'Independence Day' 2008: Grim and cheerless

Thursday morning I had to go to Montpelier to register my car (now $60/year, a nice regressive little hidden tax, thanks Vermont), as I was driving, I listened to the news conference on Brooke Bennet's murder, the 12 year old's body had been found the night before after a week-long search. There is nothing like listening to the Attorney General answer a question about semen found in a dead girl's underwear to make me violently depressed and withdrawn, I feel dirty and ashamed just by the simple fact of living in this state.

I'm starting to feel more and more that Vermont is a pretty place to visit but do I really want to live here? There have been a string of high-profile murders here over the years, cases of violence and brutality against women and now girls. When I first graduated college I spent five years living in and around the town of Randolph -- I worked in Brookfield -- and the area is a rural landscape of soft green hills but it's very poor and there are lots of unpleasant social issues festering beneath the surface (James Parker and Robert Tulloch -- the teenagers who committed the Dartmouth murders -- lived in this general area as well) . I once had a friend who worked as a social worker in northern Vermont and he eventually quit to open a bike shop because the problems he faced on a day to day basis were just too pervasive and overwhelming.

Coupled with a variety of other disfunctions large and small on the state and federal level it is becoming increasingly difficult to feel optimism for the future: Things fall apart -- economically, politically (it is hard to overstate my contempt for the political atmosphere in this state at this time -- profiles in feckless cowardice), socially. I think that Thomas Friedman's column this week (entitled "Anxious in America") summed it up nicely:
My fellow Americans: We are a country in debt and in decline — not terminal, not irreversible, but in decline. Our political system seems incapable of producing long-range answers to big problems or big opportunities. We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.
The whole column is worth the read...

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