Editor’s Note: The author, a Chittenden County resident and mother of three, holds a Masters Degree in Public Health.
November 25, 2020
To Whom it May Concern and May it Concern You:
I am appalled that Governor Phil Scott would even consider directing schools to ask children if they joined other households for Thanksgiving. Governor Scott is not asking parents, he is asking children to incriminate their families. He is placing the burden of the parents’ decision on the children. This is how Hitler gained inside information through the Hitler Youth program and it should be clearly unacceptable in a free society, pandemic or not. While I believe the desire of the Governor is to keep the illness at bay and to protect those in our community who cannot protect themselves, putting children in the middle is not an option.
Imagine the embarrassment of the child who slips and says that they ate with Grandma and Grandpa. This child is now pulled from line at school to sit out for 2 weeks—yet these same Grandparents have been providing child care all along, but are not “part of the household.” Imagine the fear of the kids whose parents chose to have a get-together but their ability to go to work hinges on the child lying. Do children of divorced families who have 2 households have to lie because they changed households on Thanksgiving? This is unfair to the children and it too closely resembles other totalitarian efforts of using children to enforce the government’s desires. If you want to know if parents took their children to other households for Thanksgiving, then ask the parents directly.
One can argue that this is an extension of the daily questions already being asked, however, those questions were established and decided on before school started. At my children’s schools, parents were notified ahead of time that these questions would be asked. While I feel these questions are invasive enough, I was fully aware and agreed to send my children despite these questions. Due to COVID weariness I doubt many parents have heard that schools will be asking this question. These same parents who are not aware might well be the ones who need to go to work the most! Parents are not being made fully aware and that is one difference. Yet, I feel strongly that this question should not be asked at all!
The logic behind this cancelled Thanksgiving assumes that Vermonters cannot assess the warnings and risks for themselves so the government must tell us how to behave to keep us “safe”. We are told not to gather so that next year we can celebrate twice as much. However, in both 2017 and 2018 around 6,700 Vermonters died. If we wait until next Thanksgiving, there will be another estimated 6,700 people who will not share in our Thanksgiving dinner, not because of COVID but because time marches on. And now you, Governor Scott have decided for us that the 6,700 people who will not be with us next year are less important than the 64 we have lost to COVID. Every life does matter, but you are choosing which lives will get to celebrate. I am a thinking woman and can decide that for myself and my children, thank you.
Lastly, let us keep perspective that, as of November 17, 2020, there had been 60 COVID deaths and 60 automobile related deaths this year. Further, the automobile deaths have increased significantly in a pandemic year when there should be far fewer people driving compared to last year. According to the Vermont State Police Website, “As of November 17th, there have been 60 fatalities on Vermont’s roads in 2020. There were 38 at this point in 2019, and the 10-year average for this date is 54.” While our road death rates are up 22% from last year, and one might argue the “epidemic proportions” of this, no one is asking us to stop driving or asking our children if someone drove them to school or to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving safely!
Today, I am thankful for my family and for all the work our public servants have done through this crazy year. Whether I agree with their methods or not I appreciate their time and do believe they are trying to do what is best. However, I am also thankful that I live in a country where my voice can be heard. I have the privilege and the responsibility to speak out and to let my elected official know when I disagree. Today, I am finally speaking out that I have had enough and our children are not pawns. Governor Scott, please continue to guide and share good information but let Vermonters make their own decisions, and do not bring our children into this debate.
Kendra Bowen, Mother of Three, Concerned Citizen, MSPH