(Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 1996) I’d like to weigh in on the new issue that is growing in popularity in the Berkshires and may go on to replace the north-south connector question as impetus for most letters to the editor. I refer to the question of whether or not Berkshire County ought to secede from the Commonwealth.
It is conceded that suffiient grounds for such radical surgery have long existed. The wound is worsened by the beaneater’s failure to show adequate gratitude for Berkshireites; after all, wasn’t it Lenox’s own Col. John Peterson and his Berkshire regiment, including a company of Stockbridge Indians who marched east within hours of the first shots fired at Lexington and caused the British to cease their naval bombardment of Boston?
My observation of this nascent campaign, particularly as propagated in the pages of The Eagle, indicates that the popular idea is to effect a union with Vermont. Though various good reasons have been proffered for such action, they presuppose the acquiesence of our charming, but fiercely independent, neighbors to the north.
Vermonters enjoy a well-deserved reputation for hospitality. They regularly welcome the clogging of their highways and byways by cars full of flatlanders eager to exchange cash money for jugs of maple syrup, chunky ice cream, any and all Holstein-stencilled thingamajig, and ski lift tickets. However, the observant interloper will notice an even more enthusiastic wave of the hand from the otherwise stoical Vermonter as he heads back to whence he came.
It ought to be noted that the state of Vermont came into being only because a small group of large landholders managed to manipulate the secession of their territory from New York state. The political chicanery employed by Vermont’s founding fathers would merit at least a segment on “60 Minutes” today.
So perhaps we’re better off looking at this issue without thinking about the Green Mountain state. Why do we need to unite with another political entity anyway? Maybe we don’t, but it does make for more interesting speculation than just going it alone. furthermore, why limit ourselves to consideration only of contiguous places? If it’s true that we’re in the age of the global village, and if so much depends now on traveling the information superhighway, why not consider joining with an entity somewhat removed from our own pastoral home?
Certainly, it would make sense to look to make common cause with a similarly aggreived group of citizens. Staten Island comes readily to mind. Those poor folk are fed up with the shabby treatment they receive from the despots of Manhattan. Why, we Berkshireites, especially south county denizens, already share kindred feelings with Staten Islanders. Who among us isn’t irked by the haughty attitude flaunted by the flocks of Manhattanites who usurp our rustic preserve every summer?
Whereas hooking up with Vermont would add nothing but more of what we’ve already got, union with Staten Island would give the Berkshires the one thing that keeps it from being the most fabulous place on earth – the ocean. Think also of the literary implications. If Melville was able to write Moby-Dick by hallucinating Mount Greylock into his mystical leviathan, just think what some present day scribe could conjure from his seaside Berkshire cottage.
Best of all, we could put to rest once and for all the annoying question of which neighborhood to raze to build a toll booth. After all, once we bolt the Commonwealth, the Turnpike will terminate at Blanford. Once union with Staten Island is effected, creating a population of just over a half million, we’ll pool our funds and dig a canal from Park Square to the Hudson River and establish the Berkshire-Staten Island Ferry. Manhattanites can paddle their own canoe.
Berkshire Eagle, February 14, 1996