John Klar: The new woke Vermont channels Kafka

By John Klar

“Black Lives Matter” is painted before the Vermont State House, in the capital city of Montpelier.  On July 7, the City Council rejected an application to paint “Liberty and Justice for All” beside the “Black Lives Matter” street painting, imputing racist motives to the applicant. The city claimed that it was exercising “government speech” — that the BLM message was not that of the private citizens who had applied for and painted the street mural, but that of the city of Montpelier.

John Klar

This magical invocation of a “government speech” exception to basic free speech protections sprang into existence after the BLM message was created. It is clear that the City Council concocted this shallow legal shield in direct opposition to the application to paint “Liberty and Justice for All.” Particularly strange, the city councilors claim that the statehouse (and the state- and federal-funded highway) as their municipal possession to administrate, to advertise their personal political viewpoint, under the pretext of their power to “speak” as the voice of Vermont’s citizenry.

In challenge, 25 candidates for political office in Vermont jointly filed a second street-painting application with the city of Montpelier on August 5, again seeking to paint the phrase “Liberty and Justice for All” alongside the “Black Lives Matter” painting. The city promptly interposed new rules, which it adopted on August 12, requiring that a city councilor be a “sponsor” of any application for street painting in the Vermont capital.

Montpelier city manager William Fraser issued a memorandum the day before the August 26 hearing on the second application, asserting that these new applicants must have a sponsor, and if not:

In the event that the request was considered under the former (non-existent) process, this identical application was already reviewed and denied on July 7th. There is no obligation to revisit the same request.

This too was a bureaucratic ploy to avoid basic fairness using an ex post facto analysis — of course the applications are not identical; they were filed by different people, who also have rights. By suggesting that the same result is mandated as when the council openly labeled the applicant’s motives as racist in the first application, the city manager is calling all of these applicants racists.

Defying that vile characterization, a number of applicants spoke valiantly at the August 26 hearing about the rationale for this effort to unify Vermonters around a constitutional message rather than the divisive BLM political mantra. Ericka Redic, a GOP candidate for the Vermont Senate, stated (at 39:40): “… I don’t think ‘With Liberty and Justice for All’ is diluting the message. I think Black Lives Matter is diluting its own message with things like ‘All cops are B-words’ and ‘F the police’ and ‘abolish the police’ and a lot of other things that the majority of Americans are not behind …”

After summarily dismissing the application without vote, Montpelier mayor Anne Watson eagerly shared her personal position (at 45:43): “I want to say for myself I think we are representing the values of our community. I’m proud that we painted Black Lives Matter on the street and I’m glad that we are not book-ending it with a different message[.] … [I’m] all for patriotism and, you know, being American, at the same time believing that we can hold ourselves to a higher standard than where we’re at right now as Americans.”

The problem is, that “higher standard” has not been defined by Mayor Watson, or by the left, or by BLM.  It is undefined but aspired toward, the new utopian promise that is just “felt.” The mayor and council have superseded the U.S. Constitution with this ideological tyranny. Mayor Anne is “proud” and “glad” to have advanced what she characterizes as a political message with higher standing than current American jurisprudence — imposed by government action, on public property, using taxpayer time and funds, through an Orwellian “sponsor.”

One cannot be “all for patriotism” while dismantling the constitutional foundations that secure citizens’ rights. This council retroactively contrived a “government speech” rationale for the original application, concocted new rules to ensure that no one attempts free speech on “their” turf again, then applied that unconstitutional absurdity ex post facto to the second application.  One is reminded of Soviet jurisprudence, or a Kafka novel.

It is shocking to witness public servants so ignorant of their proper roles. But that too is reminiscent of Kafka: “It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves” (The Trial).

There is no new utopia. We have the Constitution to protect us from such folly.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and the former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Jindřich Nosek

11 thoughts on “John Klar: The new woke Vermont channels Kafka

  1. Kafka
    Noun. One who pretends to be literary or smart, but is in fact, not.

    I’m thinking this is what you meant….wow, cause there are some other rather rude meanings of this word…..ouch…

    My good friend is on the opposing side of this. See how Vermont works? I’ve grown up here, my family is of many, many generations. See the insider deals, how they change the rules? This is unfortunately not new, it’s been going on for hundreds of years. We live in really small towns, we have to get along, we have to work with each other, caus’ there are only 500 people.

    This does pose problems on a larger county and state dealings. Because we don’t want to cause much turmoil, we don’t call out bad behavior. When this is carried out on a state or county level, it brings out corruption and insider deals on a massive level. EB-5, Computers for Healthcare, health care for that matter. Vermont is one of them most corrupt states in the nation because of this. Yet nobody has the courage to call it out.

    Our educational system is foundationally flawed and truly an indoctrinational factory.

    Where is the Governor on this now???????????????????

    We’ll know people by their words and actions. Who loves our country, understands it’s values and foundation? Who supports the individual, the smallest minority from abuse, crimes and tyranny, that little document called the constitution.

    When I have a communist and somebody who loves the United Nations more than our country who do you vote for? They are both communist. To not vote would terrible.

    I’m glad my pen works and I can spell, because I don’t need to vote for either. If we played by the rule book currently in place for the Burlington police, firing by popular demand and protest, we’d have many protests going on.

    We are a Republic, governed by laws, when your sworn duty as a public servant is to defend them, how can you continue in the job when you not only don’t’ defend them but go against them?

  2. You’re dealing with flat-out communists. Expect autocracy, authoritarianism, and militant opposition to anything other than the party line.

    We are already seeing why 2A was written. And it will be become only more stark and obvious as we move into the darkness of a Marxist future.

  3. Civil rights used to be about treating everyone the same. But today some people are so used to special treatment that equal treatment is considered to be discrimination. –Thomas Sowell

  4. “ of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
    CS Lewis. Quote on Tyrannies

  5. John, all one need to know is that if you have a Liberal in charge no matter
    what the position is, be it a dog catcher or state official at any level is you want
    something they don’t like, well……………. you’re screwed!!

    All Lives matter, I don’t care what color your melanin is, but if you want some
    respect, don’t act like a pack of fools.

    BLM has lost there way, if they really cared, they would be holding rallies in the
    cities like Chicago, with it’s daily ” Black Bloodletting ” on blacks….Hypocrites !!

    Wake up people, they don’t care about you, it’s all about there agenda !!

  6. Let’s not forget the principal in the Windsor Union School district who was fired because she had the gaul to say “all lives matter”. Looks as if the oneway street in Montpelier is alive and well. Unfortunately, this behavior on the part of the folks running Montpelier is far too common throughout Vermont.. It’s my way or the highway.

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