Tuesday, January 25, 2005

If At First You Don’t Secede…

There’s talk again about secession – this time from the bitter blue states of the north, especially after 11/2.

If their plaints have an epicenter, it is in Charlotte, Vt., in the wood-frame house of Thomas Naylor, professor emeritus, agitator, author, Rage Against the Machine fan, and founder and chair of the “Second Vermont Republic.” Naylor seeks the rebirth of Vermont as the independent nation it was between 1777 and 1791. White-haired, jowly and soft-spoken, Naylor describes his little band of “rebels” (the Second Vermont Republic boasts 125 card-carrying members) as “a peaceful, democratic, libertarian, grassroots movement opposed to the tyranny of the United States,” which has become “too big, too centralized, too intrusive, too militarized, and too unresponsive to the needs of individual citizens and small communities.”

There are all sorts of legal and possibly Constitutional issues that stand in the way of secession, but that’s not stopping him from getting the buzz going.

Naylor is undeterred. He offers that no state is more historically prepared for going it alone than Vermont, which he calls “the most radical state in the Union” in terms of town meetings and direct democracy. Vermont, Naylor says, was the first state to outlaw slavery in its constitution of 1777, the first to mandate “universal manhood suffrage,” and is currently one of only two states that allows incarcerated felons to vote. It has no death penalty and virtually no gun-control laws, yet remains one of the least violent jurisdictions in America. It has no military bases, no strategic resources, few military contractors. All three members of its congressional delegation voted against the Iraq war resolution.

Vermont is rural and wild, with the highest percentage of unpaved roads in the nation, the highest percentage of residents living in the countryside; it was the first state to ban billboards alongside highways. It is rebellious: It fathered Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys and 200 years later elected Howard Dean. With its vigorous environmental-impact laws, Vermont fended off the depredations of Wal-Mart superstores longer than any other state; Montpelier is the only state capital in America without a McDonald’s restaurant. Following mock secession debates in seven Vermont towns in 1990, all seven voted for secession.

Now if we could only get Florida to let go of the Conch Republic