On Aug. 24, the Rutland Herald published two commentaries that seem to point to some potential common ground across the political spectrum, at least here in Vermont.
Louis Scotellaro’s commentary, “Embracing diversity,” discusses the recent U.S. Census numbers for Vermont, and the efforts by Bob Harnish and Al Wakefield to promote a “Declaration of Inclusion” from town Select Boards and organizations across Vermont. John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute also wrote a commentary, “Afghanistan collapse, Vermont opportunity.” Mr. McClaughry advocates for Vermont welcoming the “Afghan interpreters, translators and cultural advisors who stood with, and often fought the Taliban with U.S. soldiers and Marines … desperately trying to escape from lethal Taliban retribution.”
I first heard about the Declaration of Inclusion when Al Wakefield spoke at the April 2021 Project VISION meeting over Zoom. In April, there were a small number of towns that adopted this statement. Now, there are at least 18 towns that have joined in. In April, I wondered how the Rutland Town Select Board would handle this declaration. I had a hunch it would not pass. But I was surprised that our Select Board instead “filibustered,” rather than actually bring up a motion, debate and vote on a Declaration of Inclusion.
When I read the text of the Declaration of Inclusion, it seems like it is a restatement of existing federal laws against discriminations of various kinds. Some of our Select Board members come from a conservative or libertarian viewpoint, and seem to be against making redundant or unenforceable laws. But this Declaration of Inclusion is not a law, but a statement of values. Maybe it’s redundant, but given our current political divisions, perhaps a reminder is helpful. Granted, this ethic should extend beyond town governments, also to schools, businesses and other organizations. This Declaration of Inclusion by a town Select Board is a statement. They are nice words, but not actions.
Back in April, I started to write down some couplets, inspired by the work of Mr. Harnish, Mr. Wakefield and others. The sentiment of this Declaration of Inclusion could be expressed in other forms, perhaps through the creativity of artists, musicians, poets, filmmakers, etc. So, for what it’s worth, this is my poem, inspired by the Declaration of Inclusion (coming to a town near you):
Vermont Welcome Signs
By Ron Pulcer, 2021
Vermont is the Green Mountain State
Just look at our green license plate
Although Vermont’s mountains are green
It’s not the only color seen
September and October’s rainbows:
Sugar maple reds, oranges, yellows
As do willow, oak, birch on sky blue
All together with evergreen hue
November’s stick season reveals
The terrain that tall trees conceal
December’s bright snow, long dark night
Winter, waiting, by hearth fire light
April showers, mud season track,
May flowers, Green Mountains come back
Twelve months through Vermont’s four seasons
Many colors, many reasons
Vermont’s palette is not static
We’re more than monochromatic
Green Mountains, yes, but many hued
All people, respected, valued
It’s been twelve score and five years ago
Upon reflection, how did it go?
One Truth was NOT self-evident
We now declare an amendment
Henceforth, we declare the sequel
All People Are Created Equal!
Faith, hope and love in positive fusion
Town Declarations of Inclusion
Our highway border signs proclaim
“Welcome to Vermont,” with nickname
Welcome travelers, Vermont is scenic
We say “Welcome,” but do we mean it?
Ron Pulcer lives in Rutland Town.