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The Confederate Flag, Ethan Allen, and regional differences

Black Oak Arkansas. Albert Hall

Symbols change through time. The Confederate flag at one time was often a symbol of pride in being southern and a fine way to make Yankee heads explode. I saw Black Oak Arkansas perform in the 1970’s in Chicago and during the show lead singer Jim Dandy, grinning hugely, waved a ginormous Confederate flag. I didn’t think this was racist or hate-filled then and still don’t. He was just having fun. Over the years though, the Confederate flag got jacked by extremists and came to symbolize something quite different.

So, I’m not going to bash all Southerners who may have waved a Confederate flag. However, it is clear, the time for that flag has passed.

Regional differences and cultures are often opaque from the outside. Those not part of the culture may not really understand what’s going on. Thinking about regional differences in the South led me to thinking about Vermont.

Ethan Allen is the patron figure of Vermont (because he was no saint!.) “Riot and tumult followed in his wake.” His enemies no doubt loathed him and he could be seriously duplicitous. However, he and his Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga, inspiring colonists to rebel against the crown. He negotiated with Congress and the British when Vermont was independent. Perhaps most important, he strongly championed land grants and ownership over existing feudal, slave-like arrangements in New York.

Ethan clearly understood the crucial importance of property ownership to liberty and self-government. He learned this from visiting the Hudson Valley of New York, where hundreds of thousands of mostly Dutch farmers lived as feudal serfs on the vast manors of the Schuylers, Livingstons and Van Rensselaers.

One can only imagine what Ethan Allen, come back from the grave, would say and do about the land use control schemes so favored by the pretty people who long ago supplanted the frontier freeholders who erected this little republic out of the northern wilderness.

A good guess would be: “Before those villains and schemers steal the property rights of freeborn Vermonters, I will make Montpelier as desolate as Sodom and Gomorrah, by God!”

If you don’t think regional cultures are important, try going to Vermont and seriously badmouthing Ethan Allen. Let me know how that works out.

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