Editor’s note: This letter by Lynn James Edmunds, of Wallingford, is a response to a commentary written by Sen. Joe Benning and published Jan. 8 in the Rutland Herald.
There seems to be a sad irony in the fact that on his way out of office, a former minority leader of the Vermont Senate would cast such a disparaging net of belittlement over fellow Vermonters and Republicans expressing concern and love for their country. Perhaps Sen. Joe Benning was frustrated with the vile acts of violence that took place at our nation’s capital. But two days later, with little investigation complete, his article illustrates an implied guilt by association for those making the trip to Washington, D.C., and to others sharing the same concerns.
In his commentary, the senator paints a very disturbing picture of a busload of Vermonters heading to Washington to verbalize their fears for our country. But in his rendering, he depicts each passenger’s mugshot, identifying them as most unwanted members of the GOP. Thus, he begins his moral outrage by applying broad brush strokes of misguided extremism to the canvas, subtly planting the seed that some in the group could easily be duped into assaulting the nation’s Capitol. Then standing back to review his work he declares, “These thugs [those who breached the Capitol Building] were Republicans devoted completely to Donald Trump. They are not ‘Patriots.’ They are not ‘real Americans.’ They are anarchists who believe in mob rule, plain and simple.”
But how can Benning presume these bad actors are Republicans, American imposters or even anarchists without implying those on the bus are likely of the same caliber? These assumptions have dangerous First Amendment implications of tar and feather for an entire group of people.
I may not know many who took this bus trip to Washington, but the ones I do know are the salt of the earth and entitled to their dignity and difference of opinion without fear of reprisal, oppression or isolation. However, Sen. Benning, it appears, would like them booted from the big tent for holding views contrary to his — all while he attempts to shine light through a filtered lens of a media that most do not trust.
Americans are not stupid; they know something is wrong, especially when the Supreme Court turns a blind eye to a suit brought by one-third of all 50 states. These justices are supposed to be some of the best and brightest minds in America, yet they chose not to deliberate as if they didn’t understand why so many states were upset. Was this malpractice? It sure seemed that way to those seeking answers they could trust.
I suspect there is enough blame to go around, but nothing is accomplished by cannibalizing fellow Americans with legitimate concerns when the real question remains, what is wrong in America that would make us turn on each other?
Presumption of moral superiority is one of the great threats to our sovereignty as free people; it stifles discussion and suffocates our will to work together for the common good, ultimately destroying our freedom of speech.