On a recent trip to visit family in Burlington, Vermont something struck me. There are a lot of refugees (my mom is active in supporting the refugee population). According to conservative logic, that would equate to a lot of people living “off the system” and getting government checks for nothing. And a general downfall of ‘murica.
Fast forward a day or two and after a walk down Church Street I was amazed at the number of retail stores designed to sell the stuff the refugee population made. Amazing textiles, baskets, artwork, and clothing. It was refreshing to see an outlet for the cultural value this population brings to Vermont.
Another thing I noticed? The abundance of community gardens. These areas of open space are given by the city to people that want to raise their own produce. The number of folks I saw walking these rows with baskets on their heads and vibrant clothing was a stark contrast to the old brick walls and green mountains in the distance.
It is no surprise that Burlington is a liberal anchor in a sea of liberal cities. It has born the likes of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben and Jerry’s co-founders) and other liberal monoliths. But what was a surprise is how Burlington has pulled off something amazing – an eloquent version of liberalism.
Not once was I asked for money from a junkie. Not once was there an ANTIFA protest blocking the streets. Not once did a Prius sit in the left lane on highway 89. Not once was a tent city of homeless even seen. And, more importantly, the refugee population seemed happy and engaged. Almost as if the entire system was done the right way.
In contrast, I look at Portland, my local city. The city that made me disavow my liberal identity. It is a city where anger is the new cool. If you are white and not angry about how “underserved” or “underprivileged” other people are, well, you just don’t belong here.
It’s a city where every morning, I walk past tent cities full of homeless people that shoot up heroin in safe centers. I step over sidewalk chalk with angry scribblings of last nights protest-du-jour, the pending rain our only hopes to remove it from our collective memory.
It’s a city where ANTIFA literally calls the shots while the police sit idly by, their hands tied by an insane mayor. Oh, and the same police refused to assist federal agents during a protest at their local facility, too.
The contrast of these two cities could not be any sharper. And, while they share similar DNA (I have often called Portland “Burlington on steroids.”), Burlington has proven that liberalism can be done well, and done right. And I am proud to say the liberal side of my political foundation was built there. Back when Vermont passed one of – if not the – first civil union bills in the nation. A political anger that is kept in check and leveraged only when truly needed, which avoids Portland’s issue of crying angry wolf.
Maybe the conservative base should examine the areas where liberalism actually does win, as an example of what is possible. And how it can be so eloquent.