Maggie Brown Cassidy

Commentator

Maggie Brown Cassidy recently retired from teaching French at Brattleboro Union High School. She was also a teacher trainer and founder of the BUHS Swiss Exchange, which provided homestays and immersion experiences for hundreds of students in Vermont and Geneva. She continues to teach adults and has written many features for the Brattleboro Reformer.

This week as part of our Gunshots series, we asked Vermonters about the role of guns in their lives. Commentator Maggie Brown Cassidy had this to say.

I just happened to be in France during the recent presidential election there, and discovered the French candidates had some interesting things in common with our current president.

Immigration has always played a vital role in Vermont’s history. First, a sparse but long-established Native American population was joined by the English – the first European settlers in what became Vermont. Then came Italians, Spaniards, and French Canadians, followed by more recent waves of refugees – Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Bosnians and Somalis, among others.

News from Washington is coming in waves, as each new appointment, executive order, and White House action washes over and obscures the last. So it would have been easy to miss one action that barely caused a ripple but could have alarming implications for news itself in the U.S.

When my daughter, who has her own infant daughter, mentioned that many local people would be marching in Washington, New York, Boston, Montpelier and Greenfield, Mass., and asked if there were any marches closer, I realized that there weren’t.

In recent months, the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported a nationwide spike in incidents of harassment against minorities, particularly immigrants and African-Americans. Sadly, Vermont too, has seen examples: the Islamic Society of Vermont posted on its Facebook page a letter vowing to try to prevent the future entry of Muslims in this country.”

This summer France was in turmoil about, of all things, a bathing suit. A few Muslim women, constrained by their religion to cover their bodies, appeared on public beaches in so-called burkinis – garments with a striking resemblance to wetsuits. When other beachgoers complained, several rightwing mayors responded by banning burkinis and head-coverings on public beaches.

A recent statewide poll by the Castleton Polling Institute found that Vermonters’ attitudes toward refugee resettlement varied sharply between lifelong residents and those who’ve lived away for at least 10 % of their lives. When lifelong Vermonters were asked whether they would support refugees resettling in their community, about half said they would. Roughly a third were opposed and the rest said it depends or they weren’t sure.

In this most unpredictable of political seasons, gun safety has re-emerged as a major issue. Lawmakers have long been reluctant to debate gun laws on both the state and federal levels, but recent violence and inflammatory political rhetoric have brought the second amendment back to the forefront. So the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center’s main exhibition this summer is “Up in Arms: Taking Stock of Guns,” is surprisingly timely.

Summer stretches ahead, and the best vacation value is only a few miles away from anywhere in Vermont. I’m talking about Vermont state parks. There are 57 parks scattered throughout the state, offering everything from paddle boats and playgrounds to rugged hiking trails in the Green Mountains.

May is National Foster Care Month. And while the month is ending, here in Vermont the need for foster parents, especially for infants and adolescents, just keeps on going – and growing.

The end of the school year is approaching, and with it the end of my first year of retirement after 43 years of teaching French to high-school students.

When Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro announced an exhibit of local Native American artifacts, I made a special trip to the library, but then walked right by the small, anonymous bits of clay and stone in the local history section and had to ask a librarian for directions to the display.

Suddenly, it seems Racism is bubbling up again – this time in unusual places like the Academy Awards.

I grew up in rural upstate New York. I was lucky enough to live in a university town, so that when music changed in the sixties, and folk and gospel entered the mainstream, I could go to concert halls or sports arenas on the university campus to hear Judy Collins, Peter, Paul and Mary and Odetta.

Town Meeting Day is coming up, and in towns and villages all over the state, people will gather for the two-part meeting. In one part, voters consider and vote on their town’s budget, questioning and discussing it, line-item by line-item, special article by special article, and then they vote, either from the floor or by Australian ballot.

After a mass shooting, making our country safer becomes everyone’s top priority, and sales of firearms typically reach new record levels. Gun dealers report that while some people buy because they fear more restrictive laws, others want to arm themselves for protection.

Many of my Facebook friends are former students in my French classes, so it’s unsurprising that after the attacks in Paris my Facebook page was flooded with images of the French flag, the Eiffel tower, and other “I stand with Paris” icons. So I’ve been considering what it means to “stand with Paris."

Vermont’s new law promoting the consolidation of school-districts is generating a lot of conversation and anxiety. Act 77 is getting less public attention, but it’s also bringing radical change to Vermont schools.