Now that the Bush administration is on its way into the ash heap of history, what will become the Vermont secession movement? Much of the 21st century impetuous for secession was based on anti-Bush fears, so it seems like secessionist dialogue is at a crossroads. We could say that nothing has changed when Bush leaves office, since the Republicans and Democrats are essentially the same party - a view I don’t accept.
We can let extreme positions in cause célèbre issues like Peak Oil, and 9/11 conspiracism project our identity to Vermonters. Or we can begin to lay a firmer foundation built an understanding of Vermont’s history, and what the concerns of moderate Vermonters actually are. The latest incarnation of the Vermont secession movement will whither and die in the post Bush era, unless it begins to appeal to moderates in Vermont’s body politic. Working from the center, instead from the fragmented left, will be especially important when (or if) a US administration perceived of as liberal takes office in January 2009.
What are some of the concerns a broad range of Vermonters can rally around? It’s unlikely that a new administration in Washington will nullify the “no child left behind” intrusion into our public schools, or modify the regressive tax policies of the United States. Vermonters can come to consensus on how those issues are hurtful to our society. The corrupt foreign policy of the American Empire is surely not going to be substantially altered. We won’t return to an open border with Canada - and Vermonters surely see that paying into a annual half a trillion dollar military budget is absurd. Our Vermont health care system is superior to those in other states - yet federal diktats such as Medicare Part D have been foisted upon us, complicating he delivery of health care to our people. We also have stronger environmental regulations than much of the United States, yet the federal government is eroding environmental laws from California to New England.
Nevertheless, the cause of Vermont secession remains little more than a curiosity to most citizens. Recent years have provided the best opportunity to broaden the debate we've had since the 200th anniversary of statehood in 1991, yet there seems to be no coherent strategy to produce anything other than symbolic events. While there is no elected leadership in the Vermont independence movement there clearly are leaders, and I’m concerned that the personal agendas of some high profile people in the movement have diminished the independence movement's impact.
In an interview on the antiracist web site mootstormfront.com, Dr. Naylor, founder of Second Vermont Republic stated that “Peaceful dissolution of the empire is more important to me than secession from the United States.” More important? I find that position appalling. It’s as if Vermont is just a scenic backdrop for pontificating on his primary hobby horse of US dissolution.
Pet causes enmeshed with the independence movement do it great harm. Why have Vermont secessionists found it important to band together with other North American secessionist groups, regardless of beliefs? At the First North American Secessionist convention, in Burlington in 2005, representatives from fundamentalist Christian groups, neo- Confederates, and other right wing extremists were welcomed into the Green Mountain State. There is no reason to form alliances with such groups, especially ones that an overwhelming majority of Vermonters would certainly consider unsavory.
Our secessionist movement should focus on gaining allies WITHIN our borders. We must be working from our own history - and we don’t need to call for "untying" the United States to become independent. The United States is too corrupt to be our concern. As for other states - just as we invented civil unions in 2000 and other states followed, just as we began the nuclear freeze movement in the early ’80s and other states followed - so too may it be with secession.
Even though Dr. Naylor is a relative newcomer to Vermont, many of his writings such as “The Principles of the Second Vermont Republic” are exquisite. His role as a leader and founder of contemporary Vermont secessionist thought will always be acknowledged, however, as one of our leaders he should realize that his personal statements and affiliations matter. Those prominent in the movement should live up to the mantle of leadership they’ve assumed by abandoning pet causes, and by speaking judiciously to the media and to our citizens. Lincoln revisionism, for example, has crept into Vermont secessionist dialog: why? It's s slap in the face of Vermont's history. Vermont contributed more troops per capita than any Northern state to defeat the slave holding oligarchy, and out troops suffered an unequaled 15% casualty rate in the war. The descendants of those farmers and tradesmen who went to war are the people we should honor in our noble cause of Vermont Independence - not alienate by saying their grandfathers were stooges or duped into their graves. Our constitution of 1777 was the first North American document to outlaw slavery, and we were a major conduit in the Underground Railroad.
Of course I know that Lincoln would have freed no one if that would have preserved the Union - but I submit that Vermonters were not fighting for Lincoln - they WERE fighting to end the abominable stain of slavery. Consorting with neo-Confederates is shameful, as is Lincoln revisionism, and only flatlanders without genuine Vermont roots could be blind to that shame.
Equally destructive to our credibility has been adherence to the 9/11 “truth” fad. 9/11 conspiracism is totally alien to the sober mindset of most Vermonters, and indeed virtually all of the central tenants of truthers have been thoroughly refuted. Look up building 7, stock trades, Marvin Bush, “free fall” speed, Shankesville etc. etc. etc. on web sites that are NOT part of the conspiracist echo chamber and you’ll discover the lotus of conspiracism is based on ignorance, gullibility, and a mountain of logical fallacies.
Fortunately 9/11 “truth” is already going the way of Kennedy assassination conspiracism, Area 51 idiocy, and worries about the Illiminati. Secessionist leaders - including contributers to the online editions Vermont Commons - who have painted themselves into a corner with 9/11 conspiracism need to start repairing the damage by focusing on Vermont concerns, rather than trying to fix the United States.
Vermont first, Vermont foremost. And let Vermont independence be our only cause. Perhaps the time has come for a Republic of Vermont secessionist legislature to be formed, to inaugurate a leadership that will formulate real political policy? Let us form specific committees to focus on issues. Let us move toward unifying local currency projects into a national Vermont currency, by petitioning those organizations. How might we work on officially changing the flag of Vermont, to strengthen our national identity, under the flag of the First Republic?
I don’t pretend to know what’s practical or can really be done, but I do think a Vermont first strategy aimed at taking positive, proactive local steps needs to be our priority. We've preached to the choir long enough, what actions can we take? We’ve embarked on a very long march toward the goal of establishing a nation state that lives within its means, respects other peoples, and treads lightly on the environment. One hundred years from now our descendants will see us as either prescient, or as babbling idiots. Which shall it be my friends? Which shall it be?