Vermont Convention speech
October 28, 2005
It has been well and truly said that an effective speech should last no longer than the time it takes the average man to make love.
So in conclusion…
No, I can’t wrap up just yet…. Let’s pretend we’re talking not about the average man but about Vermonters—that will give me a few more minutes.
So that I can tell you about The Middlebury Institute. This is a think tank, devoted to the study of separatism, secession, and self-determination, born out of the Radical Consultation that we held just a year ago at the Middlebury hotel, and at present exists in Cold Spring, NY, not coincidentally at my house. That can be so because the Middlebury Institute is an IDEA, a VISION, that can locate anywhere, not necessarily in Middlebury—though indeed I would hope someday that we could have a real presence there.
That idea, that vision, is essentially to make separatism a poltical reality and put secession on the national agenda, encouraging and supporting secessionist movements, and working toward the eventual dissolution of the American empire. Our initial letter setting out our aims and rationale is available, along with the Middlebury Declaration that came out of the same Radcon meeting, in envelopes at the front of the hall. And if you wish to be a part of our processes, please provide your name and addresses at the sign-up sheet there.
But in a word, the Middlebury Institute exists to make secession in this country REAL. By showing that it is
1. Legally feasible
2. Economically viable
3. Politically possible, and
4. Eminently desirable.
ONE–Legally feasible, because the Constitution, which says nothing about secession, reserves powers not delegated to the U.S. to the states or the people, and that has to include the power of secession. In addition, when the Confederate states were seceding in the 19th century, Congress considered an amendment forbidding secession—meaning that such a provision wasn’t there in the first place. Moreover, “any people anywhere”—and here I am quoting—“being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right.”—that was said by none other than Abraham Lincoln, in 1848. (Would that he had still felt that way 13 years later.)
TWO–Economically viable, because nearly every state in the union has land sufficiently richly endowed to provide for basic necessities, and any secessionist state would work to increase its self-sufficiency through careful development of these existing resources instead of letting them be exploited by out-of-state interests. Besides, it would no longer have to pay Federal income, gasoline, telephone, and other taxes, or support Federal army bases and offices. Right now seventeen states pay more to the Federal government than they get back in benefits, some way more, and they would get to keep these funds—another 25 get only a negligibly greater return from Washington over what they pay in. And besides, a secessionist state doesn’t cut itself off from the rest of the world just because it is independent–it could continue to trade with other states and nations for what necessities it could not produce itself.
THREE–Politically possible, because as James Kunstler [author of The Long Emergency] convincingly told us this morning, the crises around peak oil and the end of a gasoline economy, and the disruptions caused by the alarming increase of global warming, will require greater dependency on local communities, bioregions, and coherent states. I’ve been told that secession is no remedy because we all will be hit by the consequences of a global warming that respects no boundaries. But the fact is that an independent state is far more able to come up with means of dealing with these consequences because it could confront them on a local and doable level, and if anyone thinks that comprehension of these problems, much less solutions to them, is going to come from a national level, they’re living in Cloud CooKoo Land whose capital is Crawford,Texas. Moreover, if secession becomes simply a necessary way for certain populations to survive in the Long Emergency, no Federal government is going to be able to stop it.
And finally, FOUR—it is eminently desirable, because as has become increasingly evident in the last four years it is intolerable for a citizen to succumb to a government that is OPPOSED TO the Geneva Convention, the international criminal court, international law, the U.N., test-ban treaties, the Kyoto treaty, budget controls, civil rights, Social Security, an independent judiciary, OPPOSED TO homosexuality and gay marriage, condoms, abortion, Plan B pills, medical marijuana, stem cell research, evolution and all of science, gun control, democratic elections, clean air and water, conservation and alternative energy, endangered species, and a free and democratic republic with the right to secession—and is IN FAVOR of
unjust and unjustified warfare, brutal torture in defiance of all conventions, illegal detentions, the fostering of terrorism, war profiteering, sky-high trade deficits, cronies and corporate insiders in high office, weak and incompetent Federal agencies, IN FAVOR OF Patriot Act infringements, illegal surveillance, tax cuts for the rich, corporate control of elections, lawmaking by lobbyists, political and corporate corruption, government secrecy and unaccountability, IN FAVOR OF global warming, acid rain, smokestack pollution, creationism, born-again evangelicalism, imminent Armageddon and Rapture, and a deceitful and dangerous neocon commitment to global hegemony—it is intolerable, I say, for a citizen to live under such a government, in such a country.
That is not a country I want to live in. That is a country I am incapable of loving. But I have no intention of going to Canada, or France. I love my home… and I want to leave this country without leaving home. And the only way, ladies and gentlemen, the only way to do that is…SECESSION.
I know that even now some of you are doubtful about whether such a course can succeed, so I want to conclude with a favorite story of mine for doubters and naysayers, about how things can work out when they seem most impossible, if we are but willing to use our imaginations and a little common sense.
A story about a man in a far-off tribe who had 17 horses, which he left to his sons in his will with the proviso that the eldest son get one half of them, the middle son one third, and the youngest son one ninth. Well this was a great puzzlement to the sons, because it was impossible to divide 17 horses that way, so they went to the village elder, an old woman known for her wisdom in all matters.
Hearing their predicament, she said, well I’ll tell you what I’ll do—I’ll give you one of my horses, and then you’ll have 18.
The rest is easy—half of 18 is 9, for the eldest, and a third of 18 is 6, for the next, and a ninth of 18 is 2, for the youngest. And then you there will be 9, plus 6, which is 15, plus 2, which is 17—and then you can give me my extra horse back when you’re done!”
The Middlebury Institute, I am here to say, will be that village elder.