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Deaths in Brattleboro    
Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 03:56 PM GMT+4
Contributed by: Wendy M. Levy

OpinionI just got back from a 2-week trip across the country, and now that I'm back in the NYC area, where I currently live, I've been catching up on all of the sad news of the last few weeks that has taken place in the Brattleboro area (where I consider my true home to be, at least in my heart). So, please pardon my delay in responding to all of this. I know in our "instant" culture, news that's a few weeks old is, well, old, but it really isn't, because these issues haven't gone away.

While I am understandably very sad and heartbroken over the murder at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, I'm going to save my opinion on that for another post, or not. I'm still sorting out my feelings and thoughts on the matter.

What's really been bothering me about the murders of late is the huge difference in response between Melissa Barratt's death and Michael Martin's.

I don't recall there being a candlelight vigil for Melissa. Did I miss it, or did it never happen?

Did not enough people know Ms. Barratt, or was her murder more acceptable than Mr. Martin's because she wasn't part of an institution where even casual members and adherents are under the impression that "bad things don't happen here"? The two murder victims were of two very different socio-economic classes -- an issue (class difference in SEVT) that gets scant discussion, if any. Was Ms. Barratt's murder more acceptable than Mr. Martin's because of her position in society, or her gender, or where she did or didn't work?

Even if people didn't know Ms. Barratt, isn't the fact that she was a woman who was kidnapped by her romantic partner, then driven out to a lonely road and shot and killed, enough to warrant some sort of public outcry over the fact that, yes, it does happen here? This is a woman who was killed by her boyfriend. Where is the outrage on her behalf?

Oh, but drugs were involved. I guess all bets are off.

I think a lot of people read "drugs" and their minds shut down. "Oh, she was into drugs. Drugs killed her. Her 'lifestyle choice' killed her." Meanwhile, that's about as correct and cruel as saying a person who has died from AIDS "chose" the disease because of their "lifestyle choice."

It's also reductionist.

Melissa wasn't a drug. She was a human being who had a lot more to her life and her story than the shocking end. She cared for her sister's child. She was a friend to all sorts of people, regardless of their race, economic status, background, et al. She was someone's sister and daughter. She was short and curvy and adorable and friendly. She had straight, brown hair. She smiled a lot. She made the best calzones at Frankie's, and I told her so, and she agreed! She used to manage the thrift store on Elliot St and when I shopped there, I saw her working hard and I heard her laughing and bantering with staff and customers -- she had a sweet lightness about her. She got her coffee from Coffee Country. And something terrible about her biochemistry (addiction issues?) or her life experiences (past trauma?) or both got her involved with the wrong people, and she is no longer Melissa, she is Drug Casualty.

This hardly seems fair, to reduce her entire life and all it was worth to the profoundly sad and violent way in which it ended. Even if you despise drugs and the way they affect a person and a community, can you not still lament a young woman's terrifying death, at the hand of her romantic partner, no less?

Where is the outrage? Where's Melissa's candlelight vigil?


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    The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they may say.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: annikee on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 05:02 PM GMT+4
    Thank you, Wendy. There needs be a bit of self-examining in all this, for the whole community.

    veritas fortis vocat
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Rolf on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 05:41 PM GMT+4

    Your recollections of Mellisa are the most moving portrait
    that I have read.

    Not that it is right, it is wrong in fact,but I think that
    people expect and accept that some of people who deal
    Heroin or cocaine, some of them will die, and some will
    die violently. They expect this because it happens on
    T.V. in dramas and in the news, and it happens in real
    life. What happens semi regularly is much less shocking,
    it is normed.

    While it was her boyfriend, she was, accoring to reports,
    also dealing drugs with him, and according to preliminary
    reports, according to an informant, she was selling and
    selling short, i.e. skimming off the drugs and selling
    short. My guess is people read this and think, "Oh she
    was taking grave chances, stealing from drug

    And if it is true, if she was stealing the product from a
    drug gang, even if it was her boy friend, well she was
    taking a grave chance.

    Drug dealing gangsters have a culture that accepts
    killing people who steal from them, and they kill when
    commanded to by higher ups. People can be horrified
    with that, and also accept it as a fact.

    It is exactly the same kind of acceptance, I believe, that
    people have towards alcohol. A certain percentage of
    people who drink will die from liver failure, car accidents
    or suicide. People "accept" this not because it is okay,
    because it happens all the time. But they won't have a
    vigil over it. It is the norm.

    There is a certain amount of fear that is "oh how can I
    know this won't happen to me? " I think at some level,
    people might say, "Oh I would never deal drugs and
    skim from people I know have guns, so I will never be in
    that situation."

    In ancient Mexico, it was the norm to sacrifice people
    from other tribes, and skin them alive. We have their
    carved in stone depictions of exactly that.

