2008 Spring Opinion

By David Cyr, state committee member of the Green Party of New York State

In “The Change You Deserve” Republicans have selected a slyly subliminal slogan for 2008. Only the too few who’ve long been clear-eyed and paying attention will realize that whether a smirking Republican’s or a smiley Democrat’s face is put upon it, the next corporate state administration will have, as all those before it, inherently sociopathic corporations determine all the what, when, where and how of the “change”… and who will “deserve” it.

The regressive Republican wing of the Corporate Party was of course responding to the disingenuous Democrat wing of the corporate Party’s “Change We Can Believe In” slogan; which, given their “electable” candidates, is a “change” that only the most gullible, or those willfully wishing to be deceived could ever possibly “believe in” either.

And so, as the Corporate Party’s longest-ever primary campaign coasts towards its finish, a truly dark comedy is presented, in which Republicans are rhetorically positioning themselves to be perceived as being like Democrats, while Democrats are now what Republicans were.

As proof for the old maxim, that the more things “change” the more they stay the same, with Obamamania on the rise, the Clinton campaign laid bare the basest racist Klan roots of the Democratic Party. The Clintons themselves quite consciously and deliberately sought the white supremacist vote with verbal associations like that of: “hard working” workers being “white” workers; the [White] Women’s Voices, Women Vote organization’s robocall and mailing efforts to suppress black voter turnout; and the timely, convenient-for-Clinton distribution of various “Obama Monkey ’08” campaign paraphernalia.

There’s been a liberal guilt vote surge in the other wing of that wing, being the “Democratic” wing of the Democratic wing of the Republican-Democratic Corporate Party. It demonstrates a dedication to the liberals’ duplicitous form of racism by voting another kind of ABB this timefor a black eager to disassociate himself with his own blackness. For liberals desperate to prove that they are not the racist Democrats, Obama—who’s clearly more comfortable as the only dark-skinned one there, lying among lying light-skinned Senators, than he ever was sitting in a pew of a black church with a pastor who speaks too truthfully—is a perfect liberal racist ABB choice for 2008: an Acceptable Black Boy.

The primary focus of the Democrats’ primary having been upon choosing a candidate based solely upon skin color is most ironically appropriate, since the alleged progressiveness of either Clinton or Obama is, in the very best light possible, only skin deep.

It won’t matter at all whether the Green Party’s candidate for president is old or young; male, female or transgendered; black, white or any other skin color. No matter who the Green Party’s candidate will be, he or she will be someone who has been, and will continue to be, an honest advocate for  substantive changes benefitting actual people more than corporations and ensuring human survival (a degree of change neither the Republican nor the Democrat candidate will support). This is change that we and all the rest of the world don’t merely wish to see—it is The Real Change We All Really Need.

By Brent McMillan, Political Director, Green Party of the United States

Brent McMillian

Brent McMillian

Is the Green Party in danger of becoming irrelevant? What both the Green Party and America needs now is a bolder form of leadership. The American people are becoming radicalized. They are angry! Neither major party is representing the majoritarian values of the American People. Zogby exit polling after the 2006 Election cycle looked like a list of Green Party programs: ending the war in Iraq, concern about global warming, and universal health care for all, etc.

When people come to Washington I tell them that DC is occupied territory. The federal level of our government has been taken over by corporate interests and no longer acts in the interest of the American people. Our laws are written by lobbyist on K Street and are walked over to Congress to be voted on without them even being read. 

Typical of the end of any cultural era is that whatever was characteristic of it gets taken to gigantic proportions right before it collapses. This being the end of a 500 year cycle of Empire building, the dinosaurs are getting bigger and bigger as corporations gobble each other up for global dominance. In the process, the cracks in the system are getting bigger and bigger. People who never thought it would happen to them are being dropped from basic services. 

Years ago the U.N. said that the biggest need in the 21st century would be for people capable of going into communities that had lost basic services and help pick them back up. Whether from the disaster of privatization or the impacts of global warming there is a great need for this work. 

Over the last couple of years I have been involved in working as part of a trans-partisan network that cuts across political lines and looks for common interests to work on. One of these interests is stopping the invasion of Iran. Many worked to get the National Intelligence Estimate to the public phase without being gutted by the White House. This was key to pulling the rug out from under the Bush Administration for now. Our work is not done though. U.S. troops continue to mass on the Iranian border. Our naval force in the Persian Gulf is as large as it was prior to the invasion of Iraq.

As a part of that trans-partisan network I was ap proached this last Fall about forming a Sustainability Caucus in Congress and staffing it. It’s not that easy to work across the political spectrum to build support for the issues under the umbrella of sustainability but the work is very important.

