Take the Country and Run

Posted on Sunday, May 8th, 2005 at 2:50 pm by Chelsea Green Publishing

“All great truths begin as heresies.” — George Bernard Shaw

As you explore Chelsea Green’s Web site, familiarizing yourself with the company’s mission and buying its books (you are, right?), perhaps you find yourself wondering if “the politics and practice of sustainable living” is truly a realistic goal under a pathologically secretive federal government that is obsessed with monolithic global power; proudly defiant as it flouts the nation’s constitutional imperatives and international law on matters of human rights; in total denial about the impending, mathematically inevitable collapse of the world’s economy if tectonic shifts are not made in energy policy very soon; and blisteringly hostile –even threatening — to anyone who disagrees with it.

Recall, for example, Vice President Cheney’s memorable and anatomically impossible advice to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy — on the Senate floor, mind you — when the duly elected Democrat from Vermont tried to engage the former oil company executive in a conversation about Cheney’s ties to Halliburton Co. and President Bush’s judicial nominees.

In case you missed it, Cheney told Leahy: “Fuck yourself.”

So much for compassionate conservatism.

This gang of rogues (whose failures in every aspect of government, and whose refusal to admit any failure, are mind-boggling) having recently been re-elected — or elected for the first time, depending on one’s point of view — here’s a fair question:

What if it’s hopeless?

What if these Machiavellian gangsters will succeed in transforming America into a grotesque parody of its former self, and grind its lofty principles into the dirt? (Chinese proverb: “If you don’t change direction, you will end up where you’re going.”)

You know, don’t you, that George Walker Bush could decide today that you are a terrorist, and you could be arrested tonight and shipped off secretly to an undisclosed location, without benefit of counsel or ever being charged with a crime — perhaps even exported to a prison in a one of several foreign countries where the use of torture on prisoners is commonly and openly practiced — and detained for the rest of your life?

It’s happening to hundreds of people already; why not you?

And the American people, basically, don’t care.

Be careful about what books you check out of the library. Be careful what organizations you join. You’re being watched. This is not paranoia. It’s real. It’s not funny anymore.

So: What’s the point of this screed, and its familiar litany of ineffective outrage?

My point: Enough, already.

I call your attention to a small group of people in Vermont who are seriously thinking the unthinkable: seceding from the United States of America.

Vermont, Chelsea Green’s home state, is a political oddball. Once one of America’s most conservative components, it has evolved into one of its most fearlessly progressive — with a deserved reputation for a collective environmental ethic that, while constantly under siege by corporate special interests, is substantially ahead of the national curve as a whole (first state to ban billboards; second state with a bottle-deposit law; one of the first to pass legislation with teeth to protect the environment; first state whose constitution banned slavery, for that matter).

It is also the home of Vermont Commons, an organization dedicated to the preposterous proposition “that Vermonters should peaceably secede from the United States and govern themselves as an independent republic once again.”

Once again?

Yes — again. Between 1777 and 1791, as New York and Massachusetts battled over which of them would absorb the tasty little morsel of real estate, the verdant, pipsqueak entity was the genuine Republic of Vermont. Both states lost the battle, and Vermont tossed its sovereign hand in with the new nation.

But no slaves, guys. Period.

Rumor has it that U.S., Canadian and Vermont officials are surreptitiously discussing the secession issue, and that nobody’s laughing.

That’s rumor — repeat, rumor. But the fact that it even seems remotely plausible is testimony to the yawning — and growing — chasm between political priorities in Vermont and in the diseased nation, so sadly adrift, that it waited 14 years to join more than two centuries ago.

Okay, get the chuckles out of your system and consider this: How long has it been since you were proud to loudly declare yourself an American citizen? Does it bother you that, if you fly an American flag outside your home, every passer-by will assume you voted for George Bush and that you support our endless, “mission-accomplished” entanglement in Iraq — with more than 1,000 American soldiers dead, tens of thousands of Iraqi casualties, the U.S. military’s abominations with respect to human rights, and the administration’s cluelessness about how to get out of the mess?

Enough, already.

Vermont Commons’ primary objective is “to extricate Vermont peacefully from the United States as soon as possible.” A sister association, Second Vermont Republic, has posted the principles of the resulting, Denmark-sized nation, which would include a commitment to direct democracy; sustainability; economic solidarity (buy local, or from nearby states or provinces); quality education; small, locally controlled health care systems; nonviolence at home and abroad; and a foreign policy that might include “negotiations with Maine, New Hampshire and the four Atlantic provinces of Canada possibly to create a New Atlantic Confederacy.” This alliance “would not rule out similar negotiations with Quebec, as well as membership in the United Nations.”

Vermont’s annual trade with Quebec, representing about 80 percent of the state’s trade with Canada, is about $850 million and growing fast.

If you visit the Vermont Commons Web site, expect to stay there a while. The busy, sophisticated site — jam-packed with information on the basics of civics and history — is linked directly or indirectly to hundreds of iconoclastic sites nationwide: sites sounding the clarion call on such issues as peak oil, human rights, global warming (no, we don’t “need more studies”), alternative energy, organic farming, and on and on and on.

Ambitious? How’s this for the headline on a blog posting: “Peak Oil, the Demise of Fossil Fuels, and Imperial Collapse: Can Vermonters Re-Invent Our Energy Policy For the 21st Century?”

Yeah, that’s a good start.

There’s no shortage of heresies, and there’s no shortage of truth.

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