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Recently, the word “snowflake” has used as a demeaning and derogatory term to describe individuals who are weak, whiny or coddled or fragile, melting at the first sign of disagreement or dissent. It is commonly applied to students who protest (particularly students of apparent privilege without any actual or factual awareness of their true life experiences). And, in the current political climate, the descriptor “snowflake” refers to those who have not fully accepted Donald Trump as our president-elect. Instead of saying “buck up” or “grow up” and realize the election has happened and the results fully in force, there is a charge made that those who are unhappy with the state of the US (or the world perhaps) and its leaders are dreamers or romantics or non-pragmatists. Even the President seemed to suggest a warning to liberal snowflakes, namely don’t take every insult personally.

I beg to differ on what it really means to be a snowflake and how that term can and should be turned on its head into a positive. Start here: in the holiday season, people display snowflakes everywhere — on houses, in trees, in windows, on wrapping paper, cards and clothing. Skiers beg for snowflakes.

Those of us who live in a cold climate also have a rapport with snowflakes. We relish the flakes falling from the sky, particularly at night when they sparkle and twinkle in the light. And we watch with wonder as these flakes accumulate, creating a winter wonderland for folks of all ages and stages.

I have been particularly struck by the photographic images of snowflakes taken many decades ago by Vermonter Wilson A. Bentley. He captured the many shapes and styles of snowflakes, sending a loud and clear message that they are not all the same. Their variety is stunning actually and the level of detail, when seen through a microscope, is an affirmation of the power of nature and the complexity of its designs. Yes, with his 5000 images, he has created a legitimate snowflake generation.

For me, then, snowflakes are anything but weak, coddled or fragile. They are strong and individualized — architectural and artistic marvels. We would be wise to recognize the power of and inherent in snowflakes and those of us on whom that name has been placed (as a stain of dishonor) should wear it proudly. We are symbolic of a different time, a more beautiful time, a time when marveling at the world and its potential was a plus.

And, if snowflakes are those of us who fight for (not melt away from) a fairer world, a better world, a more genuine world in which there is both respect and awe, you can call me snowflake anytime. I will wear that moniker proudly. So, go decorate your home — holiday or not — with snowflakes and help rebuild a nation and the world in which we fiercely fight for the right to be independent thinkers, caretakers of each of other and the environment and recorders of a history written and to be written about 2016. And the next time someone calls you a snowflake, say thank-you.

Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor

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