Recently Seven Days political columnist Shay Totten came dangerously close to accusing me of racism and anti-Semitism. His assertions were based entirely on guilt by association. What he didn’t tell his readers was how much time he spent with me back in the late 1990s when he was the editor of an obscure weekly newspaper known as Vermont Times.
For several years Shay published virtually every essay I sent to him. Many of my pieces were taken from my 1997 book Downsizing the USA which called for the peaceful secession of Vermont from the Union and the dissolution of the American Empire. Still others were about technofascism – the melding of corporate, state, military, and technological power by political elites to manipulate and control the population. Technofascism includes affluenza, technomania, e-mania, megalomania, robotism, globalization, and imperialism.
One of my pieces written with my son Xander may have even cost Shay his job at Vermont Times. On January 26, 2000 Shay published “The Politics of Rage” on the front page with an inverted American flag spread across one-third of the page. The conservative owner of the paper who lived across the Lake was unamused. Two months later Totten was out of there.
Shay was fully aware of my opinion that the United States and Israel are the two foremost technofascist nations in the world. He also knew of my strong opposition to the American government’s unconditional support for the apartheid, terrorist practices of the Israeli government. If he thought my views were anti-Semitic, why didn’t he tell me so? Why did he continue associating with me?
I made no secret of the fact that I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and spent thirty years in North Carolina teaching at Duke University. Although I have been engaged in the fight against racism for at least four decades, it is safe to say that I have known a few racists in my day. I have never run away from racism but rather have always tried to confront it or engage those whom I thought to be racists. If Shay were uncomfortable with my Southern background, he never bothered to tell me.
During this period Shay and I used to have lunch together several times a year. At his suggestion, we frequently ate at the Memphis Barbecue Restaurant. We were often joined by UVM Political Science Professor Frank Bryan. The subject was always the same – Vermont independence, otherwise known as secession. There was no evidence whatsoever that Totten equated secession with racism or anti-Semitism.
For nearly two years before Shay launched The Vermont Guardian I was actively involved in trying to help him raise money to finance the statewide newspaper. I hosted several social events in my home aimed at introducing him to prospective investors. Although I did not personally invest in The Guardian, I did connect Totten with the person who provided him with nearly free office space for the The Guardian. If Shay thought I was a racist or an antisemite, he chose to keep it to himself.
During its short lifespan The Guardian published several articles which were favorably disposed towards me and the Second Vermont Republic. As before, there was no mention of racism or anti-Semitism.
But if I am a racist and an antisemite, as Totten has suggested, who then is he?
Totten, environmentalist Bill McKibben, and Green Mountain Daily writer John Odum share one thing in common. Unable to come up with any valid intellectual arguments against secession, they resort to the highly inflammatory charge of racism.
But if they want to talk about racism, let’s talk real racism, not pretend racism. Totten, McKibben, and Odum are all world class apologists for the American Empire – the most racist, the most militaristic and most violent empire in history. Built on land stolen from Native Americans and with labor provided by African American slaves, the American Empire continues its racist tradition by supporting the annihilation of the Palestinians through its proxy Israel.
Anyone who supports Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy, or Peter Welch is personally responsible for the highly racist war against terror (Islam) as well as the racist wars against the Afghans and the Iraqis.
Before accusing anyone of racism, Shay Totten and his friends on the neoliberal left should take a long hard look at the land of the free and the home of the brave with which they are so enamored. Neoliberalism is just another name for neoconservatism. Can the pot really call the kettle black?
I am the same person I was nearly fifteen years ago, when I used to have lunch with Shay Totten. But who is Shay Totten?
Thomas H. Naylor
January 25, 2010