Kill Vermont Exceptionalism.

(A warm welcome to visitors from K9K’s Facebook community, and thanks for giving me a sizable bump in pageviews.)

Been looking for a reason to use this picture.

Been looking for a reason to use this picture.

A couple things are bugging me today. Both have to do with a deeply-held, and only partially merited, sense of satisfaction Vermonters feel about themselves.

Us Vermont liberals scoff at the conservative idea of American exceptionalism. We see America, not as the shining city on a hill, but as a nation with noble aspirations and our share of flaws. A work in progress; a development project on a hill, perhaps, with its ultimate shape to be determined. At the same time, however, we have an unspoken belief in the equally absurd notion of Vermont exceptionalism.

Anyway. My first item comes from yesterday’s Mark Johnson Show. I happened to drop in during an open-phone segment and heard a caller say that it takes at least three generations to make a real Vermonter. That’s how long it takes to inculcate the unique values and perspectives that make Vermont such a special place.

Good gravy on toast, are we a little full of ourselves?

I’ve lived here for nine years. By the caller’s measure, my great-grandchildren will be worthy of the name “Vermonter”. Until then, flatlanders all: uninvited guests in these verdant provinces.

It ties into something I hear all the damn time. People validate their viewpoints by referring to their tenure in Vermont — “I’m a lifelong Vermonter,” “My family’s lived in [your town here] since [long-ago date]”. Politicians prove their bona fides by emphasizing their ties to Vermont.

It’s bullshit. The views of a third-generation Vermonter are no more valid than those of a newcomer. If not, then maybe we should abolish “one person, one vote” and give “real Vermonters” a bigger say. One vote for each generation?

Item number two is a comment from someone who ought to know better: State Representative Ann Pugh, former social worker and now lecturer in social work at UVM, commenting on last week’s multiple shooting in Barre:

“As a community, we need to come to grips with the fact that we’re not different, and mourn the loss of our innocence,” Pugh said.

Christ on a cracker, to continue the bread-product analogies. Vermont is no more, no less, “innocent” than anywhere else. We had no “innocence” to lose. And no, we are not different. Or, at any rate, we’re a whole lot less different than we like to believe. Hell, there wouldn’t even be a Vermont if our ancestors hadn’t done horrible things to Native Americans. We spent the 19th Century clearcutting the forests and dumping industrial waste into the rivers, leaving an utterly ruined landscape that took decades to self-repair. With little help from us, I might add, aside from healthy doses of benign neglect.

In her previous career, Ann Pugh must have witnessed her share of the depraved, the heinous, the vicious, the diabolical, the monstrous. The primary difference between Vermont and anywhere else is not our inherent virtue; it’s our small population. That’s true regarding the environment, and it’s true regarding our crime rate. In Vermont, people can to unspeakable things without anyone else noticing. Our peaceful rural countrysides are full of horror stories.

I don’t mean to pick on Rep. Pugh. Lots and lots of people have said similar things; Governor Shumlin does it all the time. As does every politician who argues against tougher ethics laws.

American exceptionalism, as claimed by many conservatives, is a self-serving myth that prevents us from taking an honest look at ourselves. So, too, is Vermont exceptionalism. We’d be better off without it.

28 thoughts on “Kill Vermont Exceptionalism.

  1. NanuqFC

    Then there’s the unexceptional hypocrisy of Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. I don’t question his grief over the murder of state-employed social worker Lara Sobel. But I think back just a few months ago when he and his administration were threatening to solve the budget hole by re-opening (well before-time) the state’s contract with its employees’ union in order to shrink their pay and benefits. Shumlin is now calling for Vermonters to treat state employees, particularly social workers, with respect.

    So what kind of respect comes with threats to an employee’s livelihood, Mr. Governor? And what kind of hypocrisy allows you to make that kind of threat to employees, when you refuse to re-open 50-year-old contracts with the corporate interests developing state-owned lands from ski-areas into “year-round destination resorts?”

    Respect? This is just your latest show of hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is never worthy of respect.

  2. John A. Burgess, Sr.

    It is obvious from your rant that you are still a “flatlander”. Our family arrived in the area now know as Bennington around 1749. So we welcome you and in a generation or two we will recongnize you are no longer tourists.

  3. Jeff Guilford

    I find Vermonters to be some of the most sanctimonious people I have ever met, especially the way they shun “flatlanders” for daring to invade their “innocent” little utopia. Newsflash. Vermont is relying on a tourism economy so you better get used to the flatlanders coming and going, and you should come down from your ivory towers and realize Vermont is just like any other state and has the same problems and issues.

