent Seabrook
Peggy Tiffany
Liz Vick


In addition, Marlboro residents wanted to strengthen two existing efforts by bringing in new volunteers and building momentum to:

Generate Energy
Marlboro’s well established Energy Committee has led significant efforts to expand efficiencies in buildings throughout the community. But more mutual public education is needed to expand efficiencies and to inform the public about the potentials to cost effectively produce energy. Marlboro should adopt a vision to make itself the “Distributed Energy Capitol of Vermont” and then implement it by systematically expanding the number of households, businesses, and public buildings that generate the power that they use and contribute to the community’s energy needs. Toward that end, Marlboro residents should:  explore the implementation of a local PACE program (Property Assessed Clean Energy) to support residents’ decisions to advance energy and efficiency projects; explore possibilities to build micro hydro sites in the town’s watersheds, evaluate the potential for a community wind project or extensive small scale wind development, and systematically expand solar panels to near ubiquity on houses in the community. Residents would like to see a Task Force raise the flag around a Marlboro identity as a state leader in energy creation and sustainability.

The Youngest Attendee (photo: David Holzapfel)

Task Force Signups So Far:
Peter Mauss
Jonathan Morse
Rose Watson

Advance New Zoning By-Laws to Include All Species

A meeting to move this priority forward will be organized by VCRD and the planning commission this coming fall and so won’t be on the agenda on the 24th.
Marlboro has an opportunity to plan for and build zoning to support long term strategic goals of creating a village district and advancing conservation.  Marlboro should adjust its town plan over time and develop new zoning ordinances to protect moose and bear corridors, to focus development density in a village area yet to be designed, and to preserve the rural nature of the town.  Residents suggest that those working on this should consider density development on RT 9 and between RT 9 and the College as potential village center.  Some suggest defining a limited area for commercial development on Route 9, and place for senior housing and for affordable housing for young families as part of focused development to build the village center.

Note: If you can’t make it Monday evening, you can follow the meeting LIVE on Twitter with the hashtag #VCRD or follow @kellysalasin.  Or you can return to this blog and follow the LIVE Twitter feed on the side bar or check back for the complete highlight post afterward.

Community Matters, Part II

Community Matters, Part II

“There is no power greater than a community
discovering what it cares about.”

~Meg Wheatley

The Youngest Attendee (photo: David Holzapfel)

Now that we know what matters to us as a community, it’s time to come together to make it happen.  Let’s have some fun!  (PS.  Don’t tell the little one, but a town pub was high on the priority list for most community members.)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Take a look at the guests for today’s Marlboro Community Visit:

Roger Allbee, Secretary, Agency of Agriculture

Suzanne Blanchard, Program Director, Smart Growth Vermont

Andy Broderick, Principal, New Generation Partners

Greg Brown, Executive Director, Chittenden Regional Planning Commission (Retired)

Paul Bruhn, Executive Director, Preservation Trust of Vermont

Patricia Coates, State Director, Congressman Peter Welch Office

Paul Costello, Executive Director, Vermont Council on Rural Development

Steve Gold, Deputy Secretary, Agency of Administration (Retired)

Julie Jacques, County Director, Farm Service Agency

Jeff Lewis, Executive Director, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation

Larry Mandell, Founder, Woodbury College

James Matteau, Executive Director, Windham Regional Commission

Johanna Miller, Co‐Chair, Vermont Climate Action Network

Max Muise, USDA Rural Development

Tom Murray, Executive Director, Vermont Telecom Authority

Jenny Nelson, Policy Advisor, Office of Senator Bernie Sanders

Nancy Owens, Executive Director, Housing Vermont

Bob Paquin, State Director, Farm Service Agency

Julian Portilla, Program Director, Mediation & Applied Conflict Studies, Champlain College

Chuck Ross, State Director, Senator Patrick Leahy Office

Will Sawyer, Program Manager, UVM Center for Rural Studies

Ryan Torres, Philanthropic Advisor, Vermont Community Foundation

For more information, contact Margaret at 802‐223‐6091 or

During the three month process, towns create local goals and action plans and are assisted by a Visiting Team who brings state and regional expertise and resources to the table. These state and regional experts will be on hand as active listeners as community members from Marlboro share their challenges, inspirations and current work ongoing in town.

Click here for schedule