Freedom and Unity for Vermonters !
Our state’s motto is
Freedom and Unity, sadly little of either remains in Vermont today. Our freedoms and liberties seem to be further reduced
or restrained almost daily; while divisive individuals and ideologies are used to balkanize us from our fellow citizens. What
is needed here in Vermont, and just as importantly nationally, is to find a pathway back to the values of self determination
and community for all.
Freedom -The erosion of our individual
and collective rights and privileges has been a slow yet unstoppable progression. The expansive language of the Constitution’s
Bill of Rights has been under attack for well over a hundred years – every imposition, every new, more restrictive interpretation
has nibbled away a little more of our liberties. If the attack had been rapid we, and our ancestors before us, would have
risen up in rebellion to the violence against our freedoms. Every aspect of our lives have been invaded; every aspect of public
and private speech, financial decisions, personal and real estate property rights, professional and employment rights, decisions
as to affiliation and association have become subject to examination and limitation. We have allowed the notion of privacy
to be thought of as antiquated; more precisely, archaic. If we allow these intrusions to stand, it will be a shameful inheritance
that is left to our children and grandchildren.
The first Vermonters struggled mightily against the claims of the (New) Yorkers threatening their
lives and property beginning long before the nation was established and continuing long after the Revolutionary War had ended.
The indomitable spirit of those hardy Green Mountain Boys and their inexhaustible determination alone saved our tiny “republic”
from being seized and divided into what they saw as their Cumberland and Gloucester counties. It was only after the establishment
of the Federal Republic under the Constitution, that Vermont and her citizens were recognized as unique and autonomous members
of the new nation. For most of our history, Vermonters have been viewed as rugged, self-sufficient individuals not easily
dominated or restrained. Many have been attracted to Vermont by her citizen’s spirit of independence. Others have come
here, fleeing the chaos of excessive governmental control “down-country”, attracted by the less restrictive culture
and values they saw here. Frequently, once these newcomers have settled in, they have found our “freedoms” too
liberated and soon, desiring more “security” hav decide to work to quell and suppress the very
spirit that made Vermont so attractive. The absurdity is that when they succeed in changing things to their liking, they are
shocked that their “climate” has suddenly acquired the very characteristics they fled – yet they are clueless
of the fact that it is the “vagaries of security” they championed that have created the distasteful condition.
Benjamin Franklin forewarned us that “those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either
term “nanny state” may well describe the condition that we find ourselves today. Many in our legislature and executive
branches feel it is their responsibility, their obligation, to micromanage and overprotect every aspect of our lives. To the
extent that we allow them to do so, we also allow them to take away our self-determination. Freedom and Responsibility are
Unity - In the process of electing
leaders to create the laws and regulations needed to control the citizenry, Vermonters have become increasingly balkanized
into adversarial groups alienated by numerous, often conflicting, philosophies of rights and responsibilities. Theses groups
have taken on a competitive spirit where their will, ultimately, be winners and losers OR even worse a compromise where none
are satisfied. Those who identify with these groups soon discover that their partners in one advocacy are their adversaries
in others. The most promising and sustainable undertakings are those which find universal support, integrating the ideas and
need of all.
Political organizations and their media sponsors have been most effective in “branding”
their opponents. Democrats have been labeled as Communist, Socialist, Big Government advocates bent on destroying the free
market system and creating a centrally controlled government and economy. Republicans have been labeled as gun toting, millionaire,
anarchist bent on the destruction of the environment, uncontrolled development and trampling the working class into the ground.
Of course neither of these “pictures” depicts the real people who identify themselves as members of these organizations.
Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, Libertarians and Liberty-Unionist all have important contributions to make and demonizing
them reduces the “conversation” and our quest for solutions. Paraphrasing President Kennedy, “it is not
important if the solution is a Republican one or a Democratic one; what is important is for it to be the best one!
Conclusion – As we approach
this political season, we must be determined to find individuals who will represent the best interest of all Vermonters. For
too long our Legislators arrive in Montpelier ready to represent and protect those special interests responsible
for sending them there. What we really need is to send folks to Montpelier who will be persistent in representing and defending
the common interest of all Vermonters in the same fashion that those Green Mountain Boys did so many years ago. We should not view “Freedom and Unity” as some old-fashioned idiom,
rather it should be the watchwords that guide us in selecting our representatives and the decisions they make on our behalf.
H. Brooke Paige
“There is only one form of political strategy in which I have any confidence, and that is
to try to do the right thing and sometimes be able to succeed”
Calvin Coolidge, Vermonter and
30th President of the United States.(1872-1933)