Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Peter Yarrow Inspired Me

Peter Yarrow inspired me last month. It was March 26, 2006, a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Peter Yarrow – also known simply as Peter, from the folk-singing trio of Peter, Paul, & Mary – made a special appearance singing alongside Counterpoint, including my partner Nat, at St. Michael’s College. Peter was there to continue what he’s done for so many decades, sparking people to raise their voices in song for the sake of freedom. Singing wasn’t meant to be a spectator sport – the entire audience joined in chorus, including Congressman Bernie Sanders and Governor Madeleine Kunin.

We applauded spiritedly when Peter roared that it was patriotic to question authority, even when it’s against your president who’s leading the country in war. I found it difficult to sing “This Land is Your Land,” “Have You Been to Jail for Justice,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and many other songs with a big lump in my throat.

The event harkened back to when Americans had a song to sing all over this land. People felt the power to change society, and rose to their feet in protest (or sat down in disobedience) for civil rights, women’s rights, and peace. Last Sunday, I felt proud to know that while times have changed, I’m fighting for social justice here in Vermont.

Transitional Housing for Women & Men

"How many times must a man look up, before he can see the sky?"

One of my biggest projects this year has been advocating for transitional housing for women and men, so that they can return to society from prison and lead productive lives. As I mentioned in a recent email update, more than $400,000 was secured from the House for start-up funds. Additional funds were passed by the House for ongoing operations.

But we got some bad news, when the Senate voted down the start-up funds. It was quite a disappointment, but all is not lost. We’re still pushing forward. Over the next couple of weeks, a conference committee made up of Representative and Senators will hash out the details. Likewise, Senate approval for the ongoing operations budget is possible.

That we have come this far is a wonderful achievement, and something that many of my experienced peers said “wouldn’t happen.” Still, going the full distance is going to be a big challenge. Nevertheless, I am guardedly optimistic.

Abenaki Recognition

"How many years must a people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?"

Tomorrow we in the House will be debating whether we should recognize Abenaki and Native American people who reside in Vermont as a minority population. Concerns in the past that recognition of the Abenaki could lead to gambling on reservations were often cited as a reason to oppose this simple recognition. However, recent federal rulings make it virtually impossible that the Abenaki will gain federal recognition. Regardless, for me, recognition is a paramount question of respect. I will be voting yes, and I am hopeful that this will pass.

Healthcare for All Vermonters

"How many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see?"

Today, new data was publicized showing that 10,000 more Vermonters lack insurance compared to just five years ago. As Vermonters suffer, where is the leadership from the Governor, who vetoed the Green Mountain Healthcare Plan? In a country as powerful as ours, it’s outrageous that we don’t have universal healthcare coverage. Virtually all of the industrialized countries have such a system. It’s time for all American and Vermonters to have this basic right of healthcare.

That’s a brief update for now. And while I won’t sing out (I’ll spare you), I’ll continue to work hard on these and other issues. I’ll also urge you to continue to stay involved, however you wish, in having your voice heard. Please consider writing a letter to the editor about what matters to you. Or let me know your concerns, and hopefully I can help.


At April 05, 2006 8:23 AM, Blogger Frederick Lane said...

Hi Jason --

Nice job on the update. I appreciate all of your work on these important issues. I really hope the Vermont legislature will take a long look at what Massachusetts has done. It sounds like it has some interesting and useful provisions.



At May 29, 2007 1:16 AM, Anonymous Alison said...

I love hearing news of Peter! So far away, am I! Thanks.


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