Ah, Vermont. Hewn of granite and marble. Majestic mountains, vast forests. A stout and hearty people, hardworking and honest. A land of enduring values.
An incredibly fragile place that could be knocked out of kilter by the gentlest breeze. A state whose very future might be imperiled by the slightest misstep, no matter where or when.
Myself, I live in the first state. A lot of us seem to have taken up permanent residence in the nightmarish second, at least to judge by their Chicken Little rhetoric.
I see it from all parts of the political spectrum. Conservatives and liberals, business types, environmental activists, townies, country folk, etc., etc.
Let’s take Rutland, a city that’s had its share of hard knocks. The manufacturing boom times, the long steady decline, the scourge of drug addiction. It’s lived through all that, and retained a sense of identity and pride.
But add 100 Syrian refugees, and the whole place will go kerblooey. So say the fearmongers and nativists at Rutland First, anyway. City Treasurer Wendy Wilton claims she’d be fine with 25 Syrians — but 100 is simply too many. Others say the Syrians would be doomed to unemployment or underemployment because there aren’t enough jobs to go around.
Oh ye Rutlanders of little faith.
If you listen to Republicans statewide, we’re on the verge of putting up signs saying “Last one out, turn off the lights.” Vermont is unaffordable. People are leaving in droves. Young people especially. Enterprise is being throttled by high taxes and excessive regulation. The Democrats are leading us to ruin!
Yeah, no. Vermont has its problems, and Republicans can argue that it’s their turn to give it a go. But they don’t help their case (or the state’s self-image) with their doomsday pronouncements.
I can’t just blame Republicans for this. Most of it comes from the left, and it’s just as ridiculous. Here are some of the things that threaten to unravel the fabric of our landscape and social order:
— Wind turbines. (A recent example from a particularly overheated VTDigger commentary: our “small towns are being threatened by a frenzy of development activity from huge energy generation projects in the name of the environment.” Sheesh.)
— The Vermont Gas pipeline, which threatens the environment and economy, would raise energy prices, and would irrevocably infect Vermont with the taint of fracked gas.
— Don Sinex’ plan to redevelop the troubled Burlington Town Center, which will trigger the process of turning the Queen City into a forest of skyscrapers full of offices and condos for the affluent.
— Same for the now-abandoned idea of opening the South End to some housing development, which would force out all the artists who have made the city so special.
— The F-35 fighter jet. (Commentary: “Thousands of Vermonters… wlil llikely have their homes devalued, the health and learning ability of their children impaired, their health and the quality of their daily lives ruined.”)
— Act 46, which is supposedly killing the uniqueness of Vermont education.
Activists seek to elevate their chosen causes through the use of apocalyptic language. But all they do is weaken their own credibility. They are boys ever crying wolf.
Vermont’s been through much worse, and survived. The environmental devastation of the Sheep Boom. The economic collapse in its wake. The clear-cutting of virtually the entire state, leaving a blighted landscape by the opening of the 20th Century. The wholesale dumping of all kinds of vile substances into our waterways through most of our industrial age. The Great Flood of 1927.
Throughout its history, Vermont has been a place of boom-and-bust — of progress, devastating setbacks, and surprising recoveries. There’s been more than our share of soul-grinding poverty. Heck, that’s why so much of our land is untouched (err, hasn’t been touched in decades, at least) — there isn’t sufficient profit to be made from developing it. The problems of today — at least the ones that inspire such urgency in so many of us — don’t hold a candle to the stuft that we have survived, and has helped shape Vermonters and mold our character.
Yes, we have real challenges, real issues to face. But no, none of them will poison our future or irredeemably transmute the character of Vermont.
It’s surprising, really, that so many who claim to love Vermont so much have so little faith in its enduring power.