Published on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
As Vermont Loses its Virginity
by Joyce Marcel
There's no doubt that a grassroots impeachment movement is brewing in Vermont. Dan DeWalt's Newfane town meeting impeachment resolution - passed also by Dummerston, Putney, Marlboro, Brookfield and, in modified form, by Brattleboro - attracted international attention. The state's Democratic Party is now considering a call for impeachment. So you might think that Vermont is once again ahead of the pack.
But don't believe for a moment that we can be smug about our outrage, our good common sense, and our progressive values.
True, we were the first state to outlaw slavery. True, we were the first state to debate gay marriage and grant civil rights to gays and lesbians. True, our beloved Sen. James Jeffords switched out of the Republican Party to help balance the power in the early days of the Bush Administration. True, our former governor, Howard Dean, almost swept the last presidential sweepstakes and is now chief fund-raiser and grassroots hell-raiser for the Democratic Party. True, we have a group working hard for Vermont's secession from the Union. True, we voted loud and clear that we want Bush out of office as soon as possible.
But let's look at reality.
First of all, Vermont lost its progressive virginity a long, long time ago. Our image may be one of fresh air, green rolling hills, cows dotting the pastures, towns with church spires, inns and general stores, woods full of artists. That's what we sell the tourists. The image does not include the reality of an aging nuclear power plant with new owners who plan to rev it up way past its design limitations - and for way longer than it was designed to go - without considering a serious, full-scale inspection or having a place to put radioactive waste.
Then, too, remember the old adage that a fish rots from the head? Well, with his arrogance, lies, torture, evasion of responsibility, incompetence, sexual repression and corruption, President George W. Bush is certainly as rotten as you can get. The rot has now seeped down into almost every part of American life, from the war-mongering to the greed of big business to the arrogance of the Supreme Court to the South Dakota anti-abortion law to the pharmacists who feel safe refusing to fill birth control prescriptions to the lobbyists to the Bush family itself, which has shamelessly and personally profited from Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq.
With such a vast seep creeping, how could it not be creeping into Vermont, too?
Well, it is. There's our Republican governor, for instance. James Douglas has worked hard to be perceived as a "nice man," but he has worked even harder to block the Legislature - and remember, we sent a majority of Democrats to the Statehouse to make some progress on important things like universal health care - from doing anything at all. On more than one occasion, Douglas has slept in the White House as the personal guest of George and Laura Bush. He has supported the president's illegal and immoral war in Iraq at every turn.
Then we have the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Their campaign of lies and insinuations sank John Kerry. (And yes, he should have been able to swim, but he didn't.) Well, today the advertising firm that produced those ads is hard at work in Vermont. It is working for "nice woman" and "Douglas Republican" Martha Rainville, the former Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard, who is running for Rep. Bernie Sanders' seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. And it is working for right-winger Greg Parke, who is trying to get the Republican nomination for the seat in the U.S. Senate vacated by Jeffords.
What are the Swifties up to? Most of all, they are trying to smear Sanders, who is also running for Jefford's seat. This isn't the first time the Republicans have come after Sanders. A few years ago, Vermonters were disgusted when opposition candidates tried to dig up dirt on Sanders's marriages. It didn't work then, but with the ground softened by seepage it might work now.
And wasn't it just a few weeks ago that talk radio right-wingers were going all crazy in the head about Judge Cashman and his efforts to get a sex offender some treatment? Bill O'Reilly, the bully to end all bullies, called Vermonters soft on baby rape. Then he called for a boycott of Vermont products. (Then someone pointed out to him that the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. is one of his biggest sponsors and he backed down.) Still, the anti-Vermont invective flowed for weeks.
And then the former bureau chief of the Associated Press, Chris Graff, wrote a story pointing out the lies in O'Reilly's bluster. He also put on the AP wire a column written by Sen. Patrick Leahy about the importance of freedom of the press. And then he was fired after nearly three decades of respected service. No reason was given. Every newspaper in the state howled, and Douglas and the entire Congressional delegation - which agree on nothing, ever - joined together to protest. We have heard nothing but silence from the AP ever since.
Blocking real health care reform, firing people for speaking the truth, slandering our politicians... what's coming next? The upcoming election is going to be a long and dirty haul. The seepage has started already, and we're only in March.
I've been on the fence about Vermont secession. It appeals to the infant in me who wants to take her toys and go home if the other kids won't behave. It appeals to the punisher in me, too. It even appeals to the adult in me who wants to live in a sane, caring society. But the more I watch what is happening in Vermont, the madder I get.
Vermont is under attack. We will see many attempts to undermine our independent thinking in the next eight months. All those who treasure Vermont's strong values need to be at the barricades for this one.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who lives in Vermont and writes about culture, politics, economics and travel. A collection of her columns, called "A Thousand Words or Less," will be out in May. Email to: email@example.com.