by Scott Wheeler
Some people want to make ordinances against anything that brings joy to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom
I’ve decided to make an ordinance of my own – to ban the use of lawn mowers. Gone will be those quaint, manicured lawns. They’ll be replaced by lawns like mine. Here I am with my lawn mower – a hay scythe. Not only will banning lawn mowers cut down on noise and pollution in Vermont, it’ll also build up our muscles.
Whenever I bite into something that tastes good, I usually quickly learn that it’s bad for my health – it’s either going to clog my arteries or give me cancer. That’s bad news for a person who is a recovering junk food junky. But why is it that I find that all the food that is good for me tastes so horrible, food such as broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots? I’ve come to a simple conclusion – if it taste good, it’s bad – if it taste bad, it’s good. That’s pretty simple.
Would this same theory also help make sense of some of the ever-mounting piles of laws, regulations, and ordinances that are slowly taking control of our lives in Vermont, including here in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom? Seems like any activity that might bring joy to one person, another person wants to ban it. Few of these restrictions have any sound reasoning behind them. It just doesn’t seem like the Vermont way. I understand people who want to restrict activities that are “truly” harmful to people or the environment, but I think we’ve gotten to the point where we want to ban things for the sake of banning them, or because we don’t personally take part in the activity. If I didn’t laugh about some of these regulations, I don’t know what I would do, maybe pack my bags and move to a mountaintop somewhere? Most likely somebody would find some way to legislate me off my perch.
One group successfully lobbied against jet skis on Lake Willoughby. The next logical step in my mind is now to ban motorboats, especially the ones spinning circles in the lake as they pull water skiers. Why not ban ice fishermen from driving their vehicles on the lake during the winter? And while we’re at it, let’s consider banning Harley Davidson motorcycles from passing down Route 5, along the lake between Mt. Pisgah and Mt. Hor, after all, most Harley’s are very loud and disturbing to the peace and tranquility to any area, far more than the minuscule number of jet skis that were ever used on the lake. Besides that, I’m sure the anti-Harley folks could manage to blame the landslides that occur along that stretch of road to the roar and vibration of the Harleys.
There are other people who hope to tighten regulations about snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles. Then there are yet others who would like nothing better then ban hunting, yet many of the same people seem to have no problem eating a thick sirloin steak. Now there is a move by a handful of people to prohibit, or at least severely restrict, outdoor music festivals because they disrupt life in the neighborhood in which they perform for one weekend each year. Forget the fact that the festivals generate money for the area, and bring “joy” to some people, including to some people who live in the neighborhood. I’m not talking about festivals the size of the Phish Festival that attracted 80,000 people to Coventry, Vermont, in August 2004. That was far too big for this area to accommodate.
I’m talking about festivals the size of the Vermont Roots Reggae Fest held at the Rogers Farm on the Pine Hill Road in Coventry in August 2005. The event attracted a very manageable few hundred people. At the time that I’m writing this article, its my understanding that a petition is being circulated around Coventry that, if passed, would require people to apply for a permit to have a gathering of 50 or more people. That would make it difficult for some of the more prolific families of the region to have their children and grandchildren over for lunch without having to obtain a permit. Each day the newspapers seem to announce plans for another ordinance or law that somebody has dreamed up to “save” the Kingdom, although few of us feel we need saving. We need to do something to unravel this mess of rules so we can know when we’re breaking them. Contemplating the matter, I think I have come up with a unique way to succeed at this.
Use my example about food -when I put something in my mouth and it tastes good, I pretty much know that it is bad for me. Wouldn’t the same philosophy work with the regulations that are now gaining control of our lives? If you’re doing something that makes you feel good, or brings you joy, you know you must be breaking some type of ordinance, then we can self-correct our behavior, or redirect our behavior to a joyless activity. Lets just ban “joy” all together, or if we’re not going to ban “joy” can’t somebody dream up other, less joyful things to ban such as mowing the lawn and cleaning the house. “Freedom and Unity,” that’s Vermont’s motto, one that I appreciate very much, but like many other people in the Northeast Kingdom, I also find myself living by New Hampshire’s motto – “Live Free or Die”