    It was normed. Really, people can get normed to
    anything. It is one of the scary things about human

    Dreams Trump Video
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 06:57 PM GMT+4
    Rolf, thank you.

    While there were some choices Melissa made that seemed so fool-hardy, I think it begs the question: Why? Why would someone make those choices, and were they made within a situation that offered few other choices? That's why I brought up the bio-chemical and past trauma notions. From the Reformer article, where her family was quoted, it looks like Melissa had some real traumatic events in her life, and while she tried to stay ahead of them, they took over. Trauma and addiction go a long way toward negating logic and reason, in even the smartest person. I've known scores of immensely intelligent, logical, reasonable people who got involved in dreadful, destructive activities, and it really begs the question, Why?

    And that's why I brought this all up. Because even if the community as-a-whole completely disagrees with what led up to Melissa's murder, can't a show of support and solidarity be exhibited to all those who are similarly suffering, either because they knew and loved Melissa, or they themselves are in a similar terrible situation, or know someone who is, or simply want to belong to a community that says to a troubled person: There is another way and we will support you in finding it and staying in it.

    And if you, troubled person, cannot find a better way, and you are murdered, we will not wag our fingers at your memory and say, "Well, I told you so." We will mourn another life lost to the individual's personal demons overpowering all else.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: annikee on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 07:19 PM GMT+4
    My gods what a wise woman you've become. Please come home.

    veritas fortis vocat
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 07:24 PM GMT+4
    I had good teachers. Still do. You're one of them.

    Thank you for saying that. It means a lot.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 07:00 PM GMT+4
    Thank you for your support, Annikee. I hope some sort of positive change comes from this dreadful event. Even if it's just awareness and examination.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Zippy on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 07:08 PM GMT+4
    Awareness and examination are the BEST things that can come from any tragedy. And they will because of your thoughtful post.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Zippy on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 06:15 PM GMT+4

    I don't know you Wendy, but I feel very much as if I do. Brattleboro, as well as N.Y.C., needs you. Thanks for this post.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Rolf on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 08:05 PM GMT+4

    Wendy definitely did add a lot to town when she lived

    Her Lotteria parties were part of what made me happy to
    be in Brattleboro, when I first moved here.

    Hard to explain, but very real.

    Dreams Trump Video
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: SpudHill on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 08:22 PM GMT+4
    Wendy, that was very well written, thank you for your kind words about this young woman and for giving a few a moment of pause for any who have been discounting her passing because it was drug related. Well done.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 11:11 PM GMT+4
    Thank you, SpudHill. In addition to being sad because I thought Melissa was a nice person and her demise is so heart-breaking, I also wrote what I did because it involves a particular passion of mine: Working toward reminding people that drug addiction and mental illness are REAL illnesses and not character flaws.

    As long as we treat addicts and the mentally ill as "bad people," and "the other" (as in, "not like us"), the more we're going to see events like this. Addiction and mental illness are already very isolating diseases; ostracizing those who suffer from them only makes it less likely they can get proper treatment and stay alive.

    I have a feeling what happened at the co-op also fits in with this. I know Richard Gagnon. I used to work with him and I enjoyed talking with him a great deal, even after we were no longer co-workers. Something broke in his poor brain, I'm sure of it, to make him commit such an extreme and violent act, and I don't think with the way things are right now, anyone is talking about that. An illness went unchecked, perhaps, or was exacerbated by something. And now a wife and children are without a husband and a father, a woman is for all intents and purposes without a husband, and people who otherwise feel safe have been traumatized.

    I think the two murders have more in common than most people would like to think, but this is just one reporter's opinion, as they say.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: annikee on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 12:50 PM GMT+4
    I'm glad you brought it up. Richard is the third person among contemporaries I've known who've killed someone. The first was in a drug-induced frenzy, the second in a paranoid snap. Whatever happened to Richard that got him to that point we may never hear. He's in the system now. I hope he's being cared for.

    veritas fortis vocat
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 10:59 PM GMT+4
    Aww, Rolf, you are making me cry! I didn't realize how much my goofy parties meant to you. They meant a lot to me because I love bringing people together. We -- my "gang" at the time -- invited you, the "new kid in town", because we thought you were cool, silly, fun and a kindred spirit. We were so right. xoxo

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: babalu on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 08:33 PM GMT+4
    Thanks for the reminder that pain is real no matter who
    feels it, we are all all subject to circumstances that aren't
    so easily changed, and that everyone deserves
    compassion. Every life is a life to value.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Rolf on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 09:25 PM GMT+4

    Dreams Trump Video
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Thursday, August 18 2011 @ 11:12 PM GMT+4
    Well said, Babalu.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: annikee on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 08:22 AM GMT+4
    I'll second that amen.

    veritas fortis vocat
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Zippy on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 10:14 AM GMT+4

    Is the absence of outrage when "life” is treated with disregard (all life, I am referring to) evidence of our true lack of community? Or does "community" really exist, but only within some smaller human circles, on some town committees and boards, only in our town's retail market spaces, among just the able-bodied, and only between particular living species, all of which happen to "exist" in the same town? Is "community" a product of a Main Street marketing campaign, like a body deodorant that we have come to believe is necessary in order to cover up an odor we've also been convinced is really a stink, yet produced as a result of our natural state?

