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."

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.

Mares: To Play Or Not

Nov 18, 2014

The Vermont state high school football championships are now history for another year – leaving fields and stadiums around the region echoing from shouts of victory and groans of defeat.

Professional football remains the most popular spectator sport in America. But clouds are appearing on the sport's horizon.

Mares: Hadrian's Wall

Nov 3, 2014

Nineteen hundred years ago, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered a defensive wall built 75 miles across the island of Britain to defend the northernmost reaches of his two and a half million square mile Empire. It was 15 feet high, and it took 20,000 legionnaires ten years to quarry, cut, haul and set all the stones. For the next 300 years soldiers stationed in forts, turrets and camps along the Wall successfully protected Romans and Britons from marauding tribes to the north.

Carefully, I cast the big lavender colored streamer fly into the current of the Connecticut River, and watched it swing out in a gentle bow

"Take it!" I hissed to the unseen trout or salmon and repeated the angler's prayer, "Oh, Lord, suffer me to catch a fish so large that even I, when talking of it afterwards, will have no need to exaggerate!"

The fly in this case was the "Governor Aiken Bucktail Streamer" - as of May, the Vermont State Fly Fishing Fly.

The first time I saw the Alamo was on a school field trip. I was ten-years-old, and the Alamo mission seemed as big as a fortress.

At the end of a recent 1800-mile road trip fifty years later, seeing this Texas temple got me thinking again about what history IS exactly.
Thomas Carlyle called it a "distillation of rumor." Henry Ford said it was "more or less bunk.”

"You don't take a trip so much as a trip takes you!" wrote John Steinbeck. And that was certainly true on the 1800-mile road trip I took this summer with my buddy Eric Hanson. In five days, we drove from Bismarck, North Dakota to Laredo, Texas on two-lane U.S. Rt. 83 through six states and six geographical regions.

The ideal trip has a destination, of course, but also allows for impulse and surprise.

"History does not repeat itself, "said Mark Twain, "but it does rhyme." And as bloody events in Ukraine and Gaza have competed for the world's attention, I’ve been reminded of two similar confrontations in the Sinai, Eastern Europe and the United Nations, fifty-eight years ago.

Bill Mares

In researching a book about war memorials and monuments, I was both pleased and gratified to meet Frank Gaylord, the 89-year-old sculptor of the figures in the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C. It was an honor to shake the hand that had carved those ghostly soldiers, and many more noteworthy statues besides.

Judge Patricia Whalen

On June 29, 1914 - one hundred years ago this Sunday - a three-column story in the Burlington Free Press reported "Austro-Hungarian Royal Heir and wife shot dead" in Sarajevo, Bosnia, a conquered province of Austria-Hungary. The account was remarkably accurate about the events of that world-changing day. It told of the first failed bombing attempt and then the successful attack on the royal pair by a 19-year old Serbian student, Gavrilo Princip, who was arrested soon afterwards. It went on to list many other tragedies that had befallen the Austro-Hungarian royal family.

Mares: Hand Writing

Jun 11, 2014

At last I have some justification for my wretched penmanship. Well,"justification" may be too strong a word. "Excuse" might be more to the point.

A recent article in the NYT described research documenting increased brain activity when small children learned to write letters by hand, rather than by tracing or typing them. It also reported that when kids composed text by hand, they not only produced more text than on a keyboard, but they also expressed more ideas.

Mares: Year Zero

May 23, 2014

I thought I knew a lot about history, but I’ve been surprised by a new book called Year Zero, by Ian Buruma, a Dutch journalist. He takes the reader on a whirlwind and heart-wrenching tour of the world in 1945 – and the pent-up emotions of people and governments alike in that year.

Mares: Armed Stand-offs

May 1, 2014

Although Ukraine and Nevada are 6500 miles apart, intriguingly similar rebellions are underway in the two places. For starters, both are beset by armed gangs, aided and abetted by people from away, who want to weaken or destroy the central government.

So far, these groups have behaved like bullies everywhere: attack first, retreat to claim victim status later.

Almost 180 years ago, the French visitor Alexis de Tocqueville remarked upon the American social tension between the needs of the community and the wants of the individual.

Mares: Democracy

Mar 19, 2014

Winston Churchill famously said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." And 20 years ago, democracy was thought to be on the march around the globe. But a recent article in the Economist magazine asks "What's gone wrong with Democracy? And they consider several answers.

The financial crisis of 2008 and 9 - and resulting recession - caused many to lose faith in political systems that bailed out bankers with taxpayer money and ignored growing wealth inequality.

Mares: At The Oasis

Feb 25, 2014

During the past week, praise has been expressed by many for Stratty Lines, the long-time owner of the Oasis Diner in downtown Burlington, who died last week at the age of 84. It came from Madeleine Kunin, Pat Leahy, Bernie Sanders, Howard Dean, Bill Sorrell, Phil Hoff, and a host of lesser knowns and un-knowns.

Mares: War As Spectacle

Feb 11, 2014

Recently I've viewed two artistic panoramas, one of heroic triumph and one of unmitigated tragedy. The first is the 150-foot-long, 120-year-old Civil War painting by Berkshire born scenic painter Charles Andrus - currently on display at the Vermont Historical Center in Barre. The panorama shows 10 scenes from the Civil War, including bright depictions of the naval duel between ironclads Monitor and Merrimac, the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, and the surrender at Appomattox.