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Recently our local paper, the Bennington Banner, published a brace of letters questioning the purpose, wisdom, even the patriotism of the community’s ongoing celebration of the Year of the Dragon. Of course, such an affront could not go unanswered. Unfortuantely, the editors chose not to print my response – perhaps they assumed Dragons could bear the brunt of such derision on their own; I hope they didn’t think they deserved it. Either way, in defense of our scaly friends, I am publishing it here as an Open Letter to Dracophobes Everywhere.

I never thought, in the 21st century, I would have to be writing to the paper to champion the honor and joy of celebrating Dragons. It is mind boggling that anyone could object to embracing the wisdom, strength, generosity, and mysterious whimsy of these gloriously majestic creatures. Dragons are as ubiquitous as they come, present in one form or another in every culture in the world. From the Arctic wastes to the Mesoamerican tropics, from the Pacific Rim to the deep woods of  Europe, their lore has touched our lives, inspiring great works of art and literature and feats of  derring-do. They are wild and elemental, connecting us to the Earth and the jaw-dropping wonder of the Universe. At a time when we humans are fleeing from the natural world to our own peril, Dragons speak for the rains and the mountains, the seas and the forests. But beyond the universality of Dragons, of the traits they embody and to which we can all aspire, they are quite simply, deliciously, fun.

Yes, it is 2012, the Year of the Dragon. But this is an astrological event, not a nationalistic one. Cosmic influences are not restricted by borders, ethnicities, or politics. Like Dragons, they fly above such mundane concerns. They simply are; and we can believe in them or not as is our want. By the logic of those letter writers objecting to Dragons in Bennington, only the Maya should be talking about 2012 “end of the world” scenarios; and, since the Western horoscope so many of us read daily comes from Greece, then only Greeks should be able to ask “What’s your sign?” with impunity. Such thinking also presumes that there are no people of Asian heritage in Vermont’s Southshire, a provincial absurdity, to say the very least.

As someone who has loved and studied Dragons for over half a century, I can only wish that everyone would just open their eyes and hearts and go with the draconic flow. From grade-school students to old fogies like me, the Year of the Dragon has sparked a wonderful creative energy that’s washing like a wave across the greater Bennington area. Come join us.