    Of course none of these value-laden, exclusionary stratifications support the notion that we have some common glue that binds all of us (neighbors, trees, dogs), beyond our "existence" in the same town. Maybe we need to redefine or reconceptualize "community?" Maybe we should be more cautious and not wear it so prominently and proudly over our left breasts, where our neighbors may view it as a target, rather than a collective badge of honor that "some" say we share?

    Yes, indeed: "Where is the outrage?"

    (o.k., time for coffee)
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: babalu on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 11:01 AM GMT+4
    For what it's worth; we have failed to adapt to what
    has become a constant change in what makes up a
    community- the people who live in it. It is no longer
    generations of family or those who live as neighbors
    for years on end. We are stuck in the past in a
    sense by the way community was once (still is?)
    defined only by people we know.

    The difference may be less about the drug
    involvement and more about the fact that we have
    no "tradition" to rely upon in terms of community
    2011, because one has not yet been established that
    can show us how to hold close those who are here
    temporarily or those who find themselves moving

    Whether we knew Melissa or not, I think that the only
    difference is between time and tradition and the
    ability or expectation that we have in terms of
    attachment to those around us.

    The next time someone smiles at me I will tell them
    how they brighten my day. When traffic stops to let
    me through, I will look up and wave. When the clerk
    at the store gives me a routine "have a nice day" I
    will answer as though it was the first time I heard the
    expression. When I see someone begging, I will
    stop and at least talk for a while. When a young
    mother struggles with her children, I will offer my
    support. They may be gone next year, but I hope
    have something to take with them that came from
    me, no matter where they are off to next.

    We are not doing all we can. At a time when we
    desperately need to draw people in, it seems we are
    too good at pushing them out. We have to learn how
    to hold them close because it's most likely we also
    have to let them go.

    In ten years, I have been given an unconditional
    friendship by three people. Not a lifelong friendship,
    but one as meaningful. I am adapting. But, when I
    leave, I would like there to be more meaning to look
    back upon, because it's only those things that I bring
    with me when I go, while those things I brought with
    me when I first came are nearly all spent.

    I think adapting means not waiting for attachment,
    but caring from the first glance for those we have
    never seen before today. How do we express that?
    I'm wondering. I try though.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: annikee on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 11:39 AM GMT+4
    You know, Babalu, because from the first I knew you were. We all need to make an effort to be more compassionate, to care how our fellow babies are faring on this planet. Nobody here is all okay, and nobody will get out alive. We can't change everything but we can do better.

    And congratulations, Grandma. ;)

    veritas fortis vocat
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: babalu on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 11:56 AM GMT+4
    Oh; thank-you! I have discovered after 4 grandchildren
    that the better delight is in hearing the parents declare,
    "you have GOT to SEE him!! So now, I drive to
    Connecticut to cuddle amongst the 24 babies that were
    born there last night and find the one that belongs to
    me - he will be easy to spot. He looks just like me I've
    been told (*wink) All wrinkled up and sucking air!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: babalu on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 12:01 PM GMT+4
    And now I reflect although a bit late in my own
    excitement, that I've placed a personal joy amid this
    sorrow. Apologies.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: annikee on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 12:09 PM GMT+4
    There's room for joy too. It's life. Give him a kiss for me.

    veritas fortis vocat
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: babalu on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 12:13 PM GMT+4
    I will and thanks, Annikee. Makes me think of two other
    little babies that were born and I was unaware. They
    are gone now in a most horrible way. I won't forget
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 02:44 PM GMT+4
    I don't think you need to apologize. More joy is needed. And that you have a good amount of it in your life is nothing to feel guilty about.

    Congratulations to you, Babalu!

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Kelly Salasin on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 06:15 PM GMT+4
    I think the fact that these two deaths took place so close together is worth noting; if for no other reason than as an opportunity to ask the questions you pose.

    I also think that the second tragedy had a particular chemistry that created the need for a vigil--for the community (and for the co-op community in particular.)

    Any murder is an atrocity, but when it occurs between two people who are deeply connected, inside a place built around community, then the violation is felt more deeply--and the acute need for communal grieving and healing is greater.

    While this week's funeral for Michael Martin brought together those close to him, last week's vigil was for what we ALL lost--whether we knew Michael or not.

    This loss includes the death of Melissa--and perhaps was more acutely felt because it took place on the heels of the crime that took her life.

    There are losses and tragedies everywhere. Let's don't fault ourselves for that which causes us to come together and grieve. Healing softens the heart and helps us open to pain we might have otherwise ignored, in ourselves and in others.

