The big question for the past two days has been how does a liberal/progressive blog which originates out of Vermont not do a big story about the first visit to our state by a sitting president in 17 years. Easy, we were distracted by more intimate Vermont news, news we didn’t feel any urge to send out into the blogosphere.
Murder is a rare occurrence in Vermont. There have been way too many murders of young children in the past few years, child abuse gone horribly wrong. There are too many cases of anger between those who know each other going too far. And there are increasingly too many cases of killings involving the drug trade. But, what happened here last week was unfathomable to Vermonters. A young, popular teacher, the mother of a toddler, was dragged from her vehicle, murdered and her body dumped miles away. Her son was found in her abandoned car. We all held our breaths. Maybe….but it was not to be. She had been murdered, senselessly, stupidly, with no comprehensible motive.
The front page of our local newspapers yesterday pretty much defined how we viewed Friday. At the top, above the fold as newspaper afficionados put it, was the story of the President’s visit. Below the fold, taking up just as much print space, was the funeral.
Melissa Jenkins’ funeral was the same day that President Obama spent four hours in Vermont, attending a rally, attending a high rollers fundraiser. He mentioned her at the start of his speech, mentioned that the dignitaries sitting near here would be going from Burlington to St. Johnsbury for her funeral, conveyed his and Michelle’s condolences to her son. As many people turned out to publicly mourn Melissa Jenkins as turned out to hear the President, or at least it seemed that way.
There is an old essay that sums up Vermonters. It was written in 1624 by John Donne and called Devotions. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of a continent; a part of the main….and therefore never send to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” President Obama noted this about Vermonters. We take deaths like Melissa’s personally, just the way we have taken Brooke Bennett’s death and every death in Iraq and Afghanistan personally. We may have never met the victims, but we feel the loss. We hang Fourth of July buntings with tears in our eyes the day after hearing of the death of one of “our” Guardsmen on the other side of the world. It is a phenomenon that turns us from a half-million residents of a small state into Vermonters. It’s part of what transpired last August and September with and after Tropical Storm Irene, the sense that we are not individuals, but part of a whole.
The President was here. He raised money for his campaign, about three-quarters of a million dollars. He gave a nice speech, but nothing really unexpected. All politics is local, and we will be more focused on the re-election campaigns of Senator Sanders and Representative Welch than on the Presidential race. We sort of know already who will win that. We had our moment in the Presidential sun in 2008, when our state was declared for Barack Obama and he was declared the President-elect in one breath, at 11:01 p.m. on election day. Never happened before and probably never happen again.
We thank him for finally remembering that we are here, even if it was for fund raising. We were kind of ticked off at him for going to New Jersey after Irene and not showing up here. Dubya never came here. We were the only state he didn’t visit. His only interest in Vermont was sending our National Guard to war over and over and over again. Michelle has been here a couple of times. Nice lady. We would appreciate it, however, if one of them realized that there is more to Vermont than Burlington. But, we would also like it if Rachel Ray, who grew up on our western border, realized there is more to Vermont than Woodstock and the interstate.
Well, that’s life in Vermont. Washington matters, but not nearly as much as our neighbors.