Jules Rabin: Montpelier added its eloquent voice in protest

Editor’s note: This commentary by Jules Rabin is a letter to Joseph Gainza, the founder of Vermont Action for Peace and the producer and host of “Gathering Peace” on WGDR and WGDH. Rabin came to Vermont in 1968 to teach at Goddard College and 10 years later shifted to baking bread in a wood-fired oven. He lives in Plainfield.

Thanks for the part you played in organizing the response yesterday to the Charlottesville atrocity of the day before. You judged well, certainly better than I had, the depth of feeling about that, of people around here, and the need and wish of so many of us to speak our minds right now about what’s happening to the country and us these bewildering days.

I have to confess that when I first heard about the rally and speakout, earlier in the afternoon, I thought, “Not for me, this one.” I had been cutting and splitting wood for a great part of the afternoon and was tired and feeling right with my personal gods for the labor I had done, and exempted myself from this one-more protest. But then I changed my mind – my mind changed me, rather, as I thought about what’s coming over this country – and when Helen came home in the late afternoon from a different meeting, she agreed that we should go right into town for the evening rally: pipsqueak Montpelier adding its voice to the national clamor, and she and I ours.

We took 10 minutes before we left to make a sign for the occasion, out of a rectangle of corrugated cardboard that was lying around. In case you didn’t see the sign from where you stood up front, it read on one side, BERLIN 1933. CHARLOTTESVILLE 2017. WE’RE HORRIFIED! And on the other side, WHAT HAS TRUMP WROUGHT?

So many people coming together on such short notice! — with your name, Joseph, as guarantor of the event, in my haphazard network of information.


I had a first surprise when I saw the size of the crowd already assembled when we arrived at the rally, a little late. I had anticipated a pocket-handkerchief-size gathering. But – good for Montpelier (and Facebook and email) — there already was a crowd of over a hundred gathered in front of the Statehouse, our own Hyde Park. So many people coming together on such short notice! — with your name, Joseph, as guarantor of the event, in my haphazard network of information.

The dozen or 15 first speakers, all volunteers from the audience, impressed me a lot – my second surprise — for their sensitivity and intelligence and the plainness of their speech, which amounted to real eloquence without fanfare or display. I didn’t know that we compositely had all that in us … and on the spur of the moment.

Two high marks, then, for our greater Montpelier population: Minutemen without muskets, they are responsive to crisis, and they are standouts for unostentatious eloquence. Nevermind the one or two droning-on speakers at the end [Author’s note: the rally was organized as a “speak-out”] who exceeded the announced time limit and were a trial for all of us, and a trial to you especially, Joseph, who were spokesman and guarantor of the event.

You, Joseph, together with your private, ready-on-the-spot PA system, really do a lot of good for the rest of us, helping us to focus our attention and speak our minds.

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