    Thank you for bringing Melissa's to life for more of us and for reminding us that this tragedy didn't receive the attention it deserved.

    Readers interested in seeing more discussion on the BFC tragedy, click here: http://thisvtlife.wordpress.com/category/vt-community/bfc-tragedy/

    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: AWendt on Friday, August 19 2011 @ 07:52 PM GMT+4
    Wendy, thanks for posting. There are definitely a lot of people in town asking this same question (see Harral Hamilton's editorial in this week's Commons).

    I didn't know Melissa. I didn't know Michael. I know Richard only a little, since my husband and I own a brewing supply business and went to several wine tastings at the CoOp.

    Michael's death hit me harder because it happened in my part of town (I live a short walk from the CoOp), because I know people affected, because it happened where I go three times a week. Melissa's death hit me, and I know people who knew her, but it didn't give me pain in my gut the way the CoOp shooting did. It did shake me that drug-related violence was hitting that close to home. It shook my bubble loose, left me feeling vulnerable for myself and my son.

    The public difference between the two shootings, however, and the way the town reacted, has me troubled.

    I'm not totally sure (does anyone know?) whether the vigil was CoOp or town-organized. There have been flowers in Harmony Lot for Melissa--I don't know if family and friends have gathered.

    In the end, the community and "the system" failed everyone involved in both deaths. Not to mention the two bank robbers who are so desperate as to commit their crimes in broad daylight.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: wednesday on Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 12:29 AM GMT+4
    Hi all,
    I don't have time to put together the articulated post this topic deserves, but I will note - as several posters have wondered about this in their posts - that Melissa's friends and/or family did organize a candlelight vigil in the Harmony Lot in the days after her death (before the co-op event). This doesn't really have a significant impact on the overall discussion, but it was brought up in the above posts. I was unable to attend due to a toddler with an early bedtime and therefore I can't speak to the attendanc, but from what i understand, a vigil was organized in response to Melissa's death.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 01:14 AM GMT+4
    Wednesday, thank you for your post. I apologize for my ignorance of the vigil for Melissa organized by her friends and family -- I live in NJ now, although I still consider Brattleboro my real home, so I offer geography as my reason. That said, it still says a lot that myself, someone who reads two different Brattleboro newspapers, and reads iBrattleboro, and is linked up to the area via social media, had no idea Melissa's vigil occurred.

    To be clear, I am not saying there should have been no vigil for Michael, or for the co-op, or whom/whatever the intended recipient of the vigil was/were, but the wide disparity in reactions is something we need to address as an ENTIRE community, not just a community surrounding a store.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: annikee on Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 11:47 AM GMT+4
    Thanks, AWendt, for letting us know that. There was not much media reporting that there was one for Melissa, or I would have seen it. Which is also of note for where priorities lie in this town.

    veritas fortis vocat
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: annikee on Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 04:03 PM GMT+4
    ooops, I see it was wednesday who told us about Melissa's vigil. So thank you, wednesday.

    veritas fortis vocat
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: JeffPotter on Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 08:34 PM GMT+4
    I would like to say that The Commons would have gladly
    published or promoted any candlelight service for Melissa
    Barratt if someone had made the first effort to let us
    know. This is the first I am hearing of it, and I am
    grateful that people came to honor her memory.

    We work ourselves sick trying to do a good job, and I am
    frustrated that our initial attempts to reach out to people
    who knew the victim were wholly ignored. That is their
    right and their privilege.

    There are a lot of ways that we can improve, but when it
    comes right down to it, my editorial staff and I are not
    omniscient. Nor are the good folks at the Reformer,
    WKVT, WTSA, or Chris and Lise. We all do our best at
    getting you the news, but at a certain point people have to
    communicate with us when they are trying to spread the
    word about an event.

    Our lack of reporting on this candlelight vigil had nothing
    to do with our community priorities, and if anyone thinks
    otherwise, I would be happy to buy you a cup of coffee or
    beverage equivalent and talk about it further.

    Jeff Potter
    Editor, The Commons
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Sunday, August 21 2011 @ 12:22 AM GMT+4
    Jeff, I can't speak for anyone else, but I am pointing no blame at you or any other newspaper, radio station, Website or blog for failing to report an event that, for whatever reason, you didn't or couldn't know about.

    I don't expect you to be omniscient.

    If you took any of my statements as criticism of the job you and the rest of the media do, I either did not make myself clear enough, or you read something into it that wasn't there.

