Op/Ed

Editorial: The other shoe

ANGELO LYNN

It’s difficult to put yourself in others’ shoes. To read, listen or watch the news of the nation and world is to understand how detached we are from those harsher realities in profound ways. That’s particularly true of Vermonters as we enjoy fall’s glorious colors, mild temperatures that invigorate the soul, and community life that, while not perfect, is nonetheless grand.

The disconnect has seemed magnified these past several days: Hurricane Ian’s super-charged winds and storm surge devastated huge swaths of Puerto Rico and then Florida; ruinous floods had previously ravaged Pakistan; heat, drought and forest fires have plagued America’s West for the past several summers into fall. Meanwhile, Vermont coasts from a relatively mild summer into its spectacular fall glory. Oh, it was a bit rainy and cooler than normal in September, if one must complain, but get real.

More harrowing are the political contrasts. As Russian’s war with Ukraine thrusts scenes of devastation to towns and cities, we are challenged to process the brutal images of dead soldiers littered along the roadside, of burnt-out tanks and blown-up houses and apartment buildings and to imagine the deliberate bombing of civilians gathered at transportation hubs to leave for safer areas. 

Seven months into this war it’s normal for those not directly involved to want to disconnect, to keep up on the news (perhaps) but not subject oneself to the visual horrors of the war, to the reality of what many Ukrainians are living through.

The same is true of Floridians and Puerto Ricans dealing with Ian’s aftermath, of Afghanis struggling to survive under the new rule of the Taliban, of Russians as some realize the freedom and stature they once thought they had under President Putin was more façade than reality; and of a world newly threatened by the prospect of nuclear warfare.

How do we reconcile such realities?

Not easily. But what we can do is strengthen our democracy. We can set an example of government that serves its people; we can elect leaders who are respectful of the law; we can uphold principles of self-determination, religious freedom and free speech; of equal rights and the pursuit of a society free from racial and gender bias and prejudice. We can provide education for all, reduce homelessness and poverty, and pass measures that encourage upward mobility.

We can’t easily put ourselves in others’ shoes, but we can strive to have others dream to be in ours. 

Angelo Lynn

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