Vic Henningsen

Commentator

Vic Henningsen is a teacher and historian.

For commentaries from Vic from before April 2013, visit the VPR Archive.

Here’s my Inauguration nightmare. One night it’s Clinton-related; the next Trump, but otherwise it’s identical. At the end of the inaugural address, the House Speaker asks, “Mind sticking around? We’re starting impeachment.”

We’ve heard a lot about “two Americas” recently: haves versus have-nots, “makers” against “takers”, natives versus immigrants, those convinced government is evil against those believing government can help.

These days I flinch when I hear “You’re a historian”, words prefacing a bid for supposedly professional insight into the current election. Alas, to mix the words of historian Barbara Tuchman with those of St. Paul, history is a distant mirror into which we see darkly.

Here are some people who never would’ve become president had the public known of their medical problems or the extent to which they’d gone to conceal them.

Ah, hiking with my dog – just the two of us rambling through the woods to a peak with lovely views. Talk about living the dream!

Trying to explain today’s divisiveness, some pundits point to an information revolution permitting us to choose news that mirrors our own beliefs and gives us our own facts. Others suggest the roots of incivility lie in income inequality and its ripple effects.

“Soon the Boomers will be gone and we’ll get what we want. We’ll disrupt the status quo and change the political landscape.” So spoke a young activist lamenting Bernie Sanders’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

At the moment Americans seem to agree that we’ve somehow lost our way. Beyond that, we quarrel.

On June 29th 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the “Federal-Aid Highway Act” authorizing “a national system of Interstate and Defense Highways”. Today, and $500 billion later, that system extends almost 48,000 miles through all fifty states and Puerto Rico.

Recently, a northern goshawk attacked me for straying close to the nest. When I posted this to the local birding list-serv, experienced birders told me I shouldn’t be specific about location and behavior.

Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and other famous American women will soon grace our paper currency. And it’s about time!

At a time when we’re increasingly concerned with economic inequality, Vermonters might want to consider the difficulties faced by 51% of our state’s population – women and girls. 

This election cycle pits two powerful political strategies against each other. On one side, the “Big Lie”: the notion that an outrageous falsehood, the bigger the better, repeated often enough, becomes believable. On the other, what I call “More Rope”: the idea that, with no restriction and endless opportunity, those given to Big Lies will eventually over-reach and self-destruct.

Years ago, one of my colleagues was invited to address university scholars in Ecuador about U.S. cultural dominance of Latin America. She responded: “Stop worrying about that. Start worrying about how much the U.S. is becoming like Latin America – with a vast and growing underclass ruled by an uncaring oligarchy.”

Few remember the Peggy Eaton affair, the Whiskey Ring, the Mulligan Letters, Teapot Dome, the Vicuna Coat, the Hughes Deal - all scandals that rocked the political landscape and influenced campaigns of yesteryear. Someday this will also be true of personal email servers, Benghazi, and mythical New Jersey Muslims cheering 9/11.

Ever since Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death, politicians and the press have been speculating relentlessly about his “replacement” on the Supreme Court.

Rachel Portesi

There’s no bad time to look at art, but an election year February is particularly good.

Art doesn’t shout, but it does speak to those who listen and, this winter, two exhibits in our area speak deeply indeed, posing questions about nature, the past, and ourselves.

At first glance, the paintings of Vermont artist Eric Aho and those of South Dakota native Harvey Dunn couldn’t seem more different.  

In 2004, Vermont governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean wondered why working class whites consistently acted against their own economic interests by voting Republican. Some suggested that Republicans’ cynical politicizing of social and cultural values masked economic policies favoring the rich. Others argued that Americans don’t vote on the basis of where they are, but on where they expect to get.

Back in the fall, trying to take a shortcut through a building at Dartmouth, I was surrounded by armed guards eyeing me with grim suspicion. I’d forgotten Hillary Clinton was campaigning there.

It’s said that we’re entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts.

Pages