Tamara Burke

Tamara Burke

Kathleen Parker, conservative columnist for The Washington Post, reflected on her work during 2021, remarking, “Though I generally prefer a moderate approach to most problems (and libations), middle-of-the-road is a dangerous place for a columnist.”

During 2021 she deliberately tried to be “more civil, less strident, less snarky and more constructive,” but concluded while being civil and balanced might be good for the country there are times when what’s really needed is to be tough, possibly even snarky and strident. 

Let the hate mail fall where it may.

For at least 10 years I was represented in the Legislature by Rep. Heidi Scheuermann. Full disclosure: I even voted for her. She worked with Jeffords for years, has business experience and if she periodically hits some low notes, she isn’t in a position to do too much damage with views I think a tad extreme, especially for a representative of a community like Stowe.

That said, Vermont is taking up reproductive health this session. If you have opinions that differ from the ones Scheuermann is expressing on your behalf, you should reach out to her.

When I moved from Lamoille County to Orleans County, the name of my representative changed, but not the party affiliation. Both are Republicans and both voted no on the annual joint resolution supporting a woman’s right to decide her own reproductive choices. Not something I’d have voted no on, but as I say, these women are not able to do too much damage. The resolution passed.

If Scheuermann voted the party line against a woman’s reproductive rights, she at least did not participate in her fellow Republican’s attempt to amend and obstruct H.57, the act relating to preserving the right of access to abortion services, which came before the House in May, and was approved by Gov. Phil Scott in June 2019. Rep. Vicki Strong, on the other hand, offered three amendments, all summarily defeated, designed to obstruct and delay a woman’s access to reproductive health care.

Strong, who represents the towns of Craftsbury, Greensboro, Albany, Sheffield, Wheelock, Barton and Glover, repeatedly promoted her amendments as offering opportunities for women to make “fully informed choices.” Require anyone seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound and then wait 24 hours before having the procedure? Not obstruction, information! Require that any facility performing abortions be subject to the same regulatory and inspection rules as surgical centers? Not creating an artificial barrier to care but a means to “the best outcomes for mothers’ health and well-being.”

I’m going to ask you to pause and re-read that sentence. Strong is a master at perverting language. They’re not women, they’re mothers. Except, they’re not mothers, because the definition of a mother is to bring up, or give birth to, a child. Strong obliterates a woman’s sovereignty with one word, turning women from rational individuals into nothing more than vessels, stripping them of the authority to make decisions regarding their own care with a cheerful denial of their status as autonomous human beings.

And she does it with such wide-eyed Christian sincerity. Truly, God is on this woman’s side. Ironically, while she’s eager to deny bodily autonomy to other women, she claims she is “a big advocate for medical freedom and personal bodily autonomy” when advocating for herself.

So, what is the difference between being represented by Scheuermann and Strong during a pandemic?

I'm not going to sprinkle gold stars all over Scheuermann’s performance. She is on record wading into one social media forum in a blatant attempt to put a chill on the rumor mill as COVID-19 cases started popping up around town. Lacking reliable and accurate sources of official information, people moved to share what they knew unofficially.

What the business community called rumor, the people on the front lines called contact tracing. Absent a reliable official information source, it was clumsy, occasionally wrong, but also the only information available in an increasingly insecure environment.

Being represented by someone like Scheuermann leaves you with certain expectations. Your Republican representative will be biased toward the business community. They might view labor with rather more suspicion than sympathy. They’ll have a conservative bent in social issues you either tolerate because they’re vastly outnumbered in the House, or you don’t.

What you most emphatically do not expect is for your representative to be actively undermining the community’s health. Yet here I am, with Vicki Strong seated, or not, in the Statehouse.

I say not because Strong distinguished herself in late December by writing to the Vermont House Rules Committee to announce that she will not be complying with their protocols designed to keep legislators as safe as possible by asking for a vaccine passport or a PCR test before entering the Statehouse.

“Please,” she begged, “allow all who enter our beautiful Statehouse the freedom to follow their own personal beliefs, and don’t ‘mandate’ vaccine passports, PCR testing and mask wearing. Having to use religious and medical exemptions is also a violation of personal privacy and constitutional rights.

“As an American, Vermonter and person of faith in Christ, these unnecessary protocols are against my personal beliefs, and are against the freedoms given to me in the Constitution of the United States. For those reasons, and for many other personal beliefs about the efficacy of these restrictive and discriminatory protocols, I will not be complying,” she opined.

Strong represents a county where about a quarter of the residents are over 65, yet this area has only recently caught on to the idea that vaccinating is the way to go. Strong, with her robust defense of “liberties” over social responsibility and disdain for masking and vaccines bears no small responsibility for the situation.

In October Orleans County had the fastest growing number of cases, and the lowest percentage of people vaccinated. Even today, while 92 percent in Lamoille County have had at least one dose, only 77 percent of Orleans has. Orleans has the distinction of losing a shipping business because the owner refused to comply with state mandates and having a church that refused to cooperate in contact tracing.

