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