Pretending to display some long-overdue discussion about race in Vermont, the pseudo-enlightened atmosphere of “Black Lives Matter” flags in schools and front yards is in fact an illusion. Any honest discussion requires two sides, but “social-justice” ideology does not tolerate disagreement, as efforts to exchange opinions on the “race issue” reveal. Those who cannot win an argument in the light of reason, yell.
Extremist protesters “demonstrated” their unwillingness to even listen to Professor Ryszard Legutko, the Polish member of the European Parliament whose speaking engagement at Middlebury College marked the second time free expression was rudely suppressed there. The central premise of Professor Legutko’s writings is that any monolithic ideology that suppresses free exchange of ideas is a threat to liberty, and that this modern “liberal-democratic” political ideology is every bit — if not much more — hostile toward opposing ideas than Soviet communism.
Vermonters have ample evidence of this ideological strangulation beyond the rude treatment of scholars at prestigious Middlebury. Any effort to even question the BLM ideology has been met with very un-Vermonty toxicity, including by government entities at all levels. Race-based policies that distribute wealth or opportunity solely based on skin color have been (unconstitutionally) implemented: no questions may be asked.
Consider these examples.
In a 2018 article in VTDigger titled “White supremacist threatens Montpelier flag protest,” the title characterizes a person’s political protest as a “threat.” But more tellingly, this article was written, edited and published with a headline labeling a person a “White Supremacist” for the following statement: a person who calls himself Russell James said that he and others will protest at the school over what he said was a lack of “concern for the lives of White residents of Montpelier.”
Change the word “white” to black and you are a hero; dare question the heroics, and you are demonized. The article proceeds to shamelessly connect this Vermonter with national right-wing groups. Here is the pattern of intolerant ideology in our (so-called) media.
Last summer, many Vermonters were rightly upset when the Montpelier City Council used a public street to paint the ideological BLM message. I applied to paint “Liberty and Justice For All” beside that painting, as an effort to forge a centrist race message — as I said explicitly in the application. I had undertaken the initiative because the “All Lives Matter” slogan was counterproductive; the BLM message is equally provocative. One city councilor rejected my application before the hearing, and he and others labeled me a racist with no basis other than my disagreement with their race-based ideology. But just days before, in announcing their elitist stand for social justice, the City Council proclaimed their “commitment … to complex and ongoing discussion.”
Ahead of the vote, they briefly discussed how some critics wondered on social media if the painting will do anything to effect real change or if it’ll simply be lip service. City leaders countered that it is vital to have complex and ongoing discussions about equality, and said the painting is a way of demonstrating that commitment.
About 25 other Vermonters joined me to re-file that application, in an effort to shield it from the shallow charge of racism. That too was rejected by a visibly ruffled and intolerant Council, on silly pretexts of as-yet-unenacted rule changes created to prevent any views that might cause any complexity of discussion. In both hearings, BIPOC GOP candidate Alice Flanders was visibly, if uncomfortably, ignored.
A school principal was dismissed abruptly simply for observing that BLM shouldn’t be too heavy-handed. (Sound familiar? Like a guest professor who says the left stifles free speech being prevented from speaking?)
A town manager was compelled to publicly apologize for stating “all lives matter.” So much for complexity or conversation. The only “commitment” that is consistent is the visible determination to stifle any opposing views — especially white, conservative, or male views.
Not only can one not challenge BLM, it is now politically prohibited to defend Vermont’s cultural history as tolerant. In at least three instances, people submitted commentaries to VTDigger that related historical factual data about Vermont — namely, that the first black college graduate here (from Middlebury College) became the only black legislator in the nation before the war, that we were the first state to ban slavery, and that black people do better here than in most states. All three were rejected because they “implied a denial of systemic racism.” These were facts, banned because they differed from the false ideological narrative. It’s one thing to ban statues of slaveholders; it’s another to tarnish and erase the truths about abolitionist Vermont. But lies can’t survive truth: truth destroys ideology.
Vermont’s House devotionals have now been hijacked by bully ideologues who champion a myriad of ancient grievances redirected against fictitious Vermont villains. These toxic tirades have continued despite much complaint, in an insult to the very concepts of civility and decency. Surely no one will be permitted to defend Vermont’s abolitionist history, as instead legislators have condemned Vermonters as systemically racist and complicit in slavery, land-theft, Japanese internment, and a host of other historic ills of which there is just no factual record of complicity by our forebears. This is a one-sided abuse of speech to berate and enslave, not an exchange by any means. It is thuggery.
There are innumerable additional examples of this censorship, including BLM and LGBTQ flags at schools, churches, and other public buildings. Anyone who dares question these is scorned, doxxed, or ridiculed as an intolerant racist whose views must be crushed. This is anything but civil exchange, yet it is exactly the methodology of old-guard communism, and of its modern, more-stifling counterpart. Legutko warns that this tyrannical stifling is consistent with this new “only our side is right” ideology:
The government is not the only agent that is supposed to oversee the rules of cooperation and fight against all the noncollaborative groups. Actually, this responsibility rests on everyone’s shoulders and everyone is responsible for tracking what is wrong and implementing what is right. In this respect, liberal democracy has achieved at least as much as communism and perhaps even more.
As Legutko explains, this dispute is not about race, but about ideology: Whoever is not a member of this quasi-party is the enemy, a sellout, and a traitor. A black American who condemns the absurdity of African-Americanism, regardless of his virtues and achievements, is considered as much a traitor to his race. A woman who rejects feminism for its crude and destructive ideological content is a traitor to the sisterhood.
Vermonters must be involved in an actual conversation about race, rather than oppressed using racist ideology. Once that happens, all will see that social-justice ideology is unconstitutional, completely false (especially when directed at Vermonters), toxically judgmental against others who are guilty of no wrongdoing, and insatiable in its demands — there will be no end to “raising awareness” via transferring money to and fro based on skin color.
I’m done listening to racists thugs. Does anyone else wish to join this conversation?
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.