Thursday December 20, 2012

A message
of tolerance

Editor of the Reformer:

In regards to a recent letter appeared in the Reformer ("Seeing the connection of the red lines," Dec. 13), which spewed anti-Semitic venom:

As we approach one of the holiest days for Christians, I think it’s important to be reminded about the message of religious tolerance.

Simply put, anti-Semitism is the belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. As the Anti- Defamation League points out, "... From the days of the Bible until the Roman Empire, Jews were criticized and sometimes punished for their efforts to remain a separate social and religious group - one that refused to adopt the values and the way of life of the non-Jewish societies in which it lived."

Since World War II, public anti-Semitism has become much less frequent in the Western world. Although certain stereotypes about Jews remain common, fortunately Jews face little physical danger. The hatred of Jewishness and the conspiracy beliefs of past eras are for the most part shared only by tiny numbers of those on the fringes of society.

However, exceptions do exist; especially over Israeli policies. "Zionist" -- support for Israel as the Jewish homeland -- is often used as an anti-Semitic code word for "Jew" in mainstream debate. Holocaust denial and other recent re-writings of history -- such as the false claim that Jews rejoiced during the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York -- lie about the events of the past in order to make Jews seem underhanded and evil.

In its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, ADL reported that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States declined by 13 percent in 2011; from 1,239 incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment in 2010, to 1,080 in 2011. However, these numbers do not accurately reflect other factors such as increases in school bullying, online expressions of anti-Semitism, verbal taunts, or published letters to the editor.

While not proven, intuitively there is a correlation between hate talk and hate crimes.

So, what can be done? When anti-Semitic statements are heard, they should be confronted for the hurtful, hateful, and ignorant comments that they are.

Gregg J. Rickman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, reported to the U.S. Congress in 2008, "History has shown that wherever anti-Semitism has gone unchecked, the persecution of others has been present or not far behind. Defeating anti-Semitism must be a cause of great importance not only for Jews, but for all people who value humanity and justice ...."

Let’s hope that the spirit of Christmas and its message of tolerance will extend beyond the one day and that we learn to practice and cherish peace and goodwill to all.

Martin Cohn,

Brattleboro, Dec. 17

Senate falls short

Editor of the Reformer:

An open letter to Senators Sanders and Leahy:

We are appalled at the action of the U.S. Senate for its failure to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 4. This is an affront to justice and an embarrassment to the U.S.government at home and abroad. The "no" vote happened in spite of thousands of advocates in a nationwide petition, including more than 300 organizations. We would appreciate knowing of your own efforts as you continue to work for justice and peace.

Judith and Allen Myrick,

Brattleboro, Dec. 13

No cost too steep to protect children

Editor of the Reformer:

Monday morning it took a step of faith for all parents to send their children off to school.

It shouldn’t be this way. If we truly value our children we will put our finances toward ensuring their safety in their schools. One police officer per school is not too much to ask for protecting hundreds of our most vulnerable and cherished residents. A locked buzzer/alarm system at each school, or a keycard entry system with a call-ahead policy for all non-employees. Metal detectors at entrances. It is not impossible to protect our children better than we do.

The intruder alert drills that our schools do on a regular basis are critical. However, with no safe place to hide the drills are not enough.

I would gladly pay higher taxes for the above safety measures. We cannot deny that there can be deeply disturbed and dangerous individuals in every community and there is no measure too costly that it is not worth taking to ensure our children’s safety.

Elizabeth Ellis,

Vernon, Dec. 18

SIT overlooked in Peace Corps report

Editor of the Reformer:

I was pleased to see The Peace Corps highlighted in the Reformer ("Vt., N.H., Maine still providing to Peace Corps," Wilson Ring, Associated Press, Dec. 17).

However, SIT Graduate Institute and World Learning should have been included in the Vermont list. The Peace Corps’ has longstanding ties to SIT and World Learning. Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver was a participant in World Learning’s flagship program -- The Experiment in International Living -- and drew upon his experiences with The Experiment to create the Peace Corps model. Shriver invited The Experiment to help train the first Peace Corps Volunteers in 1961, and SIT developed out of that partnership.

Today, SIT Graduate Institute is a Master’s International school and a Peace Corps partner institute that participates in the Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellows program. In 2011, SIT Graduate Institute ranked ninth nationally in Master’s International program participation, which is impressive considering SIT’s small size relative to the larger universities on the list.

Karen Blanchard,

associate professor,

SIT Graduate Institute,

and Returned Peace Corps

volunteer, Ethiopia

and Thailand,

Putney, Dec. 17 The importance
of GMO labeling

Editor of the Reformer:

As a member of the Brattleboro Food Co-Op. it has come to my attention that Vermont voters will soon be given the opportunity to vote on the issue of labeling all genetically modified food ingredients via the Vermont Right to Know Food Act. Unfortunately, the California Proposition 37 to label GMO ingredients failed by a small margin. Media coverage noted that for the most part this was due to the constant bombardment of negative and misleading information presented by those companies and organizations who have much to gain by selling GMO ingredients. Millions of dollars were spent by businesses to prevent labeling. Sadly, my own state of Massachusetts failed to pass this labeling bill due to the same negative tactics. You can find further information at www.rodale.com/gmo-labeling-california.

I ask the people of the great state of Vermont to study the labeling issue carefully. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that reveals GMOs are unsafe and harmful to our environment and the livelihoods of organic farmers everywhere. Over 50 countries, including Japan and China, label GMO foods. Why is it that this great nation of ours cannot or will not do the same? I believe it is the right of all to know what is in our foods, especially when it has been genetically manipulated.

I urge the people of Vermont to stand up to the GMO industries and become the first state to pass a law that requires all GMO food ingredients and products be labeled. Before you vote, ask yourself this question: If GMOs are not harmful, why is it that these companies fear labeling? Surely it is more than the cost of creating new labels. If the people unite with one voice, we can have real transparency in our food labeling.

Pamela Jacobsen,

Feeding Hills, Mass., Dec. 18

A 2nd call for Rhymes with Orange

Editor of the Reformer:

I want to second the suggestion that Hillary Price’s cartoons appear on the Reformer’s comics page. Her humor is topical, upbeat and not mawkish. Let’s have a lot more of her.

Orion M. Barber II,

Brattleboro, Dec. 17