    When I remarked that, in all of my connections with Brattleboro media, I still had no idea about a candle-light vigil for Melissa, it wasn't an indictment on the media, it was an indictment on the community as a whole for what I perceive as a lack of appropriate outrage for one person's murder, and the potential reasons behind it. Please re-read what I wrote and let me know if you still believe I am accusing you and your colleagues of failing to report a story. I'm too far away for a coffee or tea date, but you have my e-mail address if you need to convey something to me in private.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 01:08 AM GMT+4
    But Kelly, Melissa's murder happened between two people who were also deeply connected. They were romantically involved, which really should give pause to anyone who believes Brattleboro is some oasis existing outside of the rest of the world. And this is largely, exactly my point. Domestic violence and desperate circumstances are absolutely a part of life in Windham County, but how many in the "co-op community" have any interaction with those in these situations, beyond attending a fundraising event for the Women's Crisis Center?

    Again, it's a class distinction, an "othering" of people whose existence continues to get marginalized by those in a position of privilege (racial, economic, educational, gender, et al.)

    In my experience, I've noticed there's a huge disconnect in the minds of the "haves" toward the "have-nots" in this town. And the "haves" are mostly those who consider themselves part of the "co-op community," who blithely imagine it "can't happen here" because they are "good people".

    (Not saying they are bad people, or deserve violence in their realm, but there's this odd belief by some that by making certain lifestyle and culinary choices, they are better than those who either cannot or will not follow suit, and they can successfully insulate themselves against the violence experienced by the people on the outside. I'm absolutely guilty of this myself -- believing that my privilege and ability to make certain choices insulates me against inconvenience or deprivation -- more than I'd like to admit, but here I am anyway, telling you all.)

    Meanwhile, the "have-nots" are the lower-income people of Windham County, and some of them dish out your quinoa salad at the co-op deli or sweep the floor long after you've gone home (I used to sell you cheese and bag your groceries, by the way). But others of them couldn't or wouldn't get a job at the co-op, so they are further removed from that "community." I loathe using this word, but it's apt here: Those who are the "have-nots" are the niggers of the Brattleboro area, and are treated as such by some of the very same people who would never consider themselves capable of such bigotry. The "have-nots" are invisible, and when they die, we chalk it up to them making the mistake of being born to the wrong parents, in the wrong income bracket, and oh well, being on drugs will just get you killed anyway so no big loss to "our" community. Maybe they should have taught yoga instead of dealing drugs, right? (I'm sorry. What was that sound? The sad lowing of a sacred cow being slaughtered?)

    Another point on "connection". I would surmise the relationship between Melissa and that bastard who murdered her -- they were lovers -- is a far deeper connection than that between Richard and Michael: a worker and the person who supervised and evaluated him. To assume any connection deeper than that, simply because they worked for the same company, is delusional, but my next few paragraphs address that. Plus, just because Melissa and her murderer were not part of a community that is built around a specific retail store, they absolutely were part of a community. Again, maybe it's a community not immediately recognized by the co-op class because it's not part of their community, but Melissa and the killer both had a community (or communities), and to assume they didn't strikes me as being ignorant of a world beyond one's own immediate existence. My point again: some people are marginalized, invisible and expendable. Not worthy of a public display of mourning, beyond a few flowers in a parking lot.

    And let's get back to that community, the co-op community. While members (or shareholders) and regular shoppers -- of which I was one when I lived in Brattleboro, and still am when I visit -- may consider themselves part of a community, and I absolutely do not begrudge anyone that because a sense of belonging is entirely crucial, it's important to realize one very important thing: The employees there, the rank-and-file, are often completely left out of this warm community feeling. They are there to serve you, the customer. This is a completely uneven power dynamic, and even among the more egalitarian, sympathetic or similarly-employed customer, that uneven dynamic cannot be ignored and it is always present. And then throw the shareholders into the mix -- because, after all, they own the co-op, so by association it could be argued they own the workers when they are on-the-clock -- and the power disparity is even greater. So, before imagining "the co-op community" is a singular, all-encompassing womb of safety and togetherness, consider this: the community may either be a comfort to you, or a burden, depending on where you are in the power structure. Again, this is not to say the community is bad, or anyone deserves anything less than respect and safety (or to be alive, for f&$@'s sake!), but I think a certain myopic view is prevalent, and it's blurring our ability to assess and address what the hell happened last week.

    This is absolutely something to consider when thinking about the co-op community. Who is really a part of it, and what are their positions within it, and, what happens when someone is asked to leave it? And, for all parties involved, the "co-op community" means different things to different people, and the experience of that community just may not be shared by those who shop there with those who toil there. For all the good feelings we have about our friends who work there and shop there -- and we SHOULD have those good feelings -- remember this: the co-op is a retail store that needs to make a profit, it needs to stay in business, it must serve the customer, some people cannot be a part of it, and others who have been a part of it cannot remain a part of it. It is not an oasis from the world. It is a part of the world.

