Some news from Vermont travels slowly to the United Kingdom, and it is only now- thanks to a LONG overdue trip to Green Mountain Daily- that I've read about the assault on Governor Jim Douglas at this year's 4th of July Parade in Barrie.
I've gone from having a lot of respect for Jim Douglas to disagreeing with most of his political agenda for the state of Vermont. I will be glad when the Democratic Party comes up with a viable candidate who can show the skill and savvy to retake the Governor's chair.
But this incident is, frankly, deplorable. It is, plain and simple, an assault.
More than that, it is a threat to one of the most precious things in our state: Vermont Democracy.
I've always been amazed at how accessible our Vermont public leaders are. If you want to talk to a U.S. Senator, Congressman, or a Governor on the street- it's pretty simple...you just walk up and say hello.
That's how Democracy SHOULD BE and Vermont seems to do it better than anywhere else. The only status a public servant has, or should have, is that they are Primus inter pares- First Among Equals- by virtue of the respect shown to them by those who choose them.
Failing to show respect for the office and the one who holds it is also a failure to show respect to the people who elected him.
In theory, even the President of the United States is nothing more than Primus inter pares- but security issues have long since removed his (or her) person from the comings and goings of day to day life.
So to, in the larger states...that kind of isolation (I suspect) breeds arrogance in the minds of leaders, and tends to generate a sense of overawe on the part of the public...this, of course, is NOT Democracy at work at all.
The sad part is that, in the United States as a whole, we have shown that we MUST accept some degree of separation between office holder and public...Booth, Guiteau, Czolgosz,and Oswald gave us that bitter gift.
Think how different a Bush Presidency might have been (or even ask the question, would there ever HAVE been a Bush Presidency?) if the office had not become so shrouded by the needs of security.
In Vermont, however, we are fortunate enough to have avoided this paradigm, so far.
But, in choosing to express, physically, that which could far better be expressed verbally- Matthew Manning, the Pie Thrower, has put our democracy at risk.
While there are some who seem to see him as a champion of freedom, I can't help but see him as a foe to democracy- some who wants to live in a world where you fight by throwing things rather than throwing words and ideas...
Democracy only works when we act like adults...a world in which things are thrown rather than ideas rapidly becomes a world in which everything is reduced, not to a question of right or wrong, but to a question of strong, or weak...
That is not Democracy, it is not even civilization- it is brutal, bloody jungle law- in which the only freedom enjoyed by those of us with average strength is the freedom to try and hide from predators. Not the world I would choose.
One Final Note:
Last but not least, it was politically stupid. Who winds up looking credible here: the Santa Claus clad Pie-Throwing maniac, pursued and thrown to the ground - or the Governor, who "calmly wiped the pie from his face" and kept marching in the parade...whom do you think most Vermonters cheered most?
All this action showed was that, no matter what you may think of his policies, Jim Douglas is, as a person, a class act- and that is part of the reason he keeps winning elections.