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Dan DeWalt

Dan DeWalt is the founder of Patriotic Response to Renegade Government, an organization based on the free association of like minded souls, without the organization part.

September 12th, 2011 12:34 PM

The Constructive Anarchy of a Vermont Peoples' Movement

A blue sky dawned on the day after Irene blew through Vermont last week. At first sight of the colossal damage that their rivers and creeks had caused, Vermonters were stunned and shocked. Just as quickly, they went to work. The overwhelming magnitude of the damage prevented our local town officials from getting to all the damage sights, so those with machinery cranked it up, those with shovels got them out, and we started repairing our roads so that our neighbors could get out.

By the end of the first day in my town of Newfane, citizens had called a meeting at the Grange Hall to assess who had needs and who had something to offer. No one asked permission to use the Grange, owned by the town, and no one waited to find out if the selectboard was going to do something first. It was clear that action was needed and it was taken. At the appointed hour, close to 100 residents crowded the hall. Two members of the selectboard were there along with the town clerk to whom we handed over the moderating of the meeting. It could have easily turned into a unequal exchange of the citizens being instructed by our official leaders, but our elected town officers are better than that. They acknowledged the purpose of the meeting -neighbors reaching out to each other- honored that agenda and served it well, all the while contributing what they could as town officials.

The next few days were a lesson in successful anarchy. Everyone was working on recovery. Volunteers on mountain bikes to check on remote households were zipping in and out of construction zones. Individuals would show up in stranded areas carrying cans of gas, knowing that someone would need it. What started as a spontaneous, unorganized, ad-hoc amalgamation of rescue efforts turned into an organized, coordinated and effective response. Why has it worked out as well as it did? Because these citizens are not only concerned about each other, they also have the understanding of their community that informs their actions so that they are effective and pertinent. And perhaps more importantly, they have the understanding that WE are representatives of our government just as our elected officials are. We all have a job to do to keep the commonweal functioning and healthy.

Our attention hasn't been completely diverted by Irene's damage however. Norma Shakun's house and property were heavily damage by the flood. When her state senator, former ambassador Peter Galbraith, accompanied a reporter from the New York Times on a visit to her house, she took advantage of her audience. She told him that instead of worrying about her house, he should be working to end the war in Afghanistan.

To those of us in southern Vermont, another troubling thought has occurred; if the nearby Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor had been flooded or lost the power to keep its fuel rods cooled, any evacuation would have been stopped in its tracks by the area's flood-destroyed roads. The storm has sharpened our focus in our struggle to ensure that the reactor closes down as scheduled next March. But witnessing our response to the crisis has also bolstered our belief that we have a citizenry that is creative and determined enough to do what it takes with direct action to force the reactor to close.

Entergy Nuclear thought it could buy our legislature, but it could not. It now thinks that it will usurp Vermont law and extend its operating license under the aegis of a federal court ruling. What it has not considered is how badly it is going to fare when the constructive anarchy of a Vermont peoples' movement trains its sights on the reactor in March. While we may be awed by the overwhelming power of a storm, we have nothing but contempt for Entergy. And as we have rallied to rebuild and strengthen community in the storm's aftermath, so shall we use those same skills, creativity and endurance to send Entergy Nuclear packing and shut down Vermont Yankee.

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