    The whole “I’m a native Vermonter” mantra is really kind of tired and nauseating. For such a self-proclaimed giving and open-minded state, you sure do seem close-minded.

    1. pavepusher

      With that patronising, hypocritical attitude, I’m not at all surprised that Vermonters aren’t particularly accepting of you.

      You remind me deeply of the “ugly American” tourist overseas: smug, supercilious, rude and sanctimonious.

      Good luck with that.

  4. pavepusher

    Noel Perrin had something to say about this some years ago. Paraphrasing, “People always want to come to Vermont to escape their prior home… then make it just like the place they left.”

    Vermont has plenty of opportunity for improvement. Just be careful to make it more Vermont, and not more like somewhere else.

  5. Eddie Cutler

    To begin with your statement about the old days is a lie. We outlawed slavery right at the beginning. Women had rights equal to men including the right to vote and own property. As far as your statement about us devastating the forests. Don’t know how to tell you this but that was so we could do things like grow food, cut hay for our livestock and burn wood to keep us warm. Didn’t exactly have oil furnaces or electricity back in the 1800s. If it wasn’t for the genius of Vermonters we would not have had the industrial revolution of the late 1880s. We stood up for our freedoms well before the American revolution. We believed in honesty and integrity, I wish you did then this post wouldn’t be needed. People like you constantly talk about things like this in modern terms while forgetting what it was like in the old days. Not to sound like an ass but there is an old Vermont saying. “If your cat has kittens in the oven that does not make them biscuits. No offense against anyone who moves here.

      1. Natasha Cebek

        John Walters, you sound like an ass. I moved here 17 years and I appreciate everything about VT, including the natives. Yes, Vermont is an exceptional state whether you want to accept it or not. I’ve watched people like you move here and make every effort to pretend to acclimate. Meanwhile, your mind is churning and thinking of a myriad of ways to improve on and change…just about everything that makes Vermont special.

        I’ve seen people like you come all bright eyed with ideas and possibilities, like you know better. Of course, after time you will come to the realization that you are not as powerful as you thought and then you’ll leave….blaming it on the snow or something like that.

        Vermont is exceptional and you are not. Like someone posted earlier, you’re just a tourist as am I. Get over yourself.

  6. Faith Biggs King

    John is right. All of this “exceptionalism” is, oh, I dunno, profoundly immature. And just…dumb. It’s a micro-version of the “America-F@#!@ Yeah” stereotype which sadly is based in reality. I’ve lived here for 25 years. I like a lot of things about the state. I’ve also lived in Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts. All states that have some good stuff goin’ on. And plenty of problems. If people think Vermonters are “special”, they need to travel more. Really. And oh yeah, individuals, communities, states and countries all need to mature. “When I was a child…I thought like a child….when I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” Let’s start facing ourselves squarely in the mirror, without flinching and maybe…just maybe…we can begin to address so, so many grave issues (yes, right here in pretty Vermont) that so desperately need addressing.

  7. Dave Katz

    Third Rail Of Vermont Politics. Oh, and gunz. Fags and hippies, not so much. Jews, probably, but it’s not polite to talk about that.

  8. Bruce Conklin

    If the best thing one can say about oneself is “I was born here,” maybe it’s time for a little introspection.

  9. Tom Little

    In the heat of the 2000 legislative battles over what came to be called Civil Unions, Edgar May (former member of the House and Senate, from Springfield), testified before the House Judiciary Committee. He said that the fact of one’s birth in Vermont was not the result of the newborn’s choice, leading him to conclude that perhaps the best evidence of a real Vermonter is not that you were born here (not of your own doing), but that you intend to die here. Just sayin’..

  10. Jeff Rodgers

    As a native Vermonter myself, I couldn’t agree more with this flat landers original post. Vermonters need to wake up to reality. We are not a utopia, we have the same problems as every other state. I love Vermont but this exceptionalist attitude Vermonters have is toxic.

    On the points the original poster made about Shumlin, he is spot on. How dare governor Shumlin say we need to respect social workers more when he himself was fueling the anti state worker conversation only a few months ago.

    To the Vermonters here telling this critic to leave Vermont, shame on you. If you truly love Vermont you would be working to identify its problems so you can efficiently solve them rather than exiling the critics who dare speak up against the so called “Vermont way”.

