Diluted Patriotism in the Lake Champlain Region

The American flag flies high and proud in this part of the country, but the people here seem to have forgotten what it means. My hubby and I noticed it on our Memorial Day Weekend trek around upstate New York and western Vermont—Old Glory was flying outside virtually every farm house, painted brightly on fences and the side of barns, and hung on every lamp post and many store fronts on the main streets of little towns. It made my heart swell with pride—especially since we were tracking down Revolutionary War sites, of which there are many in this part of the country. We’d never seen this many American flags in one place.

Then I realized… so much of what happens here doesn’t honor what the flag represents. Sure, the rural, upstate areas are typically more conservative than New York City and other heavily urban areas, but we still spotted way too many “elect Bernie” yard signs and bumper stickers, especially in Vermont. It’s just confusing—here, where men died to throw off an overbearing government, the people are supporting and begging for an even more overbearing government that continues to erode the liberties that our Founders—and generations of freedom fighters—fought and died to protect.

Don’t misunderstand me: my husband I are history nerds, but not everybody has to be a history buff to appreciate what America stands for. You can care about preserving an understanding of this country’s origins, even if you don’t enjoy spending your long weekend traipsing all over to see Independence-era war monuments; and you can have a sense of patriotic pride even if you’d rather not decorate your kitchen in red, white, and blue like we did.

When we think American Founding and War of Independence, we tend to think of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Boston, Lexington and Concord, and Bunker Hill. But New York and Vermont are also the birthplace of our nation in many ways. Vermont is the home of the Green Mountain Boys, the northern patriot militia, and a third of Revolutionary War battles were fought in New York State. The Lake Champlain and Hudson River corridor, from Albany up to Montreal, was the seat of the 1776-77 northern campaign; the area is dotted with battlefield monuments and ruins of American, British, German, and French forts—Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Bennington, and Hubbardton are just a few of the most notable sites.

New York City was the British base of operations after the disastrous Battle of Long Island in 1776 until the end of the war in 1783, and it was the capitol city of the new nation from 1783 to 1792—yet essentially all physical historical evidence has been obliterated in favor of real estate interests. Albany, the state capitol of New York, was ground zero for rebellion against British quartering of soldiers as early as 1763. After the British Army left the city in 1767, Albany became a patriot stronghold, but because of its strategic significance, retaking Albany was General Burgoyne’s objective until his defeat at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777—a turning point of the Revolution. Philip Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law (of Hamilton musical fame), was a real, very patriotic United States senator who fought in the French and Indian War and served as a brigadier general in the Revolution. As New York City was the British base of operations, so Albany was the seat of the Patriot resistance in the north, both culturally and militarily.

At the top of Champlain Memorial Lighthouse

It’s sad to note how poorly some of these historical sites are preserved, despite being less than 250 years old. For example, Mount Independence, one of the largest patriot defenses built during the war, lies on the Vermont bank of Lake Champlain across from Fort Ticonderoga. It’s supposed to be the best-preserved Independence-era archaeological site in America. We visited it… and were sorely disappointed. Other than a small museum and views of the lake, there’s very little to see thanks to the overgrown foliage; what is there is difficult to access thanks to mud and poorly-maintained trails. Some of the most noteworthy parts of the fort, such as the forge, are marked with a number on a tree that matches the description on the map—but there’s nothing there.

I just find it frustrating that such important parts of our history are ignored and allowed to deteriorate, and I’m afraid it’s symbolic of a broader deterioration of historical understanding and appreciation in our country. By all means, fly the flag—but also stop to think about what it stands for: the protection of every person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Vermont and New York don’t protect life, they’re two of the most pro-choice states in the union.

The Founders would rather die than live under a tyrannical government—but Vermont, especially, wants socialism. I think if the Founders could see us now, they’d roll over in their graves. We’ve fallen into many of the same traps as King George III and his government: unchecked government power, rejection of representative government, obstruction of justice, limitations on free trade and freedom of conscience, and disregard for innocent life. On second thought… if the Founders could see us now, they would probably start a second revolution.

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