Weenie Exceptionalism

Ah, Vermont. Hewn of granite and marble. Majestic mountains, vast forests. A stout and hearty people, hardworking and honest. A land of enduring values.

Or…

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.

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4 thoughts on “Weenie Exceptionalism

  1. ApacheTrout

    I agree with much about of what you wrote, but think you’re mistaken in diminishing the impact of Act 46. Towns have two governance structures, the selectboard and the school board. Act 46 eliminates the school board and local control. That’s a substantial change. In my opinion, small towns who lose control of their school are at risk for losing their schools over time, especially when paired with new governance structures that are dominated by large towns. Money flows to large towns with the votes.

    Reply
    1. Eddo

      The notion of real “local control” in Vermont is largely a myth, and has been, mostly, since 1872. We’re a Dillon’s Rule state (one of a handful in the U.S.), which means localities only have the powers that the state legislature says they can have (and they can vote to take those powers away, they’re not constitutionally protected like in Home Rule states). Municipality charter changes, local option taxes, and a host of other things require state legislative approval. And there are so many state mandates about city & town governance, and education, that there aren’t many things locals really get to vote on. You can vote down your school budget, for example, and the school board will try to cut positions and programs to accommodate you and get a budget passed, but they have very few options about what to cut because of mandated regulations and programs. Unfortunately, that often means sports stays while language and arts get cut. Local school boards haven’t had much real decision-making power in a long time, long before Act 46 came along.

      Reply
  2. Brooke Paige

    While I believe that some of the “troubles” you have listed do have the potential for creating long term difficulties for the state – I agree with your underlying premise that Vermonters (at least the real ones) have the capacity to overcome almost any obstacle !

    Reply
  3. infibelle

    Which is why Minters’ showboat grandstanding, channeling Joan of Arc as the self-appointed Irene savior of VT a huge insult. We could have & would have done it w/o her & do recall it was Neil Lunderville that did the heavy lifting. For someone with such a know-it-all attitude, starkly devoid of objective self-awarenes evidenced by unending self-congratulation. What is necessary to know not achieved via filling knowledge components with facts & information or within academia. And not really knowledge but consciousness.

    Resume reads like a roadmap planned for a career in politics. Never puts the poms down, continually steers all interview or debate answers to breathless cheerleading of self and agenda — tactic career politicians employ — running down the clock by controlling the conversation steering it to showcase accomplishments & agenda.

    Foolishly marching around at battery-bunny pace churning out political talking points doesn’t help.VT has become a political petrie dish for all-things-left. Unfortunately attracting arrogantly haughty out of staters seeking entrance to wealthy patrician class with the low-bar of a small pond. Ambitious takers exploit residents, VT used as background scenery for ambitious goals, mere stepping stones to seek political fortune and most of all — launching pad for cushy lifetime career.
    Nothing changes or ever gets done b/c it’s never about us or our quality of life & also why we’re a continuing magnet for corruption. Same class dutifully maintains status quo of corrupt clubhouse for future members. Do next to nothing for us or the state but service their lobbyists who bankroll them to play politics on their playground in Montpelier while studiously avoiding the unwashed until campaign season.

    Smallness of state, the way our governance is set up along with next to no ethics requirement renders us as sitting duck & easy prey for the many jackals our government has become overrun with — food must be great as they all seem to be eating well & returning for more helpings. Check out how many politicians in VT are not from VT.

    Those of us with generational roots never knew what hardship was as it’s just what we do here and way of life. During recent recession remarked to other-half that things didn’t really seem as bad here as other places, said it’s because recession has never really left. Truly amazed by the highly educated who are actually dumber than a bag of hammers & living proof that even fools can be educated.

    Reply

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