Vermont's Boutique Political Activism

There was a time not so long ago when Vermont was considered to be the most radical state in the Union – but not anymore.  For example, when Ronald Reagan was president back in the 80s, over 180 Vermont towns passed nuclear-freeze resolutions in their town meetings.  Fifty towns approved resolutions in 2005 calling for the immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq.  Two years later thirty-six towns demanded that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney be impeached.

Unfortunately, those days appear to be gone forever in Vermont.  Real political activism has been replaced by what writer Chris Hedges, in Death of the Liberal Class, calls politically correct “boutique activism.”

Vermonters show little or no interest in (1) the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, (2) the deployment of Vermont National Guard troops abroad, (3) the replacement of the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-16 fighter jets with F-35s, (4) the highly racist war on terror, or (5) the fact that the U.S. government provides unconditional support for the racist, apartheid, terrorist state of Israel so that it can carry out its policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians. That Senator Bernie Sanders is actively promoting a Vermont base for a company which designs, builds, and tests nuclear weapons is seen as a non-event.  For all practical purposes, the peace movement is dead in the water in Vermont.

Vermont’s genteel, boutique activists care little about how tightly our lives are controlled by the military-industrial-Congressional complex.  Rather they are concerned primarily with a handful of social issues as well as the environment.

Abortion, gay rights, racism, and legalization of marijuana are the social issues which are of most concern to Vermonters on the political left.  However, these issues need to be viewed from the perspective of their political context in Vermont.  Few states treat abortion advocates, gays and lesbians, people of color, and pot smokers with the deference which they are afforded in the Green Mountain State.  Each of these groups enjoys widespread political support throughout the state.  However, those who do not subscribe fully to all of the tenets of political correctness of Vermont’s boutique activists, do so at their own peril.  These activists have zero-tolerance for any opinions other than their own.

Simple living, localvore, energy conservation, and back-to-the-land are the actions advocated by Vermont’s environmentalists whose principal concerns are peak oil, sustainability, pollution, and climate change.  All one need do to confront the American Empire is own a root cellar and drive a Prius.

Because Barack Obama is an African American who supports abortion and gay rights and has smoked pot, he is considered to be sacrosanct by Vermont liberals.  Anyone questioning his militaristic, racist foreign policy, his lack of commitment to the environment, or his cozy relationship with Wall Street, Corporate America, and the right-wing Likud government of Israel is likely to be accused by Vermont’s boutique activists of racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, or even hate crimes.

A woman’s right to choose, gay rights, racial harmony, and environmental sustainability are surely important issues to Vermonters.  But they are not the only issues on the table.  So self-absorbed are many Vermont boutique activists with their own issues that they don’t even see the nine hundred pound gorilla in the room, namely, the American Empire.  How is it possible to talk about racism and bullying in Vermont without noting that the American Empire is the most racist empire of all-time, and that it routinely plays the role of the global bully?  Any discussion of environmental sustainability is vacuous without acknowledging the Pentagon’s destructive impact on the environment worldwide.

Unfortunately, the recent elections confirm the fact that Vermont is no different from the rest of the United States.  It is just another technofascist state under the control of a handful of corporate, financial, state, military, and technological elites.  While Vermont’s boutique activists remain glued to their laptops blogging and tweeting their way into oblivion, Wall Street, Corporate America, and the Pentagon remain completely in charge.

To be sure there is a place for boutique political activism in Vermont, but someone has to confront the Empire.


Thomas H. Naylor

December 1, 2010