Alternative History

The following consists of excerpts of the transcript of an interview with Republic of Vermont President James Douglas conducted by Australia and New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation reporter Lauren Gilmore at the League of Nations in Tonga on 26 October 2009. The interview was taped for airing on ANZBC television and radio 3 November, as well as later airing in Vermont and other North American nations. Douglas was asked about a wide variety of subjects, including his views on the LoN; the former United States; his regret at not being able to talk with George H.W. Bush; and his perceived role as a "peacemonger" in North American politics.

On Vermont's neutrality and its emergence as the "new" Switzerland:

We're not the United States, able to enforce its will on much of the western world. We survived, at times barely, a war that destroyed millions of people and drastically affected society. And we felt being aggressively militaristic, or biased towards one state over another, went against the history of our nation, and the U.S. state it had been since the late 18th century. Neutrality fits our people well, and we feel the advantages, in every area from cultural to business to political, far outweigh the disadvantages.

On the League of Nations, and why membership is so important to Vermont:

Neutrality does not equal isolationism. We believe in peace, and you cannot speak to it and advocate for it in a vacuum. You have to be amongst the community of nations. We are disappointed that full membership has not yet happened for us, but we are patient, and respectful of the process.

On his growing reputation as a "peacemonger", someone willing to fight and negotiate for peace and cooperation:

Yes. Without a doubt. I saw the cloud rise above Plattsburgh AFB, from a distance. Even from a distance...what I saw was frightening. In and of itself...not to mention the implications for the end of the world it carried. I've seen pictures, you know. From Kansas, Canada, England...we have in Montpelier pictures salvaged from a home in Massachusetts where the owner snapped photographs of the explosions over Boston...he was taking pictures of we think it was his neighbor's daughter's birthday party. She must have been 5, 6 years old? And in the sequence there is a flash. You can tell where he ducked down behind a table, then got up and you can see the top of the cloud above the houses across the street. You can also tell he wasn't the father, because any father worth his salt would not be taking pictures at a time like that; he would take care of his children...these were scary pictures. Bombs going off over Nashua (New Hampshire) and Boston...we found them while we were liberating the towns in Massachusetts. It cements for me why I fight for peace. So my daughter and granddaughter, and yours, and everyone else's never, never, never has to endure anything like that, again. As the song goes: you may call me a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

On why Vermont's former isolationism was an idea whose time has passed:

In the 1980s and even part of the '90s, you really had no idea what was out there. No satellites to see who was in the region, very little fuel for airplanes to fly over the area. For many years the only people we knew outside of Vermont were those in what we call the "northern townships", and in former New England and New York state. There were also the raiders from Quebec and New York. We did not find out about the other nations in the former U.S. until much later, so it was not as if we were shutting ourselves off from other bonafide nations. Much of the isolationism was a question, if not belief, if anyone else was out there. Gratefully, there was. As we discovered Aroostook, and Canada, and Saguenay, it became clear that we needed to get out of the house and off the porch, over to meet the neighbors. Not necessarily take sides in their disputes, or interfere in their business, but at least to let them know we were there, and wanted to get along well with them.

On how he feels Doomsday has been a "crutch" for some nations to not move forward, and why it is important for all nations to "move on from the past":

Some nations have been stuck in the past, unwilling to make even the most basic of technological advances because they believe that if the lights go back on, the missiles will launch. No one knows if the launch was intentional or accidential. But you cannot let this tragedy continue to be a tragedy; nations have to go on. The mere fact that we have all survived, and live, should give hope. If we can do what it takes to stay alive and maintain society in the face of the worst event humankind has ever known, then we should understand and believe that we can build a better life for ourselves and our families, for those we love, and for the entire world. I am against nuclear weapons, absolutely. I am not for going back to the caves and hunting wild animals for food, living day by day. We can only learn from the past, and we can also let the past cripple us. And, we can choose instead to learn from it, and move forward and do better in the future.

On the relatively small, but persistent, idea of American nationalism that still exists in North America, Mexico and Oceania:

The Committee to Re-establish the United States of America seems to be made up of good men, with all the best intentions in the world. They believe that America's days are not yet over, and it one day will rise from the ashes. They do an excellent job of promoting American values, and in some parts of the world, those values are desparately needed. Those who were alive in 1983 have a sense of American patriotism that children and young adults up to their late twenties do not. Those younger people identify more with the region they grew up in: Vermonters, for example. They see the American flag, understand the importance of what it stood for, but they grew up in Vermont. Not the United States. For them, the U.S. is no more relevant to them, as an authority, than Great Britain is to a native of Australia. This seems to be the reality in the limited contact I've had with leaders from other nation-states in the former U.S.: the younger people by large see themselves as Superiorians, or Aroostookians, not as Americans. A lot of older people, those who grew up in America, fought in its wars, voted for its leaders, paid their taxes, are also seeing themselves less as Americans and more as primarily the country they live in - it's not that they aren't proud of America and what it stood for, and in a sense they will always be Americans. But the realization everyone seems to be coming to is that America is gone as a national entity, and that the values it represented - life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the ability for someone to build a life for themselves as free human beings - are the ones that need to endure in its successor states.

On his regret at not being able to meet George H.W. Bush while in Tonga:

I really want to meet George Bush, and we had been told that he might be able to travel to LoN headquarters while we were in Tonga. Unfortunately, his schedule prevented that from happening. I have read as extensively about George Bush and his administration as one can, and I am fascinated not just by the last American President, but the man himself. I have so many questions for him. I remain hopeful that we can meet soon, perhaps in Australia, in Vermont, or elsewhere. It would be one of my greatest privileges to meet with him. 

On the question of any future reorganization of the United States government:

The infrastructure is not there, and the will of the political leaders of the various nations are not there. Most people seem to realize that America as an idea and its values live on, but America as a superpower has ended. Now, if the people supported the revival of America, then their voices must be heard. I'm aware of the North American Union out (in the western former U.S.), but we still are learning about it and the intentions of its leaders. The only group to consistently call for a revival of the United States is the CRUSA. They do a good job of making their voices heard, but their influence, from what I understand, is small at best in your country, in Mexico and other states. The thing to remember here is what do the people want? Right now, as best as I and other observers can tell, the people want to move forward with their respective nation-states.

On his hopes and fears for the future:

September 25, 1983 was the most frightening night I have ever had to live through. I honestly thought we were all...we would all die, that this was the end and everything was over....we have a golden opportunity before us, those of us who have survived, to build a new world where people can live in peace, and cooperation, and never have to live under the sword of Damocles, or with the possibility of the clock striking midnight and everything coming to an end. We have to find the missiles, and disarm them. We have to never use destructive weapons like that again. I wouldn't wish what I went through, what we all went through, on my worst enemy. Doomsday has changed me and in ways I recognize and probably in ways I don't even realize. It informs everything I do, why I "wage" peace, why I fight to keep my country in a position to facilitate that peace and cooperation that is so desperately needed today. Peace is important. Perhaps the most important thing, after the war that nearly destroyed the world. I can think of no higher worldly goal to pursue and to fight for.