Yesterday afternoon Thom Hartmann published a diary that was a generalized caution, warning that we may be closer than some imagine to slipping into a chaos state where roving bands of extremists control and terrorize local areas (ala The Taliban). That diary received some push back of the “you’re being hysterical” variety. To those may I present: Real Life.

There is an op-ed published this morning in USA Today from a man named Michael Shank who is fleeing his land in Vermont as a political refugee. Shank has a background in the Mennonite peace church and currently owns a 76-acre farm on which he runs an animal sanctuary. The local area has been terrorized of late by a Right-Wing “militia” group organizing and training, to the point that Shank is selling his land and fleeing north to more urban areas. I’ll let him describe it to you (all emphasis mine):

There’s a movement metastasizing across America. It’s well armed, it’s extreme, and it’s led largely by white men. They’re enraged, they’re feeling entitled, and they’re taking ground wherever it’s given. And while the movement clearly got new wind in its sails under the Trump administration, it’s now self-sustaining. The Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill was just the tip of this seething iceberg, as last week’s anguished police testimony to Congress made clear. This movement isn’t going away anytime soon.

 Armed militias do well here. Not only does Vermont’s Department of Public Safety fail to crack down on armed white extremists, due in part to lax local laws, the State Police discriminate against the people of color running from those very extremists. I’m not making this up. There are countless stories like this. In fact, if you’re a person of color here in Vermont,the bias and discrimination shown by Vermont State Police are pervasive and persistent. This state is not a safe place if you are non-white, unarmed or both.

And that’s why I’m moving. After attempts to institute a simple noise ordinance to contain the hours-long recreational and erratic assault weapons use on my road in Brandon, not only did my town’s leaders refuse to recognize the problem, they also emboldened the armed white extremists on my road by gaslighting my concerns.

This, then, inspired retaliatory gunfire at all hours of the day…  And it just keeps escalating. Since I received death threats over the July 4th weekend, it’s been shocking to see how limited local police are in disarming these active threats.

Throughout this process, Vermont friends have advised me to weaponize and fight back, to not let the armed bullies win this one. As someone who grew up in a peace church – from a long line of Amish and Mennonite pastors and preachers – and as someone who has studied and promoted peacebuilding and conflict resolution work globally, the last thing I’m going to do is weaponize to “win.” That’s what laws are for, that’s what government is for, that’s what democratic governance is for. But these systems are failing us fast. The Vermont legislature has been lackluster in this regard, which is why the armed extremists keep winning. And while I’m moving north – like many of my friends of color have already done – and away from this part of Vermont where armed white extremism appears to run rampant, I’m concerned that this will happen again.

This is how nations become war zones

I’m on a short leash with this state and give it a few more years to restrain its armed white extremists or I’m gone.

It’s Happening Here.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.



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