As we all try to make sense of the horrendous desecration of our U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, I am somehow not terribly surprised. There have been warnings all along, not just from Trump, but from so many groups on the right and the left who are just fed up with our government and politics, in general. So many people now are totally left out of the good life through racism, sexism and/or an undocumented status, that many feel were promised in the U.S. Constitution. The rural areas of our country, and even the rural areas of Vermont, are stuck with a flag-waving type of patriotism and old-time religion and values that have not kept up with modern-day America.
The rural Vermont I was born into in the 1930s has vastly changed. The Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam, the hippie revolution and the huge transfer of wealth during the past 40 or so years, have brought about changes that are hard for many of us to fathom. We have grown from a mostly large middle-class society of workers to a tiny minority of extremely wealthy ruling class individuals, from many small businesses to a few huge corporations, from a large population of working-class people who were strong, independent and flexible, to a huge group of housing insecure folks with chronic medical conditions they cannot afford to pay for and often cannot earn enough to feed themselves and their families. These folks, whether on the far right or the far left, are looking for answers to their problems that are not at all addressed by our current government or, some say, by either the Republican or Democratic Party. They don’t want welfare, just opportunity.
Even in Vermont, we are told we should attract more highly educated out-of-state young people to run our businesses. Many really low income positions, like dairy farming, are being filled by undocumented workers from countries in even worse shape than we are! Our planet is so plundered and overcrowded that our entire way of life is very much at stake. Many countries all around the world, where families of 10 or 12 children are the norm, are housing their populations in huge tent cities where COVID-19 and several other communicable diseases are decimating the populace as it is here. Many Vermonters are not looking for more people but would like more education, health care services and tax relief for those already here.
My father always talked about earning $7 a week, working for his father on our family-owned 360-acre dairy farm when I was born and being able to “make a go of it.” He had free housing and raised or killed most of our food. At the much larger farmhouse next door, where we eventually moved, my grandparents lived with one or two hired men living in the upstairs back bedrooms. Rifles were used to kill animals, not people. Anyone owning that much land today is probably quite wealthy or, as is said in Vermont, “land poor” and unable to pay their property and school taxes.
This is why I suggest that the angry, poor, medically indigent and very depressed Americans, whether native born or those who have lived here for multi generations, arrived as slaves or indentured servants, arrived with documents or are undocumented, are starting to believe the only way they can solve their problems is through an uprising and perhaps a total overthrow of our government. Some of those stuck in the America of the 1940s and 1950s on the conservative side, believe we have to go back to “what was” to take back our country and seem totally unconcerned with the democratic process.
Meanwhile, those on the far left who are hurting just as much if not more, believe the only way we can change is to move forward, put controls on our corporatized, capitalist system through a progressive tax structure, reform education and make opportunities available for all in our democratic republic. And yes, some of these folks believe democratic socialism, family planning, health care for all, abortion rights and climate control are absolutely necessary.
I believe that, if we are truly to have a more equal, just and humanitarian world, we must somehow bring these disheartened people holding extreme positions together and that is not an easy task. It requires love, conversation and compromises with those on opposite sides and perhaps the forming of a whole new People’s Party. Maybe Biden Democrats and non-Trump-supporting Republicans could join together as their ideologies are not very different. They both want to maintain the current top down, capitalist/corporate structure. However, our democracy must not be breached at this very fragile time. Hope springs eternal!
Mary Alice Bisbee lives in Montpelier.