  11. ginny mcgrath

    Perhaps David Budbill can address this issue:

    On Being Native

    The Vermont Jewish mother says:
    So who’s native? Don’t talk to me native.

    Because you got here early makes you more?

    Witch grass, zucchini, tomatoes, you and me-
    all immigrants is what I’m talking.
    Native is dirt and stones, mountains,
    What else?

    We, love, are water
    Just passing through

  12. newzjunqie

    Mirror mirror much folks? How about another chanter singing rah rah ray ray our team’s ok. Rally round the VT flag ppl! Don’t let this durned outsider say bad things about us’n.

    Call me disgusted at the ignorant local-yokels expressing the ‘we don’t need nonna yer kind round here’. All while holding the banner high and leading the idiot parade. Pissed off? Good! I sure hope so. Peurile antics serve as proof of the authors point so the joke’s on you. The backwaters of MS & Alabama have alot to learn from the delgation of VT woodchucks as this is how we roll. I’ve seen this movie my whole llife and though recognizing it as any thinking person would do just went on with my life.

    MA schools as well as the rest of the flatlanders have some of the best schools in the country and we’re not talking private or prep but public as VT continues to try to fix things in a way that will never change quality but will drive costs to further unsustainability. Employee to student ratio is jawdropping.

    Both sides of fam were from generations going back to VT origens and jumpstreet. Grandparents on one side from hardscrabble junction married in a logging camp early ’30s, which for those of you who don’t know what this kind of life entailed good for you! it wasn’t a pretty place to take ones new bride. They became farmers and always lived well through the depressed years and WW2. Interestingly, neither of my parents had VT accents and saw things through the same clear lens so there are still ppl who get it folks. Wake the hell up.

    Other side deeply rooted in NEK, another hard life — all but two went on to higher ed and excelled in their fields. If I mentioned my family members recognition would be easily recalled for anyone who lives there now. I see names on Joe Bennings website that I am familiar with. I cried when I saw the scenery which I recognized instantly as NEK serving as backdrop, of Lyndonville, so many memories.

    What does that make me? Nothing! Just so you know ya can’t label me with your oh-so childish flatlander moniker I’ve lived all over the state all my life. And Michigan.

    I recognize some as fellow RKBA — I’m ashamed of you. How unf’king professional. And, it makes me not want to join your state group. I guess the NRA will have to do. Yeah, I know ya don’t need ppl like me.

    I have news! This is where I and author veer in different directions. I believe VT is a failed state not unlike Greece. And although I’m hoping the right gets in as the lefties have failed us and wreaked more havoc inflicting damage I didn’t think was possible. Electing Shummy an epic failure and his minions have as much blame to bear. Surrounding himself with his large entourage of paid sycophants further sickens me every time they appear to fill us full of their lies, damn lies and statistics. All that is said rings empty and hollow as they continue to lie like a rug. Ah the blessing of FOIA…and resultant pants around ankles.
    $12 million compensation for BC&BS VT CEO? Give me a f’king break — a million a month
    Readem and weep:
    Retirees struggling to afford Vermont, moving to other states

    I am likely to join them by moving to prospering live-free-or-die. So stay here and die if you wish but pls at the very least wake up and smell the juan valdez.

    Even Doug Hoffer tried to set up a healthcare price comparison for VTers and Gobielle squealed like a fat little hog to protect the thievery and highway robbery of VT hospitals. I was charged $1000 for three visits one of which was a lab and checked their website for prices and found they had upcoded me for all visits. And I am not alone. Another f’king disgrace I’d like to see him do it anyways and tell the criminals who work for “us” to go fry it.

    And, this is largely due to the lack of ethics rules as well as the lack of ethics. VT is now a get-rich-quick scheme as the millions upon millions pours out of the state on no-bid contracts complete with no clawback provisions. Our fat and happy legislators continue to protect this all as well as their seats and pretty much do nothing. Shap = Shummy and a continuation of the top-down tyrranny. I’m saddened that the right can do no better than keep smiling and don’t-make-any-waves Scott.

    When VPIRG which I support contacted me to thank our legislators for all they did I sent a politely stern response and said I hope their all shitcanned.

    The most talked about female possibility presided over an agency with a long history of sexual harrassment. She didn’t know? Than we don’t need her on the fifth floor. But I don’t believe she could not have known. Recalling her running around in a hard-hat prop leaves a hollow memory. Kunin was a piss-poor governor nearly bankrupting VT and continually mouths the same glass ceiling rhetoric which is old and tired. Woman shmoman — tired of the gender and other distractions. House is burning down somebody get some fire[persons] and put it out. We surround ourselves with losers who are only using VT or their positions as stepping stones for higher office.

