Editor’s note: This commentary is by Weiland Ross, of Arlington, Vermont
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis resonated forcefully across the country. Demonstrations of anger and sympathy were spontaneous and necessary. Very few of us have ever witnessed a crime such as this one. It was not the usual TV clip of a shooting that lasted only a few seconds. This killing was a slow motion affair that took almost nine minutes to accomplish. It was recorded in real time by witnesses. There was ample time and opportunity to stop it. No explanation can justify it.
What was as bad as the crime itself was the reaction of too many people that they could somehow honor and avenge Mr. Floyd’s death by committing mindless acts of violence. Looting of stores, burning buildings, shootings of police or anyone else who tried to restrain the violence became the norm in dozens of cities that had nothing to do with the protests in Minneapolis. It became obvious that most of this violence was not simply blind rage lashing out. Instigators from various groups appeared to manipulate peaceful anger into violent anger.
The protests were hijacked by groups that have as their main goal the destruction of American society as we know it. They want to replace what works with some sort of new dystopian society that has no sense of the past, no regard for individual freedom and which demands obedience to the wishes of the self-appointed leaders of destruction. Groupthink is demanded; there is no room for self reliance or dissent.
This kind of thought has been developing for several years. First there was harassment and violence against professors and lecturers who tried to stimulate thought by expressing uncomfortable or controversial viewpoints. City and state governments began to claim the authority to disobey federal laws and law enforcement by declaring themselves to have “sanctuary” status that exempted them from their normal responsibilities to keep domestic order. Finally, the demands to rewrite our national and local history was given the innocuous label of “the cancel culture.” This term includes not only re-evaluating the past, but changing it by adding or deleting factual events. This was common in Mao’s China and Stalin’s Russia, but it is a new phenomena in the United States. It also includes the demand that anything that happened in a different place or time can be re-litigated now, even if no living person took part in the event.
Some of the worst examples of the above have become issues in Vermont. Current discussion of public policy is dominated by accusations that Vermont as a state is not guilty of. If you read the accounts of demonstrations in Burlington and Montpelier, or the petitions being filed in Bennington, you will get the impression that our state and local police forces are jack-booted storm troopers that terrorize innocent civilians and commit rampant acts of violence to keep us under their control. The Black Lives Matter movement has taken hold in Vermont and has been successful in convincing many of us, especially younger people that are generally uneducated about American and Vermont history, that Vermont is a hot-bed of racial prejudice and abuse of black people. This is simply not true. There are some overt racists in the white community, but they are few. There are some overt racists in the black community, and likewise, they are few.
There is no legal or “institutional” racism tolerated by our courts or our population. Prejudices are individual, not matters of official or public policy. Black lives do matter, but not any more or less than red lives, brown lives, yellow lives or white lives. What matters is human lives, all equally.
The accusation by the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance that Covid-19 among people of color is somehow the result of racism affecting health care is demonstrably false. The same group’s demand that Vermont appropriate monies to pay reparations to some black people who may be the descendants of slaves is philosophically unsound, illogical in its concepts, and probably unconstitutional. More on that proposal another time.
Vermont has to come to its senses and deal with serious problems that affect us all, not respond to a list of grievances promulgated by groups who do not have the best interests of all of us as their goal. A more perfect union, domestic tranquility and the general welfare for us and our posterity are the goals, not a dystopia based on an imaginary history.