Commentary Series

Mon-Thurs 8:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Sundays at 10:55 a.m.

More than 50 commentators provide perspective and opinion about current events, topics of interest, and often showcase the work of writers and storytellers. The VPR Commentary Series is produced by Betty Smith-Mastaler.

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The Burlington City Council is poised to vote, by my calculation, on whether to increase councilor pay from $2.40 an hour to $3.60 an hour. And this perfunctory adjustment reminds me of a lyric from Pink Floyd’s ‘73 classic Money wherein the psychedelic rockers declare “Money, it’s a crime. Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie.”

I have a lot of diplomas, dating from nursery school right through to a PhD. But none of them has as much meaning as the one I earned this summer that’s just arrived in the mail from the Green Mountain Club, certifying my end-to-end through hike of The Long Trail.

I have a confession to make: I’m a Trump supporter. Now that the election is over I’m delighted with both my choice and the outcome of the election.

During the recent election campaign I got tired of hearing about what white American males believed, what African-Americans believed, and Latinos and suburban women and old people and young people.

Not many realized how inauspicious the timing of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor had been. It was a classic example of military leaders still fighting old wars. The harbor was full of battleships securely moored. But this war would rely heavily on aircraft carriers, and on December 7th our carrier fleet was at sea. The attack did less to wound than make us really angry. Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese fleet, said, “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

To consider how Donald Trump is singlehandedly changing the media landscape, let’s take a step back to the 1990s when the Internet was becoming a powerful medium – a time when the delivery of news content changed radically, not only in form, but in time.

Pearl Harbor was one of those events history sets its watch by - a moment so unnerving that everyone old enough to understand what’s happening knows that reality has just been permanently - and violently - rearranged. John Kennedy’s assassination was such an event; as was 9/11. But history always tells what happened; rarely how it felt.

Kunin: Kindness

Dec 5, 2016

I’ve learned something new about human kindness, since my husband has been confined to a wheelchair for the last year. I carefully maneuver him from wheel chair to dining room chair. He prefers to sit in a regular chair at the table - and at a concert or in a movie theatre. It makes him feel like he always did.

Watts: Sugar Tax

Dec 2, 2016

When I was 15, I bought my cigarettes from a vending machine. Five quarters and out jumped a pack of Marlboro Reds. Smoking gave me a powerful feeling. I felt cool and tough - bucking the authority of my parents.

The world has pivoted. For some, hope has faded, while others are assessing the potential of this current change of political regime. Everything feels disrupted. And yet, I have to admit, I’m a little excited.

I had joined a group of Vermonters who traveled by bus to the Standing Rock Reservation to join in solidarity with indigenous water protectors. Just hours after we arrived, heavily militarized police clashed with unarmed activists on the nearby front lines. Pickup trucks transported the wounded to medic tents; anyone entering had to be decontaminated from tear gas. More than 300 people were injured.

Carter: Castro's Cuba

Nov 30, 2016

In the United States we're used to only one version of Fidel Castro. The media here has portrayed him mostly as a despot whose only goal was to maintain power in Cuba. And while I don’t begrudge anyone their views, the truth is that Fidel Castro also had a positive impact on millions of the world’s most impoverished people.

Krupp: The Winter Garden

Nov 30, 2016

It wasn’t that long ago that folks put their gardens to rest in late fall by raking and burning leaves and cutting down dead plant material and hauling it off. This resulted in yards being made clean and devoid of life.

McCallum: Cold Turkey

Nov 28, 2016

If I say I’ve gone cold turkey, you might assume I’m talking about Thanksgiving leftovers. But no: going cold turkey was all about putting myself on a media diet right after the presidential election.

Adrian: The Damage Done

Nov 28, 2016

Neil Young’s song The Needle and the Damage Done details the devastating impact that Young witnessed heroin having on musicians in the early ‘70s . Now, nearly half a century later, we’re dealing with the impact of heroin’s far more powerful opioid cousins.

Kleppner: Ill Winds

Nov 28, 2016

About 30% of Vermont voters chose Donald Trump, and the other 70% are working their way through various levels of disappointment, shock, horror and depression.

Guyon: Gratitude

Nov 23, 2016

Thanksgiving is upon us, despite all the political turmoil, and for the sake of peace - both across the country and across the table - I'm trying to focus on gratitude - and things I think we can all be thankful for - like finally getting over this cold.

My mother was a staunch Democrat whose Depression-era vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt put her at serious odds with her Republican in-laws. My father liked Ike – Eisenhower, that is - who was Republican.

Carter: Standing Rock

Nov 23, 2016

By now, most of us have heard of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the protests against it that have been marked by increasingly violent confrontation. And yet, few of us may be aware of the legal underpinnings that led to this modern day story of struggle for native sovereignty and human rights.

Schubart: Fake News

Nov 22, 2016

I’ve tuned out of the endless forensic analyses of how news media failed the electorate. In fact, other than having misread the political and cultural pulse of many Americans, I’m not sure the serious news organizations failed us at all. Many were just absent.

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