Editorial: The good, the bad and the ugly
In a free society, one can believe that out of bad, comes good.
Thus, when the nation was shell-shocked by the sight of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members parading at night through the streets of Charlottesville with flaming torches, and when the nation heard their angry speech filled with hate toward other Americans they believe are undeserving of equality, and when counter-protesters and the alt-right came to blows, it is possible to believe that by exposing such racism and bigotry and confronting it head on, we as a nation can undertake a national reckoning to heal wounds we once thought had scarred over.
That Trump would intentionally inflame the bitterness between the alt-right and the vast majority of Americans who spoke out against their intentions, and that Trump would attempt to confuse the nation’s moral compass by his false equivalency is heinous, but it also helps define the challenges ahead. When you realize the president’s moral compass is set to disrupt all things to his advantage, and pit Americans against each other without concern for the greater good, the need to respond becomes paramount.
The positive response across the nation has been heartening.
Confederate statutes and symbols of hate are coming down quicker throughout the country than ever before, and with little debate. And community discussions across the nation are happening everywhere there is a sign or symbol of hate. The Addison Independent’s front page story on two Confederate flags last week drew statewide attention and comment, though the local emphasis on those two cases was on understanding the individual circumstances — not persecuting them for it. Other Confederate flags were apparently flown in Vergennes and, no doubt, elsewhere as they have been off-and-on for years without a lot of concern or fanfare — sometimes adopting it as more a sign of rebellion (as the flag used to be considered during the Dukes of Hazard days) than white supremacy. Understanding and tolerance will be a necessary part of moving forward.
More importantly, the discussion has moved to local school boards and town governments. The city council of Vergennes moved a resolution condemning racism, white supremacy and hateful speech and embracing a culture that welcomes all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age. And at the Addison Central Supervisory Union board meeting this week, that group spent two hours hearing stories of racial prejudice among school kids right here at home that has shocked most of us (click here to see story), and then established a task force to develop a plan of action. Blatant racial prejudice seems so far removed from most of our daily lives that we have apparently ignored the more subtle instances of it that should be confronted, and corrected, each and every day it happens.
The school board has adopted a rational approach. First, don’t wait. Doing something is better than nothing if the intent is to reduce instances of racism and perceptions of inequality. Secondly, pursue a course of action that brings focus to the issue and long-term steps to help change the culture.
Eliminating prejudice, however, is a complex issue, and figuring out how to bring lessons of understanding into our schools and homes won’t be accomplished overnight. To that end, establishing a task force to pursue those goals and keep the school district aware of the task at hand — and everyone’s feet to the fire — is a good first step that the larger community can hopefully embrace. The follow-through is up to each of us — to be aware of our individual actions, to fight against hints of prejudice when we see it or hear it, and to reinforce a culture of inclusiveness in our daily lives.
And with Trump representing the kind of crass prejudice most Americans find distasteful, we’ll have a constant reminder of the challenges we need to overcome for at least the next couple of years.
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