I Am Moving to Vermont

Last September, about 60 Vermonters met in the chambers of the house of representatives in Montpelier to celebrate the state’s “independence spirit” and to discuss the goals of “environmental sustainability, economic justice, and Vermont self–determination.” The speaker of the house had given up the space free of charge for the one-day conference. First at the podium was a  Princeton-educated yak farmer and professor of journalism named Rob Williams, one of the organizers of the event, who at 9 A.M. opened the proceedings by acknowledging what he called “some unpleasant and hard truths.” Amid the twin global crises of peak oil and climate change, the United States was “an out-of-control empire.” It was “unresponsive to the needs, concerns, and desires of ordinary citizens.”

Williams, who wore a T-shirt that said “U.S. Out of Vermont,” did not advocate revolution. He was looking for a divorce. He wanted Vermont to secede. “Nonviolent secession,” he said, “the detaching from empire and exercising our rights to independence, a deeply American right first expressed in the Declaration of Independence, is a right that demands re-exploration today.” Williams noted that Vermont is one of only three states, along with Texas and Hawaii, that ever existed as an independent republic—in Vermont’s case, from 1777 to 1791—and that as “a national leader on progressive political issues,” the state was “uniquely poised to lead this national conversation on self-determination.”

The murmuring response from the crowd suggested they’d heard it before. Williams and his fellow travelers—who constituted not quite a movement, he said, but more “a network of critical observers”—had been calling for separation from the U.S. since 2003. They had gathered in the ornate rooms of the state house to spread the word in 2005 and again in 2008 and now in 2012. Vermont had not yet separated, but the secessionists who were calling for a “Second Vermont Republic” had gained notoriety, and some small influence, across the state.

The conference’s attendees included an ecofeminist named Lierre Keith, co-author of Deep Green Resistance, who reported that “capitalism is literally insane” and urged the collapse of industrial civilization; a man in a kaffiyeh who enthused over a recent story about a rural Vermonter who, faced with police harassment over his use of marijuana, mounted his tractor, drove into town, and crushed seven sheriff’s cruisers under the treads of the behemoth machine; a musician who sang a tune called “Totalitarian Democracy”; a thespian garbed in 18th-century blouse and boots and cravat who re-enacted Ethan Allen, the farmer-soldier who led Vermont’s war of secession against New York in 1777; and a troupe of female dancers from the radical Bread and Puppet Theater, dressed all in white, who chanted a series of poems about “upriser calisthenics.”

 

–– From an article in American Prospect entitled “U.S. Out of Vermont!”

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