by Rob Williams
courtesy of BurlingtonFreePress.com
Here’s a question I hear asked more and more by friends and neighbors in the Green Mountains of Vermont: How might we in Vermont create a more sustainable world for ourselves, and for our children, and for our children’s children, in a 21st century Age of Limits?
Let me answer by starting with first principles: I believe the United States is no longer a functioning republic, but a dysfunctional empire.
An “empire,” you ask? What is this — “Star Wars?”
Indeed, the United States is an “empire” comprised of more than 700 military bases networked together in more than 130 countries around the world, an “empire” that spends more on annual “defense” — $1 trillion (not including special war-spending earmarks) — than the next dozen countries combined, according to Chalmers Johnson’s book “The Sorrows of Empire.”
The “United States of Empire” makes possible an unsustainable and inequitable global paradigm: 8 percent of the global population — us, the people of the United States — are consuming 25 percent of the world’s resources.
And we, all of us on planet Earth, are living at a historical moment when the twin sisters of peak oil and climate change are ushering in a 21st century world of energy scarcity that will look quite different than the 20th century world of energy abundance.
I believe that for us to survive and thrive in a new century, we must peaceably dismantle the United States of Empire, and create a new political and economic paradigm.
The UNtied States.
Vermont is perhaps uniquely suited, out of all 50 states in the empire, to spearhead such a decentralist project. This is 21st century Vermont’s radical, sustainable imperative: to peaceably secede from the United States and re-invent ourselves as a more resilient and independent republic.
Why Vermont? First consider Vermont’s political origins and culture.
Vermont is the only state to exist prior to the creation of the United States as its own independent republic, from 1777-1791.
The state of Vermont, moreover, was front and center throughout 19th century New England’s secession conversations related to militarism, war and expansion. Vermont was the first state to outlaw slavery within its borders, and Vermonters still speak out against tyranny of all kinds — nuclear war, genetically modified seeds, the unlawful conscription of National Guard troops by the U.S. government for foreign invasions — every March during our annual Town Meeting Day.
Today, outsiders find it easy to pigeonhole tiny Vermont. The national corporate commercial “news” media think they have Vermont pegged as the bluest of Blue States, chock-full of Obama-loving, latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust-fund babies.
It is true that we have more than our fair share of Prius-drivers on Vermont roads, and that 70 percent of the Vermont electorate voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election (if electronic voting machines, which even tiny and independent-minded Vermont possesses in some of our towns, are to be believed).
It is also true that Vermont political trends are not so easily understood. To wit: We were the first state to bless civil unions for gay couples, and, as a state of hunters and farmers, we have the most permissive gun-carry laws of any state in the country.
Rather than Red versus Blue, “radical” is my term of choice.
Culturally, historically and politically, Vermont, with its commitment to “live and let live tolerance,” its promotion of individual rights, when balanced with its attention to the common good (“Freedom and Unity” is our state’s motto) is a natural starting place for considering any state’s nonviolent secession.
The word “radical” is defined as “getting to the root cause of a thing.” And this thing called the United States is simply too big, too centralized, too corrupt, too inefficient and too impossible to govern anymore.
Vermont can help re-invent the United States as the UNtied States: decentralized, re-localized, with a small-is-beautiful paradigm as our guiding focus.
Free Vermont! Long live the UNtied States.
Rob Williams is a musician, farmer, historian, consultant, journalist and professor who teaches media and communications courses at Burlington’s Champlain College and serves as editor and publisher of Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence, a statewide independent multimedia newspaper (www.vtcommons.org). When he is not running, swimming, skiing or boarding in the Mad River Valley, he co-manages Vermont Yak Company (www.vermontyak.com), a farm business raising grass-fed yaks for meat and agri-tourism, and performs “pholkgospel grassicana” music with Vermont’s Phineas Gage Project, a “pherocious phour-part” acoustic power band.
Contact Rob Williams via his web site.