Bill Mares


Writer Bill Mares of Burlington is also a former teacher and state legislator. His most recent book is a collection of his VPR commentaries, titled "3:14 And Out."

The controversy in Woodstock, Vermont over school uniforms resonated for me recently on a trip to Texas. I was playing paternal archeologist, excavating with my older son layers of places and memories of central and coastal Texas where I grew up.

Mares: Prophetic Novel

Apr 8, 2016

In the mid-1930's, the Nobel-prize winning author Sinclair Lewis was living in Barnard, Vermont with his equally famous wife, the columnist Dorothy Thompson. Both were worried about the rise of Governor Huey Long of Louisiana and the European dictators Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. Thompson, the most influential woman journalists of the day, had herself interviewed Hitler. And for his part, Lewis conceived a satiric novel about a fictional populist Republican politician modeled on Long's run for President.

Mares: Pollinators

Mar 24, 2016

Vermont has just held its first ever conference on beetles, bees and butterflies, to consider the threats that all pollinators face in Vermont. The conference was a response to President Obama’s directive to create a national strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators.

Vincent Feeney’s comprehensive history of Burlington draws upon documents, letters, news accounts, diaries, proclamations, laws, and the labors of former historians like Erin Anderson, David Blow and Lilian Baker Carlisle. And it’s given me a fresh view of the city where I’ve lived for almost 40 years, in the same house, no less.

Mares: The U2 and Me

Dec 1, 2015

Recently I went to see the new Steven Spielberg film Bridge of Spies, about the exchange of Soviet spy Rudolph Abel for Francis Gary Powers, American pilot of a U-2 spy plane shot down over Russia in May, 1960.

A few days ago, I was reading a New York Times article about Kurdish efforts to rebuild villages ravaged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, when the name Murray Bookchin all but jumped off the page at me.

Mares: Two Weddings

Oct 20, 2015

With much deserved recent public attention on legalizing gay marriage across the land this summer, my private matrimonial focus was to preside at two traditional weddings in September. First, two former students of mine, David Parker, in history, and Jess Andreola, in beekeeping, surprised me with their request. Then, a month later our elder son, Tim, called from Bangkok to say that he and his Thai fiancée, Natt, wanted to get married in Vermont this fall. Would I officiate?

With all the anger and resentment being expressed toward illegal immigrants by Donald Trump and other candidates in this political season, it's worth risking a cliché or two to remind ourselves that we ARE, after all, a nation of immigrants.

Thomas Friedman of the NY Times has written, “Trump's ugly nativism undermines the civic ideals that make our melting pot work in ways no European or Asian country can match."

Mares: Denialism

Aug 14, 2015

The recent Vermont legislative debate to repeal the philosophical exemption for vaccinations was a victory for science over emotion. Against overwhelming scientific and medical advice, proponents were willing to put other children at risk for their own philosophical beliefs about their own children.

Mares: Wealth Inequality

Jul 27, 2015

Pope Francis has condemned the trickle-down theory of improved well-being as a naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.

When I heard about the recent killings of black parishioners at a church prayer meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, the first thing I thought of was the murder by a right-wing hired assassin of Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero in his cathedral in El Salvador in 1980. 

Mares: Turkish Visit

Jun 10, 2015

Travel forces you to take what you already know about a place, add what you see and hear while you’re there, then mix it all up in search of something coherent. In Turkey, the process might be likened to weaving together the threads of a warp and weft to make a Kilim carpet.

With plenty of rain and Vermont's abundance of lakes and streams, it's hard to feel California's water crisis from afar. But ironically, this crisis may affect my 15 colonies of Vermont bees. Here's why.

Over the last 30 years, the beekeeping industry has become dependent upon pollination fees it derives from some 15 crops - worth $20 billion annually.

Mares: Supporting Vets

May 6, 2015

The Vermont Legislature recently passed a resolution that "the General Assembly recognizes the need for public awareness of the military and veteran suicides and the need to support outreach programs for veterans."

Then they turned their attention back to transportation, health care, education and budget deficits.

But Valerie Pallotta cannot go back to thinking about other things. Her son Josh, a National Guard veteran of the Afghan war, committed suicide last fall.

Mares: Sacred Space

Apr 20, 2015

I've been doing some research for a book project with retired UVM professor Bill Lipke about war monuments, memorials and cemeteries in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. The final chapter treats Vermont's memorial landscape – and that includes the State House, where there are memorials related to six different wars. Sorting out the jumble of events people and places there is a little like excavating layers of the city of Troy.

On Town Meeting Day a year ago, Burlingtonians approved by a 2 to 1 margin, proposed changes to our City Charter that would (within the city limits) ban guns from bars, provide for the safe storage of firearms, and enable police to temporarily remove firearms from scenes of domestic violence.

When Kevin Riell, the long time activities director at Champlain Valley Union H.S. died recently, that academic community lost some of its glue. His colleagues lost a friend and a person of quiet inspiration.

Mares: Deflategate

Jan 28, 2015

The latest football scandal - known as Deflategate - may not rise to the level of Presidential philandering or the infamous Citizens United Supreme court case allowing unlimited political campaign money. But it has certainly taken a bit more luster from the gridiron for me.

It was the best foreign policy news in a decade, even better than killing Osama bin Laden. I mean President Obama's agreement with Cuban President Raul Castro, with the help of Pope Francis, to begin to normalize relations between the two countries. This action lances one of our biggest foreign policy boils on the American body politic.
Historically, it ranks with Franklin Roosevelt's recognition of the Soviet regime in 1933. And it follows the normalization of relations with the united Vietnam where more than 55,000 Americans died in an 8-year war.

Mares: Korean Trip

Dec 8, 2014

The first time I went to South Korea was on a college singing tour of Asia during which we sang 35 concerts in seven countries in two months. Much of the time we stayed with local families - which made for even more intense experiences. In Korea we gave three concerts, including one for more than 7,000 people.