In her Feb. 3 Vermont House “devotional,” Rep. Mari Cordes, D-Lincoln, chastised Vermont and America for historic, unabated systemic racism and genocide. Our constitutions were condemned, and blatant racist statements stereotyping all white people went unchallenged, in a mockery of the very word “devotion.”
Vermont’s guidelines for devotionals state that “a devotional is an inclusive … piece appropriate to the setting and is at most three minutes long,” and that the person offering the devotional “shall refrain from discussing individual political positions, and … respect the diversity of beliefs.”
Representative Cordes’ nearly seven-minute rant was divisive, incendiary and toxic. The question for voters is: will the House correct this vice-signaling legislator?
Vices are what were signaled, not the virtuous notes of character and bravery from which this self-righteous legislator is wholly immune. In her pathetic, narcissistic pontification, Cordes butchered history, constitutional law, and the beliefs of the very speakers she invoked as authority — namely, Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass.
Cordes declaimed Vermont and white people (at 5:27):
So whether we agree or are aware or not, we are all, myself included, a part of a system of white supremacy that was fundamental to the birth of our constitutional government. If we were born in this country we were born into white supremacy. We have all been acculturated in it.”
That is a political view, certainly not inclusive of those who take exception to rewriting history and distorting facts. This offensive view is also at odds with established Supreme Court rulings that say it is unconstitutional for government to discriminate based on race — any race.
In her repeated calls to “repair” this system of oppression, Cordes cites not specific policy but conquering other white people with “fierce compassion.” This is the common theme of the new “hate not love” racism — it slanders and condemns; it offers racist policies that transfer money from white to black people, without evidence of either a causal connection to past wrongs or to effectiveness of policy. That is, it is rooted in hate and racism, not the altruistic glow that self-infatuates its vice-signalers.
Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King have been abused by Vermont’s uninformed legislator. Neither of them embraced “equality of outcome” as a constitutional or societal standard — both preached in favor of “equalities of opportunity,” which our nation has made great strides in achieving. (This did not stop Cordes from condemning Vermont’s Constitution — “while conditions for slavery still lived in our Vermont Constitution” (at 3:55).
Cordes opportunistically extracted black quotes from King out of context to further her own delusions, at the expense of their lifetimes of study and teaching. That is, she is exploiting Martin Luther King to undermine what he taught. Reading the very speeches she quoted from, we plainly see her ideological distortions.
Cordes’ “inclusive” devotional condemned unity in a way that contrasts sharply with MLK’s appeals for peace, not self-righteousness. Says the sage Cordes (in a silly paean to the “white silence is white violence” crowd):
Unity without the necessary work of repair isn’t justice. Quiet isn’t peace. Calls for unity without accountability are in fact a form of toxic passivity. The belief that no matter how painful or traumatic a situation is we should maintain a positive mindset. This is dismissive of very real trauma which then adds to the trauma.
No, actually, riling black people up to believe they have been the victims of white supremacy and malice, unabated for 250 years — that is what creates an unjustified new fear and trauma, “which then adds to real trauma.” But it is being done here by a sheltered white woman who invokes black men who endured real trauma, and who appealed for the unity and peace she here condemns.
In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, MLK declared:
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. … Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. … With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
It is hard to discern Cordes’ message in King’s words — the very opposite glares: she has taken it upon herself to distrust all white people, unless they bow to her ideology, of course. Even more glaring is the contrast between King’s high-sounding hopes and Cordes’ thinly veiled contempt for fellow Vermonters.
In the MLK speech from which Cordes quoted, Pastor King proclaimed:
This is a type of war that every Christian is involved in. It is a spiritual war. It is a war of ideas. Every true Christian is a fighting pacifist. Peace is not merely the absence of some negative force — war, tension, confusion, but it is the presence of some positive force — justice, goodwill, the power of the kingdom of God. 1) If peace means accepting second-class citizenship, I don’t want it. 2) If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. 3) If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace. 4) If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace. So in a passive, non-violent manner, we must revolt against this peace. Jesus says in substance, I will not be content until justice, goodwill, brotherhood, love, yes, the Kingdom of God are established upon the earth. This is real peace–a peace embodied with the presence of positive good. The inner peace that comes as a result of doing God’s will.
Now that would have been an appropriate devotional for the Vermont Legislature, without distorting MLK’s teachings and beliefs for the personal political aspirations of a deluded white suburbanite. Vermonters agree with King, that “if peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, [we] don’t want peace.” Cordes undertakes to impose those very burdens on white Vermonters, even if they hail from intergenerational lines of farm poverty.
Vermonters are not well-served by the horribly toxic and detached psychological meanderings of elitist whites who believe they have the right to impose their rewrite of our history on fellow white Vermonters. There is no authority in an elected official to denigrate our culture while violating fundamental constitutional precepts.
Representative Cordes “whitewashed” Martin Luther King’s message so as to appropriate it as her own. The original, overtly Christian teachings of MLK:
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.
That remains the vision and goal for Vermont. Rep. Cordes used a “devotional” to grandstand her abuse of public trust, abuse of Vermont and its history and abuse of her position as an elected official. But worst, she abused — even tortured — the teachings of a black preacher to serve her personal ideology. Vermont is not systemically racist — to say so reveals an obscene and intolerable contempt for our forebears, and a determination to lie about history.
Wake up, Vermonters. Cordes and her ilk seek to impose their new actual systemic racism in place of MLK’s effort to achieve true equality of opportunity.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and the former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2021. All rights reserved.