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Welcome to iBrattleboro!
It's a local news source by and for the people of Brattleboro, Vermont, published continually. You can get involved in this experiment in citizen journalism by submitting meeting results, news, events, stories, reviews, how-to's, recipes, places to go, things to do, or anything else important to Brattleboro. Or, just drop by to see what others have contributed.

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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Rise Above

On the morning of November 8, Election Day 2016, I was standing in my kitchen looking out the window up at the sliver of sky you can see between the houses next door.  As I looked at that slice of blue, two little words popped into my head: “rise above.”  And I thought, today of all days, that’s probably good advice.  And then, that it might be good advice in many situations beyond just electoral politics.  How many of the world’s ills could be solved if we could somehow rise above, at least long enough to get a clear view and the lay of the land?

In fact, we don’t often do that — we stay mired in the details, the next thread, the next post, the next text…  We live in echo chambers, bubbles, self-confirming identity groups…  And consequently, we find it easy to hate each other, at least in the abstract.  Communicating with people we disagree with becomes almost impossible unless both sides can refrain from demonizing the other.

I didn’t know on November 8 that Trump would be elected president, but when I woke up the next morning and found that to be the case, my new mantra came back to me with added force.  This was an outcome I had not counted upon and it took some processing to come to terms with.  I’ve done some of that processing, and more than ever I believe that we do need to come together as Americans and as people and work toward common goals. 

But that won’t be easy.  To do it, we need to be able to talk to each other, to discuss, converse, communicate, share, and otherwise hobnob with our fellow humans, and not regard each other as separate races of creatures bound on different journeys.  In short, we need to dial down the rhetoric and start to look beyond simply opposing the other side.

Moving on as though that were easy, there’s no way to work toward common goals unless we know what they are.  Part of this ongoing conversation with people across the political and social spectrum has to include topical discussions about all the big picture issues that are going to come up in the coming years.   What kind of education, health care, and social safety net do we want?  What kind of foreign policies?  What of “homeland security,” policing, surveillance, anti-terrorism policies?   What kind of immigration policy do we want?  What are our views on global warming policy?  These issues are not too big for us to think about.  We know collectively about as much as most of our leaders, and we’re just as smart.

iBrattleboro was founded as a place to have those conversations, and in light of our current situation, I’d like to renew that goal and reboot the use of this site as a forum for important conversations in the public interest.  We would like to explore and share views on community and what it takes to be one, on how we relate to those outside our social sphere, and what we all have in common despite our station in life.  The optimist in me thinks that maybe this could happen without fighting, that people can all express themselves in perfect moderation and no one will be offended by anything anyone else says.  However, that  probably will not be possible, for many, many reasons having mostly to do with human nature.

But the chance that someone along the line may say something that upsets one or many others seems worth the risk if we’re to have any discourse at all.  Anyone who’s ever been involved in counseling or therapy knows that there is often a stretch of fairly tough sledding before the breakthrough occurs.  I’m not saying we should engage in pitched battles but that we should not let the possibility of a potshot deter us from participating in the conversation.  More importantly, without communication between people of different affinity groups there can be no recognition of common humanity, no understanding and likely no reconciliation.

When I was getting ready for bed in the wee hours of November 9, the election still in the balance, the song that was running through my head was Mockingbird by James Taylor and Carly Simon.  I couldn’t figure out why I was humming such a banal song, but thought maybe it had something to do with the part about diamond rings. It wasn’t until I played the song on the radio the following evening that I caught the connection:  “I might rise above, I might go below....”

Based on that bit of inner reinforcement, I’m hoping that when the dust finally settles, we really will rise above, and not go below.  I’d like to think we’re capable of reasoned discourse, helpful sharing of experiences, and even finding consensus.   It may seem as though such notions are overly idealistic and impractical, but if people don't like what's going on now, I see no way to change that without doing something different.  For starters, we could skip the walls and build bridges, not between nations but between people.


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Above all, a good sense of humor

I think people are going to keep on *not* listening to one another. I'm lucky I work with fairly intelligent people, and have found that they can basically be divided into three categories when it comes to ability to think and speak to another human being. Category III: very, very smart but can't slow down long enough to appreciate one serious thought, so that they just wait there impatiently in order to get on with doing something/anything other than human interaction; Category II: intelligent, warm, sociable and just not used to sitting down and thinking through anything of much substance with another person, but can do it, if forced, and that's never going to happen; Category I: intelligent, good sense of humor, good at taking the lead but also excellent listeners with a great deal of empathy for fellow creatures, get immediately what the other person is saying, understand fully another person's experience and can empathize with it, both emotionally and intellectually, can also expound on what she or he thinks or what she thinks and/or feels, and can do this for a semi-prolonged period of time, without nervously looking for the exit -- in other words, entirely comfortable talking about anything even that which is very uncomfortable to discuss, also, extremely open-minded and non-judgmental. I have met only a handful of Category Ones among the students I work with. The rest are mainly Category II and III, divided evenly, but more and more, falling into Category III.


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