    Okay, you may now begin throwing daggers in my general direction.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: annikee on Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 01:44 AM GMT+4

    veritas fortis vocat
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Sunday, August 21 2011 @ 02:23 AM GMT+4
    Thanks, friend.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: babalu on Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 11:20 AM GMT+4
    The social divides are not only obvious but are there
    by specific design. One example of purposely
    placing people into groups is the Experienced Goods
    thrift shop.
    They have two shops - and many people think that
    this is a great way to maximize and capitalize on
    those donations they are given that hold high market
    value. One shop "boutique", the other, "church
    bizarre" (misspelling intentional).
    It may be true that maximizing profits on donations
    is a smart way to do business, but look carefully - it
    can't be done all in one location? I've asked why
    many times, and I don't like the results of thinking it
    through. And I have, many times over. Because I
    don't want to believe what has become quite obvious
    to me.
    Space issues because of an abundance of donations
    that call for two locations does not equate to having
    to divide them into two economic compartments,
    which is also a "rank" related issue.
    Again, there may be pockets in town of what people
    think is community, but it's all a carefully crafted
    illusion. It is not an innocent coincidence. Therein
    lies my struggle in trying to build a life here. There
    are many examples to share, but to give them gives
    rise to arguments that become as ugly as this town.
    Where there isn't the smell of money, there's the
    reeking odor of power or otherwise a constant
    reminder of social rank.
    Farewell to my friends at Hayes Court.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Saturday, August 20 2011 @ 03:13 PM GMT+4
    Babalu, thank you for your perspective and analysis. I didn't know about the Experienced Goods situation -- I've been away for a few years, and last time I knew the deal, the Elliot St location was selling furniture and the garage location was selling everything else. What I remember from the Ex Goods of long ago (on Elliot St) when Liza was still running it: it was a place where everyone could find a really good bargain, and where I'd encounter people from all sorts of socio-economic levels, but mostly those of us who actually had to work for a living. What you describe does not seem like a welcome change.

    I'm also sad you feel such a profound lack of fellowship in Brattleboro, but I can understand why, even though I do love the place and look forward to returning as a resident. There really is a big divide there, as we've explored in this post and the comments. Myself, I was always able to straddle the divide because of my family background -- a mix of blue-collar working class and aspiring middle class -- and, I simply like who I like and I couldn't give a rat's ass about where a person works or doesn't, or how much money they have or don't, etc. I've been a weirdo all my life, too, which is a big part of it. I could be the richest, most famous person in the world and I'll still, in some way, be marginalized both by default and by choice. I can never pretend to be anyone other than who I really am, especially not to "fit in", and those who love me (and vice versa) understand that. My nature often precludes my fully belonging to a specific community, but, you know what Groucho Marx said about joining clubs...

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Zippy on Sunday, August 21 2011 @ 09:17 PM GMT+4

    This discussion SO needs to take place and I want to thank Wendy, bablu, and annikee for your frank honesty and perspectives. My own experience has left me tired of the exclusion, power plays, and, mostly, arrogance - all in the context of a persistent drone for peace, equality, justice, diversity, and insistence on the over use of the "C" word - community. I love the concept. I hate the reality I’ve awoken to.

    Interestingly, when I often vent, as I often seem to these days (I didn’t used to so much, but it appears the only way for me to engage in any way with most of the people in town anymore), I am often criticized, then offered a “more enlightened” perspective, which frequently reflects the myopia and blind hubris already pointed out here.

    Wendy, I’ll buy cheese from you any time!

    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: babalu on Sunday, August 21 2011 @ 10:04 PM GMT+4
    If you're writing a book on the "C" word, I think you'd
    have many people interested in reading it. It certainly
    is a topic to reflect upon (what is it, where is it and how
    do I know it's here?) and you've always been good at
    causing people to reflect.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: Zippy on Monday, August 22 2011 @ 02:07 AM GMT+4
    Your signed copy is gratis, bablu. Don't disappear completely, ya hear?
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: SpudHill on Monday, August 22 2011 @ 08:31 AM GMT+4
    I find it interesting that I'm not the only one who finds the "boutique" separation of the Experienced Goods thrift shops unseemly. It just feels exclusionary to me.

    I've been taking my donations elsewhere where they are given away at no cost since the opening of the "boutique." Having been a thrift shop buyer from necessity at one time I'm not interested in seeing my donations selected out.

    I want my items available to all, you can price them higher, fine, for the charity's sake but there's something unsettling about this separate store to me. I've always liked the fact that thrift shops offer someone with less resources a chance to find a special "bargain," not to mention that anything that keeps us all in contact regardless of social status and on a level playing field is better.

    This is a little off-topic but in a way not because the more contact everyone has in the community the more chance someone might reach out for help or to offer help because we aren't as likely to see someone as the "other".

    And on that note does anyone know where the nephew has ended up since he was reportedly in the custody of his aunt who has passed?
    Shame on you.....
    Authored by: tiny on Monday, August 22 2011 @ 04:44 PM GMT+4
    How exactly are they "exclusionary", do they have a
    sign saying "Poor People, go away?"

