Friday, September 21, 2007

Montpelier: to the President of the United States

Dear Mr. President,

I have sympathy for the aspirations of the Second Vermont Republic (SVR) movement, and though it has generated a media maelstrom, I think it would be wise to consider circumspectly its goals and ideals. At the very least, the Vermont issue should shed some light on American values.

Press reports have censured the SVR movement with words "threat," "treason," and "radicalized." These are inaccurate.

That the SVR movement seeks to harm or overthrow the United States government (which would be treason) is nonsense; it simply wishes to reinvigorate the American ideals that government proceeds from the citizen and, in the United States, that the federal government should operate within a limited scope. That the United States government has claimed prerogatives outside its constitutional mandate (see Bill of Rights, 10th amendment) is undisputed.

Would the SVR be a threat? No more than Canada. Would its secession harm the nation? Vermont has the smallest gross state product of the fifty states--about 0.2% of US GDP--and has a similar share in the national population. Perhaps one could say the SVR threatens the value of unity. But unity is desirable only when centered on virtuous principles, and SVR supporters believe that United States' policies that erode self-government pose the larger threat--a noble argument that sadly got entangled in the slavery issue in the 1800s.

Are they radical? In their pursuit of self-determination, perhaps. The "treason" and "threat" labels, however, are unwarranted. Then again, they would be quite familiar to people such as John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Before cursorily classifying the SRV movement as inimical to the United States, Mr. President, please consider the fundamental values for which the United States stands, or more appropriately, stand.


An American citizen

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