    Funny thing, I’ve been watching WGOP, reading papers and following politics since childhood and all I can say is same shit different year. VT has always been sucker-punched and bitch slapped by our these jokers. Dean and Snelling were our betters.

    – VHC website will cost $54 million to run — and no it’s not “fixed’, added is the annual increase which serves as an evil underpinning to bankrupt us all wich is as unaffordable as it is ubsustainable. Add the exorbitant cost of healthcare for public sector employees and the numbers are dizzying as our largest employer is the State of Vermont. I’d wager next highest is municipalities. This is partly why Greece failed – everyone is a pensioner or govt employee and completely unsustainable.
    – School consolidation will cost much more – not less. It’s merely a scheme to avoid the likes of Stowe School, ST Johnsbury Academyetc and the recent Bennington switch. Ed czar looks like a semi-conscious bot.
    — A sitting senator who roomed with an aid who looked like a child while colleagues looked th other way – not their child mind you – arrested at the statehouse on sex-crimes. We don’t need no stinkin ethics panel!
    – A governor who got in mostly for single payer fraudulently drags what he and his criminal accomplices had to have known was not possible so they and ‘health czar’ could hang on to their six-figure jobs. Millions upon millions more.

    Didn’t even scratch the surface and, there’s much much much more. So much for VT “exceptionalism” — but keep head planted firmly in ground as much as possible, coming up for air keep those blinders firmly in place and have another tall glass of that exceptionlist fool-ade. Drink deep VT! -stardust

  13. Walter Carpenter

    ” We are not a utopia, we have the same problems as every other state. I love Vermont but this exceptionalist attitude Vermonters have is toxic.”

    This is so true. I’ve lived in Vermont for twenty years now. I was born and lived around Boston, Massachusetts, and came of age, so-to-speak, in the heady sixties and seventies. Like so many other ex-city dwellers who have come here, I’ve seen and been through things that no “real Vermonter” could hope to imagine or understand in this supposedly idyllic landscape. I’ve lived other places too — out west, the middle east, and in New Hampshire.

    Yet, having been here two decades, and in other cultures and places before coming here, there is something distinct about Vermont, not found in other states. I think Eddie had it right when he wrote: “We outlawed slavery right at the beginning. Women had rights equal to men including the right to vote and own property.” It is this spirit of doing something against the grain despite popular opinion, like outlawing slavery back in a time when slavery was a big part of American culture. It still is for that matter, but Vermont again showed its spirit and went ahead with the unpopular idea of civil unions despite how vitriolic it was and now the nation has followed suit. This is why I moved here. Vermont has so many of the same problems as every other state: chronic and harsh poverty and what this brings like crime, drugs, and many citizens on probation, parole, or in prison, and so many of other troubles that afflict the rest of USA. Vermont is definitely “not a utopia.”

    Several weeks ago a “native Vermonter” chastized me for being a “flatlander.” I laughed at him and replied that my family has been here in New England since 1620 and that quieted him. I suggested to him that it was a whole lot of “flatlanders” like us who originally came here to make Vermont, and we are still doing it to this day. We come here for the quirkly spirit which possess the state and makes us all Vermonters.

  14. waltermoses

    Gee, I wish all newcomers to Vermont could pass a test to see if they:
    Can use a hammer to drive a 10 penny nail.
    Change a tire on their car instead of AAA or their next door neighbor.
    Test the mud hole on the road in an April thaw before they drive into it.
    Push the reset button on their oil burner after a power outage.
    Not use wood screws to put the smoke pipe together on the new airtight stove.
    Not panic after the heavy snowfall when the town plow hasn’t made it to their driveway yet.
    Not buy the biggest chainsaw made when they have no idea how to use it.
    Not buy a 21 inch cut push mower to cut a 1 acre lawn. Not to start it until they put oil in it.
    Know a 2 cycle engine needs oil – gas mixture in the fuel tank.
    I have more but this would be a good start.
    John Walters the 9 year wonder is an ass.

  15. waltermoses

    One more thing, have the newcomers from the city when they complain about the neighbors sighting in their guns before deer season, not get mad when you look at them and say,” I demand my right to arm bears”.

  16. Kurn Hattin

    It is that same Vermont Exceptionalism that has led directly to decades of horrific child abuse at Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster Vermont, that has profoundly affected generations of New England children and their families.


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