Society & Culture

Another Flanders stands tall

66 years after Vermont senator’s heroic ‘Red Scare’ resolution, wife of grandson of Ralph Flanders opposes intolerance

By Guy Page

July 23, 2020 – In 1976, Alice Randall was a first-year physics student in a prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology program when she met a brilliant young aerospace engineer and Vermonter, Geoffrey Flanders. They married in 1981 at his family home on Highland Road in Springfield. He is the grandson of U.S. Senator Ralph E. Flanders, a Republican who bravely stood up alone on the Senate floor to Red Scare “blacklister” Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy on the Senate floor.

Before running for the U.S. Senate, Ralph Flanders was a gifted engineer operating a thriving manufacturing business along the Connecticut River. Wikipedia says of Sen. Flanders: “Flanders was noted for introducing a 1954 motion in the Senate to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy had made sensational claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the federal government and elsewhere. He used his Senate committee as a nationally televised forum for attacks on individuals whom he accused. Flanders felt that McCarthy’s attacks distracted the nation from a much greater threat of Communist successes elsewhere in the world and that they had the effect of creating division and confusion within the United States, to the advantage of its enemies.”

Alice Flanders

Today, Sen. Ralph Flanders’ grandson’s African-American wife is running for one of the two Hartford seats in the Vermont House of Representatives. Now, as during the height of the McCarthy “Red Scare,” a Republican Flanders from Vermont is once again opposing a movement that threatens consequences to those who publicly disagree. 

For example, In nearby Windsor, school principal Tiffany Riley in June was put on administrative leave and threatened with imminent job termination for posting on Facebook her doubts about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Riley’s status is unchanged as of today. She has filed suit against the school district. Board chair Elizabeth Burrows this week referred all questions by Vermont Daily to Burlington attorney Pietro Lynn.  UPDATE: the Windsor school board has reportedly named an interim principal. The board will meet July 29 to discuss further action, the Vermont Standard reports.

Reilly wouldn’t be the first Vermont educator to be threatened with the sack for showing insufficient political enthusiasm. During the height of the Red Scare, Vermont media and political figures pressured the University of Vermont to fire medical school professor Alexander Novikoff after he refused to testify about his Communist Party background before the Senate in 1953. Despite a spirited First Amendment defense by the ACLU and Burlington Rabbi Max Wall, he was fired. He then worked for almost three decades as a distinguished cancer researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

In Montpelier, the proponent of painting “Liberty and Justice for All” next to the “Black Lives Matter” street mural was called ‘racist’ by a city councilor at a public meeting. The request [by gubernatorial candidate John Klar of Brookfield] was unanimously denied. 

And in perhaps the most egregious BLM-related government suppression of individual free speech, Gov. Phil Scott and the Agency of Transportation in June carved out unprecedented permission for pro-BLM graffiti to remain unscathed in Vermont roadways, while state highway workers are erasing anti-BLM graffiti. [Since asking Gov. Scott at a press conference about the pro-BLM graffiti policy, Vermont Daily has been “called out” for asking the question by members of the Vermont press and Legislature – which of course is their right under the First Amendment.] 

Flanders ins’t the only Black leader to criticize BLM’s tactics before a Vermont audience. Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, told the Light Radio in Essex Junction July 1, “All of this tearing down statues and desecrating parks and tearing up real estate…..is not necessary. We don’t want to tear up our nation and our community with rioting.”

At Vermont Daily’s request, the granddaughter-in-law of McCarthy foe Ralph Flanders wrote the following thoughts about BLM, race and opportunity in Vermont. 

* * * * * 

“There are so many parallels between McCarthyism and this bogus Black Lives Matter crime being perpetrated on the American people. Black Lives do matter, but not more than all our lives… All lives matter, and to say so is NOT hate speech. We do our community, and especially our young people a great disservice.  Our principals and teachers who are forming the backbone of the next generation must clearly convey to these youths that our history, our values and the morals embraced by those before us made us who we are today.  The brave principal, Tiffany Riley is to be commended for having strength of conviction.”

“We are a great Nation. That’s why so many flee to our shores and not so many to the borders of Venezuela, Botswana, or to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

“There are so many parallels between McCarthyisM and this bogus Black Lives Matter crime being perpetrated on the American people. Black Lives do matter, but not more than all our lives… All lives matter, and to say so is NOT hate speech.”

Alice Flanders

“Vermont is one of the least Black states in the Nation, but this has nothing to do with how Vermont was founded.  Slavery was prohibited and universal suffrage was the law of the land as  stated in the Constitution of the Free and Independent Republic of Vermont signed 8 July 1777, (see attached picture of the placard in front of the Vermont Constitution House in Windsor). Moreover,  Vermont had a proud history of supporting the newly freed southern Blacks forming into organized regiments. That’s also in Geoff’s family history.”

“Past and present Vermont industry is noteworthy. Vermont was and is still one of the leading dairy States. Until recently, Vermont  was strong in preparing young people to be trained and gainfully employed in the machine tool industry which had significant International implications.  Our Vermont industry was renowned worldwide. WORLDWIDE. We were good at it and the world knew it. It is sad that this is not taught much in schools today.”

“It seems as if the BLM folks feel driven to hold the hand of the poor colored people who need to be led in revolution against .. who??? Don’t hold my hand… Just don’t close the door.”

Alice Flanders

“Regarding homelessness – let’s face the fact that Vermont has a short summer and longer winter. Living in this climate can be a challenge. Because of this, it is hard to live on the streets. And those who through misfortune become homeless will find many willing helping hands, but will not generally find luxury. We are good people, though not wealthy,  and do not overlook our fellow citizens/neighbors.  But I think we help with dignity and self respect in mind. We also help people learn to help themselves.”

“As a woman of color who has embraced Vermont as my own, I extend my heart to those fellow Vermonters who do not want injustice to have a foot hold here. But I don’t believe there is a racial discrimination problem here. I am deeply concerned about this BLM Movement, spearheaded by well meaning, but misguided white youths who are trying to fix a problem that is not systemic here. They are unwittingly inflicting a serious and insidious form of reverse discrimination.”  

“It seems as if the BLM folks feel driven to hold the hand of the poor colored people who need to be led in revolution against .. who??? Don’t hold my hand… Just don’t close the door. I am mentally and emotionally capable of making my own choices  (Just as I chose to study math, physics and foreign languages, so can others…just don’t get in the way or destroy what I’ve already built.” 

“And it seems to me as if this is profound reverse discrimination against most Vermonters who have no racial animus.  As I see it, good Vermonters, in trying to stay far away from the appearance of impropriety, are not standing up to serious damage being foisted on our state.”

Alice Flanders can be reached at Aliceforvermont@gmail.com

Photo credit Smithsonian.edu – Sen. Ralph Flanders (standing, right) glares at Sen. Joe McCarthy during Senate hearings at the height of the ‘Red Scare.’ Flanders, a Vermont Republican, opposed communism yet introduced a resolution of censure against McCarthy for sowing divisiveness and fear.

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