~Speaking of national holidays, the fallout from the Glorious Fourth fiasco right here in my backyard rumbles on. As readers will recall, one control-freak constable called Glen Godfrey took it upon himself to prevent the twin-state Woodsville-Wells River Independence Day parade from crossing the river and entering Vermont because of a lack of federally-compliant "Caution: Parade Ahead" signs. As I characterized it, after 240 years Americans are apparently insufficiently independent to be permitted to hold an Independence Day celebration. So, on a day to celebrate a free people's stand against a powerful king, Vermonters instead cowered before the untrammeled might of a village constable.
The Valley News has now followed up with a story bearing the amusing headline "State, Local Officials Throw Each Other Under the Parade Float". But in fact there seems to be remarkable unanimity at all levels of government that it was far too risky to permit Americans to observe their national holiday without federally mandated signage:
[Part-time town constable] Godfrey said that if he had it to do all over again, he would still have pointed out the lack of signage to the sheriff.
"I'm looking for safety," he said.
Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak (behind paywall), who supported and enforced Constable Godfrey's insane decision with his deputies, agrees:
"I'd be upset too if I lived up there and this happened. But the bottom line is safety comes first."
Sheriff Bohnyak's bottom line is somewhat variable: Down the Connecticut River but still in Orange County, another twin-state parade in Orford and Fairlee was permitted to march into Vermont and flounce around in flagrant defiance of federal signage requirements. So his bottom line seems to have a mismatched left buttock and right buttock.
Reader Dave Hymes thinks all this "safety" stuff is just a feint for their real concerns:
I think part of the problem is this. In this lawsuit-happy society the constable, who by the way brings to mind Barney Fife, was afraid that if the detour signs weren't the prescribed size, color, dimension and lettering and some unsuspecting tourist were to break a finger nail avoiding a float, the community/police/government could be sued. The comment, "we didn't want to see anyone get hurt" is cover. They really didn't want to see anyone get sued, specifically themselves.
Of course you're right on target that a Ramadan or gay parade would go forward unmolested, the risk of a law suit would be the least of their worries. In that case, the risk there to be avoided is being labeled in the media as anti Muslim or homophobic or whatever.
I'm not so sure about that. I would once have agreed that, in a land of legalisms, "safety" is a euphemism for "liability". But I wonder these days if it's not the other way around, and that a cynical acceptance of the need to avoid "liability" provides cover for a massive statist expansion under the convenient catch-all of "safety". What's interesting is that both the town constable and the sheriff assume that "safety" is something that is in the gift of the state, and that only the government can confer. Aside from being, as a practical matter, complete codswallop, that ought to be philosophically anathema to Americans. As Laura Rosen Cohen likes to say, apropos the last minute cancellations of speeches by Ann Coulter or Geert Wilders or whoever because of "security concerns", "security is the new shut up". Yet, if you accept Constable Godfrey's and Sherrif Bohnyak's obscenely expansive definition of "safety", you don't have to be in the least bit controversial or remotely risky: they'll shut you up for doing things every American took for granted until the day before yesterday. You might as well just shelter in place permanently, curled up in a fetal position with your celebratory Stars and Stripes fluttering from your butt.
Vermont readers assure me that Glen Godfrey is no doubt sincere in his belief that the Fourth of July parade was too dangerous to let into his state. As one correspondent put it:
Constable Godfrey would not be capable of figuring out a solution, let alone notice the irony of the date on which he was being called to display his judgment. Most who have come across him would say his elevator doesn't go to the top floor. Intellectually he seems to be at his least nimble when directing traffic, and maybe he took that into account in deciding to sever New Hampshire and Vermont.
But presumably a somewhat sharper judgment is required to serve as county sheriff, and Bill Bohnyak's attitude is therefore more disturbing. I've looked at both the federal and Vermont signage manuals and there's no doubt in my mind this was an over-reach and therefore an abuse of power. Indeed, what Bohnyak and Godfrey did is, as the Declaration of Independence would put it, both an injury and a usurpation. It's an injury in that it buggered up a lot of people's day, and it's a usurpation in that Bohnyak and Godfrey do not have the power to do what they did. The citizenry's willingness to put up with it is regrettable.
The Bridge Weekly offers some further viewpoints. USAF veteran and commander of VFW Post 5245 in North Haverhill, NH, Wayne Mitchell:
As commander I was very disappointed that someone would take this approach on such a day! The Fourth of July means freedom to me and someone was denying me the privilege of trooping the flag of our country on its usual route because of a minute detail! Better decisions could have been made! I was very tempted to march across that bridge in defiance of a lousy order!
You should have done - and one day you're going to have to. Because, if the Bill Bohnyak/Glen Godfrey view of your liberty prevails, then there is no America. And there's no point to that flag - or the songs or the T-shirts or any of the other souvenirs of freedom - unless you're prepared, as someone once said, to live free. Which means marching across that bridge.
~A couple of years back, when After America came out, I was interviewed by the Great One, Mark Levin, on his radio show. And in the course of our conversation he asked me how the fundamental differences between the two sides in our politics would be resolved. And I gave some long-winded answer disappearing up the back end of some parenthesis to my subordinate clause. And, when I'd finally finished, Mark just cut to the chase and offered me his prescription:
I think one side has to win and one side has to lose.
He's right. Reagan proposed something similar for the Cold War, and it's a melancholy fact that the same considerations now apply domestically. But you can't really compromise with or meet the 21st century statist halfway: He has to lose.
~While we're on the subject of Vermont, a DC reader writes:
I'm writing with some constructive syntactic criticism -- if you'll indulge me -- regarding your essay "Last Stand of the Old White Males," I was curious why you referred to Bernie Sanders as "A New York Jew with a very urban accent?" Certainly, he is from New York, and of the Jewish faith, and has a strong urban accent, so, intended as an innocuous, purely descriptive device, I understand the construction. And, to be absolutely clear, I certainly don't ascribe any malicious intent to your choice of words. That said, it strikes me that describing someone as a "New York Jew" is still a decidedly awkward turn of phrase. It seems to place an unnecessary underscoring emphasis on the man's faith, akin to the awkwardness that is inherent in describing a person as, for example, a "New Hampshire Christian," or, a "Pennsylvania Hindu." What's the true relevance of mentioning Sanders' religious persuasion, in this context? I think that calling Sanders a "native New Yorker with an urban accent" or, "a strong New York accent" really would have achieved the same desired descriptive effect.
Golly, there are times when I feel I might just as well quit writing and open up a homophobic bakery. Everyone's so touchy these days. The only point about "a New York Jew with a very urban accent" is as shorthand for saying: if you wanted to construct a character as far removed from the demographic profile of Vermont as you could, Bernie Sanders would be it. Have you tried finding a synagogue in rural Vermont? When Bernie moved up, it was one of the least "diverse" states in the nation, and still is. And yet, even as an extreme and audibly foreign flatlander, he tended his constituents and won them over.
~On Tuesday evening I'll be swinging by Sean Hannity's show on Fox News, coast to coast at 10pm Eastern/7pm Pacific. If you're minded to tune in, I'll be most honored. On another programming note, while waiting for the DC Court of Molasses to get on with the Mann vs Steyn trial, I came up with a way to pass the time.