Defining a Vermonter

We are at a point in history where our world is more interconnected than ever before, but also, quite peculiarly, our world is just as divided and disconnected as it has ever been. It is a sad situation, of which our beautiful, bucolic state is no exception.

For a state so high in social capital, with such deeply rooted democratic traditions as Town Meeting Day providing the University with a day off, so all Vermonters can return home to participate in the democratic discourse there is incredible discontent and disagreement over who is actually a Vermonter.

The whole premise is silly.

Anyone who has taken HST 184 knows this much: the original settlers of Vermont, roughly 250 years ago, settled on hilltops; the secondary wave of newcom-ers settled in the lowlands, near the rivers. This is the basis for the term “flatlander,” a phrase commonly applied to any and all new arrivals to the Green Mountain State, and the whole uphill downhill debate. Anyone who may not have taken HST 184 but is familiar with Vermont outside of Chittenden County knows this much is true: The dissension between natives and newcomers can be at once comical, mindless, poignant and frustrating.

Enough is enough.

Frankly, we are all Vermonters, whether we like it or not. The back and forth ranting and bickering in Vermont’s daily editorial pages can cease; it is futile to prove how many generations your bloodline has ran through the state, and it is just as pointless to prove how much you have given back to the community in your 12 years, three months, two days, 17 hours and 31 minutes as a Vermont resident.

Yes, our state is stubborn and at times vestigial. Yes, our state can be ahead of the curve and oddly progressive. This is Vermont, plain and simple: quirky, irk-some, cuddly and quaint.

It is this very dichotomy of values and traits that draws and retains such a varied and vocal populace. It is a rare, special place where one can find, in a grocery line, a farmer with an 11th grade education who produces electricity from farm waste standing beside a Connecticut born super liberal with a Ph.D. in philosophy who subsists off of solar power. We all find ourselves in this state for different reasons, but, we are all inextricably linked because of the unique physical and cultural landscape on which we live.

It is time we all call ourselves Ver-monters. Once we can appreciate each other as members of a special community, a special idea, we can move forward as a more cohesive community towards a better end and, possibly, become that guid-ing social light our nation so desperately needs.