Jewish World Review Jan. 22, 2004/ 28 Teves, 5764

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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‘Vermont cute’ is getting on my nerves | The New York Times reports that Tod Murphy runs the Farmer's Diner, a quaint 60-seat establishment that uses only locally grown food for its offerings. The bread comes from a Northfield bakery. Eggs are fresh from Stowe. The milk hails from Strafford.

Tod's diner is in Barre, Vermont. Isn't that cute?

Vermont cute is getting on my nerves. Ben & Jerry have been peddling their ice cream made from Vermont Guernseys for decades. The Vermont Teddy Bear Company sends out gift teddy bears dressed for any occasion, including a "Playbear Playmate." $99.95 worth of schmaltz, all handmade in Vt.. The Vermont Country Store sells Beeman's Clove Chewing Gum and Necco Candy Wafers to gullible yuppies from Santa Monica to Seattle to Palm Beach. For $3.50 shipping, you can have a pack of gum from Vermont. Vermont even has a cute civil union thing going. Trek there for a bed & breakfast and a same-sex marriage.

Vermont now offers a cute presidential candidate. Dr. Howard Dean bashes the president and mocks the war. We, the not-so-cute grown-ups in the country, will vote so as to prevent Dr. Dean from becoming an answer to terrorists' mantras for White House occupants. The "Deaniacs" will continue as groupies, Move will keep raising money and making up stats about the economy and the war, and the peaceniks'rallies shall hum. The rest of us will do the not-so-fun adult thing and vote for a man who knows the real world, not just Vermont.

Vermont catalogteers soak shoppers who are dedicated to the environment and vicarious commune living. Dot-comers dream of retiring in Vermont and becoming food suppliers to Tod's diner. The rest of us will hold down the economic fort while you, the noble, dabble in fluff goods and bash capitalism with the condescension sold with each pair of Birkenstocks.

We who shop at evil Wal-Marts and labor in mundane corporations headquartered in Delaware will see to it that Halliburton keeps the oil fields running so that Vermont farmers have the gas to get their food to Tod's. We'll make certain that folks in Georgia experience the quality of Idaho potatoes and are not forced to consume peaches au gratin when Tod's franchised diners invade there, something Ben & Jerry promise. We'll get the beef to Vermont for Tod's patty melts. Slaughtering cattle seems illegal in Vermont.

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These Vermont businesses bounce in with themes and self-righteousness. Unlike other business people, they fancy themselves superior, not greedy moguls in it only for the money. Ben, Jerry, Paul and Tod preserve the Vermont family farm, the environment and, if at all possible, mandatory ovo/lacto vegetarianism.

These cute businesses soothe owners' consciences as they fancy themselves the antithesis of stock market ways. But, principles of economics are stubborn. Ben & Jerry's set out to save the Amazon's indigenous peoples by importing nuts from them for the Rainforest Crunch ice cream. Cholesterol of guilt-ridden, ice-cream-eating yuppies climbed to 3000, but they saved the Xapuri tribe from lumberjacks. Wait! The natives, not hailing from Vermont, are true capitalists. They began selling their nuts to exchanges for higher prices, courtesy of BJ's demand. They even sold off their lands to let others grow nuts for silly Vermont do-gooders. The lumberjacks then bought the land. The moonies from Vermont can really gut a market and a tribe!

The problem with Vermont businesses, Dean and his Deaniacs is that they cannot think beyond their emotions to the consequences of a world operated with their idyllic assumptions. So consumed are they with hatred for capitalism and Bush that they refuse to realize the dangers and inefficiencies they create. Like children, they are cute, but also like children, they are gullible. Tunnel vision and inexperience blind them to evil in dictators.

Also like children, Vermont cute has a component of selfishness. Assigning responsibility for the tough decisions and mundane work is a prerequisite to their ideals. Dr. Dean's wife, Dr. Judith Sternberg, won't accompany him on the campaign trail because she is too busy for politics. When Howard was governor of Vermont, Judith did away with the inaugural balls. She explains, "I'm very happy doing what I do. He's happy doing what he does." A dedicated country doctor. Isn't that cute?

She's yet another arrogant capitalist from Vermont. Adam Smith called it self-interest. We all do what gives us the rewards we want. For Judith, her needs are satisfied by blowing off tradition and touting herself as a noble country doc operating on a higher plane than the greedy urbanites who shun the bucolic existence.

But docs must man emergency rooms in Detroit and serve as overtaxed pediatricians in suburban areas where diners serve imported, not local, food. There is a world beyond Vermont, a world in which terrorists don't negotiate, and responsibilities are fulfilled regardless of whims and fancies.

Howard Dean is Vermont. He is a country teddy bear trying to dabble in international politics as a moonie. He sees the world through Ben & Jerry's glasses and assures us that he can show us all how it's done. Isn't that cute? Osama is campaigning, "Buy from Vermont!"

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JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.

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© 2004, Marianne M. Jennings