Keelan: Me and Rip Van Winkle


by Don Keelan

Sometimes I feel I have been asleep for twenty years and awaken only to find how much Vermont has changed.  Similarly, Rip van Winkle, about 250 years ago, awoke near the Catskill Mountains of New York. 

According to the scribe Washington Irving who wrote about Mr. Winkle, it was unusual. Winkle went off for a walk in the woods, met some fellows, drank their “hooch,” and fell asleep. When he woke up 20 years later, he missed out on America gaining its independence and was unaware that an American President had replaced King George III.

I must have fallen asleep just after the attack of 911, which I recalled did not directly impact Vermont. Nevertheless, the State has not escaped the fall-out of the attack. 

Waking up in 2022, I find so much has changed, most of which is negative. For sure, the State continues to be a significant snow skiing destination in the winter with ever-increasing daily visits. The 2022 winter saw maple sugar production at an all-time high.  The distilling and beer brewing business hardly existed before I went to sleep.

VB Vermont Biz recently reported that the 14 distillers employ over 230 folks joined by 18 brewers, and 307 plus are employed to produce nationally recognized products.

But, negative changes have also taken place since 2002. It seems Vermont has a serious problem with racism, as evidenced by the number of organizations created to deal with it. Organizations–for profit, nonprofit, and government alike–have diversity, inclusion, and equity officers and staff.

Significant changes have occurred in police service organizations throughout the State. There doesn’t appear to be one department that hasn’t engaged outsiders to assist with profound culture, staffing, and leadership issues. What is so noticeable from 20 years ago is the major decline in the ranks of police service personnel and the increasing difficulty of recruitment.  Almost every other economic sector has the same issue.

My 2022 awakening was to read about the frightful number of gun shootings in the State’s cities and towns. Since the year’s beginning, at least six shootings have resulted in death. Most attributed to something almost non-existent in 2002, illegal drug distribution and use in every corner of the State.

Vermont also had two other “killers” invade its borders these past two decades. One was the Covid-19 pandemic, which took the lives of approximately 700 residents. The other is overdose deaths, annually in the hundreds, caused by the consumption of illegal drugs laced with fentanyl.

Before I went to sleep in 2002, Vermont had a stable workforce, child care services, mental health treatment facilities, and abundant residencies for rent or ownership. Today, the homeless population exceeds that of many towns and villages. It is so dire that countless hotels and motels have been converted to provide shelter. Acerbating the housing problem is so many private homes re-purposed as Airbnb to accommodate tourists.

The most noticeable change since my awakening is in civility and the absence of folks attempting to have a civil discourse to discuss the issues before the State. 

This is evident when you read the polls and see many Democrats supporting a Republican for governor. What was once the middle ground of the political spectrum has all but disappeared. 

The vanishing middle ground first took place at the national level; now, it has overtaken Vermont’s political discussion. One exception: Governor Phil Scott is attempting not to abandon what distinguished Vermont in the days of Senators George Aiken (1892-1984) and Jim Jeffords (1934-2014).  

Vermont’s natural physical assets have not changed in 20 years. The State’s political and social fabric has changed for the worse and continues to do so.  Maybe it is time to go back to sleep?   

The author is a U.S. Marine (retired), CPA, and columnist living in Arlington, VT.

Categories: Commentary

11 replies »

  1. Phil Scott has been a disappointment for every conservative in Vermont . Whether it be his mode of violating our Constitutional rights during the pandemic or, abusing Vtrans by using them as “Border guards” for several months or , him NOT showing up at ANY VTGOP meeting of convention in the last year.

    Phil WILL get the nod though because he’s so progressive that the Progressives LOVE him.

    • I try to appreciate what we have in Phil Scott because some day he is going to get sick of it and we will have Gov. Molly Gray or Gov. Becca Balint…and then we will go from circling the drain to going down the drain with a sucking sound…

  2. I will not vote for scott, a true rhino! we need another choice even a write in would be better!

    • And doing so allows the MUCH greater of two evils to win again: democrat socialists (whatever they actually are other than a made-up term to sound less terrorizing) & especially Progressives!

      A whole lot of democrat socialists & Progressives filled in the republican ballots in the primary this year booting out folks like Nolan and Redic so that there will be only ONE party rule in VT very soon. They knew Nolan had a shot, however small, to beat Welch & they wiped her right off the map! What “tolerant” folks with true democratic intent.

      For those who engage in write-ins, those who refuse to vote because the GOP candidate isn’t conservative enough for them, etc. etc. – you are merely enabling this full on Communist takeover of VT – nothing less.

      Vote Republican! VT is on the brink of total destruction.

  3. Thank you for a well thought out contribution. I don’t think the middle has disappeared, I believe it IS the majority of voters who prefer action, through compromise and respectful dialogue, to dogmatic ideology which is about “winning” at all cost. The extremists win, the rest of us lose. Not all Democrats are progressives or ultra liberals. I like to believe that the majority of Republicans are not MAGAts. It just seems that whomever makes the most noise gets the attention, kind of like a two year old child.

  4. You’re still dreaming if you think Phil Scott is the Middle ground.

    The middle ground doesn’t call people racist for supporting there chosen candidate. The middle ground would have allowed an American flag to be painted on the the street while an obvious Marxist one was. The middle ground wouldn’t have taken people’s rights away due to the PROPOSED actions of one individual. The middle ground wouldn’t have denounced a sitting president, especially one who was helping to make our state and it’s immense costs more palatable.


    • Well said Brian! this is not the same Phil Scott that took office in 2017. he has become enmeshed with the ideology/progressive/left somehow…WE need a person who is NOT A PARTY LINER……it has to start somewhere or all is lost and we all need to leave ……

  5. Closing the barn door after the horse ran away? Corruption reigns supreme in Vermont – start prosecuting the real criminals in this State. Expose all the money stolen and who it was given to – our State motto is Freedom and Unity – at this point, we have neither unless we unite for freedom and Take Back Vermont 2.0

  6. The author isn’t the only one who’s been asleep. so have the voters. It is them, who have supported and voted for the downfall of Vermont. It is the government that has created the mess we live in now as described by the author. It is the media that has promoted the progressive take over and has censored the news concerning the facts they didn’t want seen by the public. I continually hear that the state is beyond redemption, and I have rejected such ideas. But now, I’m beginning to change my mind and except that there is either mass ignorance, total disregard of our circumstances or a lethargic voting community that is blind to the truth. After the latest primary fiasco, the election mistakes and laws to support fraud, it appears that all is lost. It has been longer than 20 years since any republicans controlled the house and senate in Vermont. The mess we are living belongs to one uniparty supported be out of state money and 501c3 non-profit social justice warrior organizations who are unaccountable to anyone and extreme environmental groups of the same color here to profit from the largesse of government money thrown at those who wish to turn Vermont into a solar panel, monolithic windmill and electric vehicle wasteland for profit.