by Kesha Ram, VT Digger, September 2nd, 2021.
In early August, I married the love of my life on the shores of Lake Champlain in a beautiful celebration that spanned our Hindu, Jewish, Congregationalist, and French Canadian upbringings. My husband Jacob’s father was a prominent Republican dairy farmer in Charlotte and his mother grew up speaking French in the Northeast Kingdom. My Indian immigrant father and Jewish American mother ran an Irish pub in Los Angeles. It was surreal and special to see our families and chosen community bridge political, cultural, and social divides for the one thing that makes us the most brave -- love.
This gathering was made all the more meaningful because it revealed the best of Vermont’s and our nation’s values against the backdrop of great discord and division. According to the US Census, only ten percent of marriages in the country are multiracial, and recent reporting in The Atlantic highlights that nearly half of Americans would be upset if their children married someone of a different political party. This figure is up from just five percent in 1960, and reveals a growing cultural divide that goes beyond policy disagreements.
I wish we were somehow the exception in Vermont, and that hate did not grow in our rocky soil. But the rise of groups like “Vermonters for Vermont” and efforts to narrow the diversity and honesty of our educational curriculum is revealing a nativism and xenophobia that we must acknowledge and uproot. If our state is going to grow socially and demographically, we need to develop, attract, and retain a diversity of talent and perspectives in the state. This means widening the circle of Vermonters who share our core values, rather than closing ourselves off to others’ lived experiences and new ideas.