Friday August 16, 2013

Audrey Pietrucha

Over the years there have been a number of predictions that one party or the other would disappear. Recently it has been the Republican Party’s whose demise has been forecast and the comments sections at the end of such stories usually include a chorus of political opponents cheering such an end. I wonder if these people actually take that scenario to its logical conclusion, which would essentially be one-party rule. Is that really what we want for our nation?

It often feels as if we already have that here in Vermont, where progressive Democrats dominate state government and many of our institutions. Because of this, political conversations tend to be rather one-sided. The idea that the governing authority, or the state, is the best vehicle through which to solve problems is widely accepted and voices to the contrary are often stifled or shut out completely.

Recent events on both the national and state level, however, have challenged this viewpoint and have many wondering if now is a good time to reevaluate our relationship with government and devolve more power back to individuals and civil society.

Any reassessment starts with discussion and now is as good a time as any to start that conversation. For those ready to talk, this weekend’s Vermont Freedom and Unity Festival could not come at a more opportune time. Sponsored by Vermonters for Liberty, the festival takes place this Saturday at Magic Mountain Ski Area in Londonderry.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. and running through 10:30 p.m., the festival, which will feature a variety of lectures, panel discussions, presentations, workshops and performances, promises to be both informative and entertaining.

Freedom and Unity is the Vermont state motto and sets exactly the right tone for a conference designed to attract people from all over the political spectrum. One purpose of the festival notes Steven Howard, one of the organizers, is to bring people of differing viewpoints together for a civil conversation.

That a diversity of viewpoints, philosophies and methods will be represented is obvious from a glance at the festivals impressive lineup of speakers and topics. One scheduled speaker is Michael Boldin, the states’ rights activist who founded the Tenth Amendment Center. Another is former congressional candidate and Green Party member Bruce Marshall, who will discuss the Vermont effort to impeach Barack Obama for war crimes. Carla Gericke will review New Hampshire’s Free State Project’s progress and Lauryn Faulkner will talk about Cop Block, a group she started in Baltimore to hold city police accountable for respecting civil rights.

Presentations and panel discussions will cover a range of topics from digital self-defense and unschooling to powering up with compost and health choice. Dylan Kelley of Vermont Commons will discuss the importance of journalism and storytelling and the fight to save both.

Historian and actor Jim Hogue will appear as Ethan Allen and attendees will be treated to musical performance by artists such as Rich Angell and Jordan Page, who bills himself as the Troubadour of Conscience. The list goes on.

Most intriguing is keynote speaker Joel Salatin, an activist organic farmer, who will offer two workshops and speak to everyone in attendance on the topic of his best-selling book, "Everything I Want to do is Illegal." The author of eight books, Salatin is a rising star in the local agriculture movement and his description of himself as a Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-Farmer is sure to confuse anyone who believes in one-size-fits-all labels. In many ways Salatin epitomizes the purpose of the Freedom and Unity Festival by defying description and broadening definitions of himself and the philosophies to which he subscribes.

Defying labels and broadening our approach to societal problems is essential if we, the people, are going to take back the responsibility of governing ourselves. More and more people who are paying attention realize our fight is not with each other but against those who would subvert our rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness. It’s not a left-thing, it’s not a right-thing - it’s an American thing. We Americans need to start talking to each other and the Vermont Freedom and Unity Festival is a great place for that conversation to begin.

Audrey Pietrucha can be reached at vermontliberty@gmail.com. For more information about the upcoming Freedom and Unity Festival visit http://www.vermontersforliberty.org/