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I appreciate Gov. Phil Scott ordering the beautiful blue and gold lights that illuminate the Bennington Battle monument showing our solidarity with the people of Ukraine. The new lighting is a perfect tribute to the heroes fighting to protect their homeland from Putin’s immoral war.

Vermont erected the monument over 130 years ago to memorialize the victory over British and German forces in the 1777 battle at Hoosick Falls. It was formally dedicated in 1891 during Vermont’s celebration of the centennial of statehood. The monument defines Bennington. It also defines Vermont, and its contribution to the creation of the United States during the Revolutionary War.

I have only one criticism. The idea that the lighting should be removed at the end of May defies understanding. The war in Ukraine won’t be over by May 26. The tragic losses of lives and destruction of property brought on by Russia will continue long after the colors are removed from the monument.

Why not leave the lighting in place until the war is over? The cost is modest, and the impact is significant, and removing the lights diminishes the point of the display. It makes the effort seem more like a fleeting stunt than a tribute.

We light the Capitol in Montpelier at night (with regular lighting). Many structures in other state capitals and in Washington are lit during the early evening, and provide impressive sights to visitors and residents alike.

Our monuments display our deepest faith in democracy and independence. They are permanent memories of our triumphs and our love of state and country. Every day and evening the Bennington Monument illuminates our proudest victory and our state’s history of commitment to the cause of freedom.

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There might not be a Vermont if the battle had gone the other way. There might not be a United States for that matter. The battle the monument celebrates was critical in weakening Burgoyne’s forces at Saratoga, and his army’s surrender had a direct bearing on the outcome of the war.

The war in Ukraine is not unlike the war our monument celebrates, and Vermonters feel a strong connection to the good people in that country who are fighting for their independence, putting their lives on the line. We see the pattern, we know the risks, and we stand together with the defenders of Ukraine.

It’s hard to imagine how any country can wage a war of aggression today without inviting a strong reaction from the world. By this date, war should be abolished as a relic of history. It never succeeds in reducing tensions.

This war is going to cost all of us. The interruption of trade, in particular oil and gas, and the vast amount of money and resources given in support of Ukraine will have a direct impact on Vermonters. Ukraine is on the other side of the world, but the world is much smaller than it has ever been. What happens over there affects us directly. Whatever we can do to contribute to Ukraine’s struggle with Russia is justified. There may be no free world if Ukraine does not succeed in its battle with Russian tyranny.

That’s why beaming blue and gold light onto the sides of our town’s most prominent feature makes good sense. It’s a small token, but it carries great meaning for Vermonters, who know perhaps more than others the importance of independence and the need to resist imperialist aggressors who seek to take over lands belonging to other states.

I hope the governor decides to keep the colors on the monument as long as the war in Ukraine continues.

Mike Bethel is a resident of Bennington. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.


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