Nevertheless, there are pockets of constituents who were appalled to find their representative so far out in right field she’d refuse to take a simple test, to put a mask on to do what she could to keep her fellow legislators safe.

When questioned on social media about her behavior, Strong’s reply was, in fact, a tissue of misrepresentations, falsehoods and conspiracy theories, stitched together with a horrifying sincerity. “Mandates,” she wrote, “can be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, and they don’t address other things like natural immunity, preventative measures and early treatment for those who are ill, which promotes quicker recoveries and keeps people out of hospitals.”

“Our health officials,” Strong goes on to say, “have been very silent on these aspects of fighting a widespread virus.”

Strong layers misinformation and deception into a cunning mass, claiming there is “much to be concerned about” in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System report of vaccine injury, that the vaccines are experimental and not Food and Drug Administration approved, and that vaccines kill people.

Let’s look at that last one first. Consider the character of a woman who would exploit the death of a child for her own agenda and political ambitions. “I have,” she claims, “a constituent whose 5-year-old daughter died several years ago after having a flu shot, which is tragic and unfortunate.” Well, no. She doesn’t. The child was 7 at the time, and died of a condition called myocarditis, a rare inflammation of the heart. There is no evidence, whatsoever, that the proximate cause, as she implies, was the flu vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine was approved in August, we’re well past the argument of an emergency use approval as an excuse to discourage people from taking the vaccine, but the reporting system report, which is a report of “injuries” associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, is priceless.

“Vaccine injuries” include “Exposure During Pregnancy” — they received the vaccine while pregnant — and “Exposure to SARS-COV-2,” meaning they were exposed before they had the vaccine.

Other injuries include “feeling hot,” “feeling cold” and “flatulence.” 850 people reported flatulence!

But let’s take a moment to sympathize with the 121 individuals who reported genital herpes as a vaccine “injury.” Clearly, they received their vaccines in a much more private setting than I received mine.

In short, reading through this report you’ll find scary words: urticaria, for example. 21,174 people has this side effect. It means hives. Itchy red welts that fade after a few days. Another 6,997 experienced vaccination site erythema, or itching, swelling or redness at the injection site.

Of 508 million doses, .0055 percent of the people who received a vaccination experienced discomfort at the injection site for a day or two.

When Strong talks about the “injuries,” those are the statistics she’s citing. People’s immune systems kicked into gear, and they felt punky for a few days. Or, for reasons I really don’t want to explore too closely, claim they ended up with a venereal disease.

Because I am snarky, and occasionally strident, I followed up on Strong’s letter to someone else with a letter of my own, asking for clarity on natural immunity, preventive measures and early treatment.

She was happy to provide me with helpful information, encouraging me to take “vitamin C, D and zinc and another supplement called Quercetin (to help) your body to absorb zinc more effectively.” She went on to tell me, “The medications that help fight COVID-19 are harder to have access to because many doctors won’t prescribe them right now. But if you are interested, I can give you some tips on ordering them. You are correct about the fact that the shots are being pushed instead of preventatives and early treatments.”

She knows her regimen works because “we had been taking these supplements for quite a while before we came down with COVID-19 and I had bought the medications ahead of time as well. I believe they may have helped to save my husband’s life when we were sick. He has several serious health issues and needed the extra help with fighting the virus.”

Well, thank God for that.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight. Vaccines are experimental and bad. Unproven dietary supplements produced in facilities without FDA oversight come highly recommended.

Quercetin has been featured in one study to determine its efficacy in treating or preventing COVID-19. Sponsored by Kanuni Sultan Suleyman Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, the study ended in August. There are no published results.

What is known is that in some people Quercetin may exacerbate kidney problems. The compound can also change how quickly medications are metabolized by the liver and may cause quinolone antibiotics to be less effective.

What’s the difference between being represented by Scheuermann and being represented by Strong? Well, for one thing, Scheuermann is going to be in the Statehouse when it opens. Strong is not.

A damn fine thing that is too.

I take a medication that is processed in the liver. It is precisely dosed because it has the potential to cause blood clots. And Strong, with her Bible-thumping insistence on her God-given right to spread viruses, disinformation and blatant lies to her constituents and colleagues alike not only advised me to take a compound with the potential to cripple me but told me how to acquire it.

Trust me when I tell you, civil is not where I’m headed.

Vermont has sucked the platform and publicity Strong was hoping for right out from under her by opening with remote sessions. But I, most emphatically, would rather have no representation in the Statehouse at all than be represented by someone who uses piety and religious arrogance to claim God as the co-sponsor of her irresponsible lust for personal bodily autonomy, and her wretched justification for placing her constituents and fellow legislators in peril.

Tamara Burke and her family were longtime residents of Stowe, leaving the Garnache-Morrison Memorial Forest as a gift to the community. She and her husband, the sheep, and a riot of golden retrievers now call Craftsbury home.

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