The Genteel Revolution

Most of the great political revolutions of the world have been violent – – the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Hungarian Revolution, and Prague Spring. However, three important political revolutions which took place in the second half of the twentieth century were, for the most part, nonviolent. These included the Civil Rights movement in the American South, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Within a matter of a few weeks in 1989, the iron-fisted communist regimes in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland were replaced by more democratic governments with little or no violence involved in the transition. Only Romania was a bloody exception to this rule. Two years later the Soviet Union peacefully imploded.

The headline of an Associated Press release dated June 2, 2007, seen around the world read “In Vermont, Nascent Secession Movement Gains Traction.” Across the Green Mountains there is a whiff of revolution in the air – – a quiet and thoughtful revolution in which the revolutionists are well-educated, articulate writers, artists, academics, blue collar workers, doctors, farmers, lawyers, merchants, publishers, and other rebels committed to the belief that the United States of America has lost its moral authority and is unsustainable, ungovernable, and, therefore, unfixable. These genteel rebels have called for the peaceful return of Vermont to its status as an independent republic as it once was between 1777 and 1791 and the dissolution of the American Empire.

Taking their cues from the 1961 Broadway musical “Stop the World – – I Want to Get Off,” these modern day secessionists want to free themselves from a technofascist state which condones a convoluted war on terrorism, a foreign policy based on full-spectrum dominance and imperial overstretch, the rendition of terrorist suspects, prisoner abuse and torture, the suppression of civil liberties, citizen surveillance, corporate greed, pandering to the rich and powerful, environmental degradation, pseudo-religious drivel, and a culture of deceit.

These radical intellectuals recognize the importance of the village green as a metaphor for Vermont – – a place where people meet to chat, have a coffee, a locally brewed beer, a glass of wine, or a bite to eat; read a newspaper; listen to music; smell the flowers; and pass the time away. They know that the village green is all about the politics of human scale – – small towns, small businesses, small schools, and small churches. The Vermont village green is neat, clean, democratic, nonviolent, noncommercial, egalitarian, and humane. It is a mirror image of the way America once was, but no longer knows how to be.

Among the principles to which supporters of Vermont’s genteel revolution subscribe are political independence, human scale, sustainability, economic solidarity, power sharing, equal opportunity, tension reduction, and community. The very essence of the village green is a strong sense of the community among its citizens and their neighbors. It is this sense of community which makes Vermont so radical.

Vermont provides a communitarian alternative to the dehumanized, mass-production, mass-consumption, overregulated, narcissistic lifestyle which pervades most of America. In Vermont the politics of human scale always trumps the politics of money, power, size, speed, greed, and fear of terrorism. Living in Vermont is a lot like living in a small European country.

America, too, needs a genteel revolution. Vermont separatists stand ready to help save Vermont, America, and the rest of the world from the American Empire by leading our nation into peaceful disunion.

Thomas H. Naylor
October 1, 2007