    What is unseemly Spud is you knocking an organizatioon
    that has been so helpful to so many in Bratt. Why don't
    you read their mission statement in order to understand
    what they do. The thrift shop is an intergral part of their
    fundraising effort.

    Perhaps it is best that you give it to an organization that
    donates the clothes directly to people in need. But don't
    knock the good efforts of a COMMUNITY group with wild
    claims. That's unseemly.
    Shame on you.....
    Authored by: SpudHill on Monday, August 22 2011 @ 05:58 PM GMT+4
    What is unseemly is the taking of certain more high-end items and setting them up in a separate store. While there is no sign saying Poor people go away, the items are priced in some cases quite substantially higher than those in the other store. So while yes there's no sign, it does set up a situation where there's a selectivity by price. What would be more seemly would be, as someone mentioned, to set up one store with a certain type of item regardless of price, say books are in this particular store.

    I think that it's a good charity yes, but this boutique-iness of the newer store is by it's very set-up exclusionary as the items there are pre-selected by price.

    Calm down Tiny, I'm not criticizing the organization or their work in the community but just stating my take on the new boutique thrift shop they have set up. I have a right to state my opinion, and since they do good work they might want to relook at their configuration. If it's working for them financially and they feel differently than myself or a couple others here who have posted similar feelings....fine.

    So don't single me out, I was just commenting that I find it interesting that some others feel like I do, thought it was just maybe a personal quirk.
    Shame on you.....
    Authored by: tiny on Monday, August 22 2011 @ 06:35 PM GMT+4
    Our local thift store use to get people coming in, buying
    stuff and then reselling it. The store saw that they
    were leaving money on the table and could benefit the
    Community Center by selling the goods at the market
    price. So they have an upscale area along with all the
    other stuff in one building. Nobody splits a gut over it.

    It's a business model that has been widely used across
    the country to peddle "previously appreciated items." And
    the profits go towards a community resource that truly
    knows no economic or social boundaries.

    A group like that does not deserved to have its business
    practices tarred as "exclusionary and unseemly," just
    because you do not agree with their practices.
    Harsh and hurtful words, especially in light of the good
    they do.

    Double shame on YOU....
    Authored by: babalu on Monday, August 22 2011 @ 06:54 PM GMT+4
    Start a new thread for this discussion, and then I'll
    explain how culling through those donations that
    could bring in higher retail prices, and putting them
    in an entirely different store, not only is exclusionary,
    but sends a shameful message, as well. And that
    message is NOT that they don't want people buying
    and then reselling because they don't need a
    boutique to set the price to begin with.

    If they need more space, sure, make two stores, not
    one that sends an exclusionary message to those
    that are likely the ones that brought the initial
    Calm Down
    Authored by: SpudHill on Monday, August 22 2011 @ 06:56 PM GMT+4
    Oh give it a rest Tiny, you're so off topic. Go pick on the other two people who commented about this also. As I said I think they do a good job but I am just expressing my personal quirky opinion which seems to be in agreement with a couple of other posters here.

    To get back on topic, I don't have a problem with them pricing some items higher in order to keep "pickers" from making big profits. But I always sort of have liked the one big store, everyone shopping together model. As I said I like that it used to be an egalitarian shopping experience which is a good thing.

    Just because the separate boutique model is done in other places doesn't necessarily make it a good model. In fact in NYC what this has created are strings of boutique thrift shops which are priced far beyond the reach of anyone not upper middle class. Great for fund raising but in Brattleboro from my observations this store also provides one of the only affordable shopping experiences for many. Most of the other stores while lovely are not financially within the reach of everyone.

    Doesn't mean the cause isn't a good one and I never said that, you are twisting my words, I said I found it interesting that some other people also found the separate boutique shop not their cup of tea.
    Calm Down
    Authored by: SpudHill on Monday, August 22 2011 @ 06:59 PM GMT+4
    Well actually I guess I did use the word unseemly.
    But I'm with babalu start a new thread if you want to keep this going Tiny.
    get real
    Authored by: tiny on Monday, August 22 2011 @ 09:18 PM GMT+4
    This was a thread about the 2 recent deaths in the
    community and it was you two that drove it into a ditch
    with negative comments regarding EG, so your complaint
    regarding me off topic are ridiculous.

    Clearly, you both need to be reminded that this is an
    organization that provides love and care for the dying and
    bereaved. It is also an organization that is probably very
    active now with support services for the deaths that have
    just happened in this community. These murders, as
    evidenced by the comments on this site, have touched a
    wide swath of the community.

