802 Strong was something that was spawned when Tropical Storm Irene wiped out some of Vermont’s towns. It spoke to the character that folks who live in New England have. It’s not that character like that doesn’t live in other communities, it does. When Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of New York, those folks banded together to get through it. But when it happens here in New England, it kind of lingers -- it never really goes away. In Vermont, we tend to do more things right than wrong and we are becoming leaders in that capacity. Maybe it’s because we’re a small state that gets little attention, but when no one is looking we set precedent.
It’s been written recently that Vermont lawmakers are brave: They’re raising the bar on human health. I don’t mean to cheapen that sentiment, but I will argue that it’s not true. Recently our Vermont lawmakers passed a bill that would make it a law that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) must be labeled. Vermont lawmakers weren’t brave, they are simply 802 Strong. Look, if someone walks up to you and takes a swing, your first reaction is recoil and avoid the contact. That makes sense, right? Well so does GMO labeling and our Vermont lawmakers know that. So does that make them brave? I say it makes them people that use a common-sense approach to things that are ... well, common sense. Am I proud of them? Yes! Simply because not one other state would start the ball rolling, Connecticut and Maine wouldn’t do it. They wrote laws that said we’ll follow other neighboring states’ lead. Well nutmeg and lobsters, you can now safely kiss our maple-syrup-covered Green Mountains and do for your people what Vermont lawmakers did for theirs.
But this is not the only facet of leading the way. Vermont, probably when the rest of the nation was asleep, did it again, this time the unthinkable; it took the money out of politics. Now we have a long way to go in this fight that basically says that money equates to free speech (which, if I live to be a 1,000 years old, will never make sense), and at this point its a resolution, but hey, nobody else is doing it.
If you wanted to support the next Democrat candidate for Vermont’s congressional seat, you could. The ruling however, would allow anyone to support that candidate from anywhere in the country, which doesn’t make sense, but it does if that congressman had influence and is easily swayed to serve his or her checking account and not the people of the state. So in the end, that is what all of this boils down to -- money.
But Vermont said no! Vermont stood strong and said we’re going to lead the way once again and set a precedent and try to get more of you to follow so that maybe we can overturn this ruling. So we got the ball rolling -- 802 Strong.
Even though 802 Strong pops up when the impact is immediate -- fires, floods, storms, etc. -- it never really goes away. In fact, I could even say that things such as GMOs and cash as free speech are a silent tsunami that will wash over us if we’re asleep at the wheel. But here’s the good news ... we’re not. We are very much present and refuse to be the bullied here and will go as far as to take the first punch on the chin to get the rest to follow. Which, if you ask me, is a small price to pay.
One of my favorite books is "To Kill a Mockingbird," which has one of my favorite quotes: "The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience." For me that is what separates the people of New England from the rest of the country -- conscience. What separates Vermont is 802 Strong! What the hell is up with that?