    Your comments struck me as cruel and petty and you
    timing is terrible. At this time, this group's work for the
    community is important and worthy of all of our support.
    get real
    Authored by: Wendy M. Levy on Thursday, August 25 2011 @ 02:53 AM GMT+4
    Well, Tiny, this is quite on-topic, and Spud Hill and Babalu's discomfort with Ex Goods's new boutique-ization is absolutely connected to my original post, in two ways:
    1. It speaks to the class divide that does not get nearly enough attention and discussion in this so-called progressive town. If we really are progressive, we need to do a hell of a lot better.
    2. It drives the point home that no institution, no matter how seemingly benevolent -- or actually benevolent -- is beyond reproach, and the co-op and ex goods are two examples of that. Just because they may "do good" does not mean they are sacred cows and we must all accept with blind faith every decision they make. This is not Jonestown and we are not all going to drink the Kool-Aid. We are absolutely responsible for holding institutions to the standard under which they claim to operate. And just because we are uncomfortable with a business practice that seems to drive a wedge further between the "haves" and the "have-nots" does not mean we are in any way negating their entire existence.
    The Brattleboro Hospice: Helps a great many people accept the inevitable, and provides wonderful volunteer opportunities for regular folks to assist those who are grieving or dying.
    Experienced Goods: Provides a wonderful place for folks to bring their unwanted items so they don't have to go in the landfill, and so others can buy them at (hopefully) an affordable price. Also opened a "boutique" location that makes some people very conscious of class differences.

    I don't understand what about this makes you so ready to pretty much flame SpudHill and Babalu.

    I miss you, Brattleboro!
    get real
    Authored by: tiny on Thursday, August 25 2011 @ 10:22 AM GMT+4
    Flame them? Why, because I don't agree with their class
    divide assertion? Because I don't think the words
    "exclusionary" and "unseemly" should be tagged on EG and
    the Hospice? Because I think this group is going to do a
    hundred times more good during this time helping many
    local community members cope with the recents deaths?
    Why are you three going after an organization whose
    services are needed at this time?

    I think you are dead wrong to assert that EG is driving a
    wedge between the halves and have nots. Is Sam's doing
    that also? How about other shops on Main Street? That
    Save the Corps place sells white cotton socks for 5$ a pair,
    outrageous, they should be giving the stuff away!

    You started an interesting thread Wendy, but it has been
    driven into a ditch.

    get real
    Authored by: babalu on Thursday, August 25 2011 @ 11:51 AM GMT+4
    I do not confuse the behavior with the child - in other
    words, Experienced Goods, Hospice, and the "good"
    things they may do are each different things.

    The MISTAKE, and one frequently made in
    conversation everywhere, is to apply an opinion or
    message to the person(s) then kill the messenger.

    If there a rule or secret list of organizations or some
    secret list people for that matter, that others are not
    allowed to criticize, then spit it out. No one is immune
    to scrutiny, or is there a list or rule I haven't been

    Until then, this is a "community"? Tiny, lead the way
    - I'm still looking for it. I haven't found it in

    And, in terms of Hospice, those who give their time
    and emotional selves to others during times of fear
    and uncertainty are never thanked enough. I don't
    know what the practice has become these days for
    the way they solicit from people, but, I can tell you
    that a tactless solicitation arrived not in my mailbox
    (I'm not well-to-do) but in the mailbox of a family
    member who one might expect to substantially
    donate (both possessions of the departed
    and/otherwise money). The letter should at least
    appear before the grieving and assistance and not
    mailed out so quickly after a loss as to raise the
    question of such timing.

    Now, I guess the form letter sent was well worth the
    cost of postage to Hospice, but again, I have to say,
    this sorting according to rank seems to be a bad
    habit from the get-go. I make no mistake in
    relating my observations. So, go ahead though,
    Tiny, and deepen the divide.

    get real
    Authored by: tiny on Thursday, August 25 2011 @ 12:47 PM GMT+4
    Deepen the divide? Flame thrower? Talk about killing the

    In no case did I ever call you or others names. I have a
    profound respect and admiration for the work this group
    does. Death crosses all divides, social, racial , etc. and I
    hope you do not think this group would discriminate who
    they help and be "exclusionary."

    I am sorry babalu that you are sad and feel so
    disenfranchised and not part of the community. I respect
    your right to opinion and I am sorry you feel I have
    trampled on it. Peace.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: larrybloch on Thursday, August 25 2011 @ 01:18 PM GMT+4
    Hi tiny...please add that those socks are organically grown
    whereas cotton is the most chemically dependent crop grown
    on the planet...and that organic cotton is grown in the
    USA...and those socks are made in the USA...and those socks
    cost us $3.00 per pair...and those socks are on sale
    periodically through the year for 4.00 per pair...peace
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: tiny on Thursday, August 25 2011 @ 03:08 PM GMT+4
    Mr. Bloch, I know exactly what you sell as I have bought
    them from you are numerous ocassions. You, like many of
    the other stores on main Street, have a specific niche and are
    of higher quality and deserve the extra you charge, no
    complaint from me for your quality or service.
    Deaths in Brattleboro
    Authored by: larrybloch on Thursday, August 25 2011 @ 06:19 PM GMT+4
    Thanks tiny, I appreciate that.