It’s time to think bigger. Greens are being invited to the table. Here are some ideas about where there are great opportunities:

Form an Emergency Response Team — a kind of shadow government made up of non-governmental organizations that is capable of assisting impacted communities. Malik Rahim has done some great work in the Lower Ninth Ward in addressing the impact of Hurricane Katrina. He could have used a lot more support from Greens across the country though. There will be plenty more opportunities. Of note and to her credit, Sarah “Echo” Steiner, current GPUS co-chair from Florida led an impromptu ef fort to get supplies to New Orleans quickly.

Form a Green Leadership Institute — Greens clearly have leaders. It’s disingenuous to claim otherwise. But Greens are different. How are we different? Much of the leadership in the Green Party is already self-empowered. How can we consciously bring forward those who are not? See the history of The Highlander Center as a good example.

Lead the discussion on Immigration — The Major Parties are ignoring a real discussion about immigration, big time! What if Greens worked toward holding town hall forums across the country about this important issue?

Work to rebuild Public Health Care — Form cooperatives in rural areas that have been decimated by privatization. Look to the work of Horace Mann on public education for examples.

Work to build organizations such as Empower DC,  which was co-founded by registered DC State hood Green Parisa Norouzi. One of its more popular campaigns is the People’s Property Campaign which seeks to end the sale, transfer and giveaway of valuable public property in DC. Con tact her at: parisa@ empowerdc.org.

It would be naïve to think that helping people in these ways can happen without obstruction. Check out The War at Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It (Boston: South End Press, 1989) by Brian Glick. Anyone who has any success at all in bringing about cultural change will find that there are those who will hate you for it and will want you dead. That is another topic, perhaps for a future column. Greens need to be more supportive of each other as we learn how to develop new leadership.

By Dottie Engel, North Carolina Green Party 
with contribution by David McCorquodale, Green Party of Delaware

Dottie Engel

Dottie Engel

In an increasingly violent world, why is the philosophy of non-violence a Green key value? One might argue that revolutionary violence is the only means of bringing about the social change necessary to redress the multiple wrongs in our society. As in other cultures where oppression led to revolution, one could argue, and many do, that the gap between the masses and the ruling class is widening. Non-violent methods of confrontation can never right this imbalance, so why persist in non-violent alternatives?

To answer this question, we must look to our past leaders in the politics of protest. Possibly the greatest reformer in the non-violent tradition in our century was Mahatma Ghandi. He coined a phrase “Satyagraha,” which combined the words satya (truth) and agraha (firmness of force). He defined “satyagraha” as a “method for bringing about social change through the persuasion of one’s antagonist that he is wrong. No physical force can be used in this process; the goal is to convince one’s adversary, not subjugate him. Violence has no part in this process for the use of violence can only temporarily suppress evil at the cost of having it arise later with redoubled vigor. Non-violence, on the other hand, puts an end to evil by converting the evildoer.”

Ghandi’s ideas influenced Martin Luther King, whose applications of non-violent confrontation are some of the most memorable in recent history. Whoever has seen it can never forget the images of black people kneeling in the streets being beaten with nightsticks by angry police, helplessly enduring beatings in the hopes of politicizing an apathetic public. I, for one, will never forget the brave little seven-year-old black girl who walked into a school in New Orleans, dressed immaculately, being spit upon by angry white Catholic women. Her father had brought her to the entrance and then let go of her hand so she could walk that gauntlet and integrate that school. Certainly no violent action could ever evoke such sentiment in the minds and hearts of onlookers. 

King defined in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” the four basic steps in any nonviolent campaign: “collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.” Workshops on nonviolence focused on asking these questions “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” and King further defined nonviolent direct action as “seeking to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly re fused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

A recent example of effective non-violent action was dramatized in the movie Bowling for Columbine. Filmmaker Michael Moore, when confronting K-Mart about selling the am munition used in the Columbine massacre, brought two students wounded in the conflict with him to confront the store manager. Yes, he was successful in persuading K-Mart to stop selling that am munition in its stores, and not one blow was struck. He created such “tension” that K-Mart became will ing to negotiate.

So, where does the Green Party stand with respect to non-violence? Early on, according to Gary Swing, writing in “Synthesis/Regeneration” Fall 2001, no Green Party platform in the United States demonstrated a belief in nonviolence. Swing examined the campaign literature and web sites of dozens of Green Party candidates for congress and president from 1994-2000, and none of them advocated nonviolent alternatives to war. However, by 2004 the platform of the Green Party of the United States had carved out a strong position on non-violence in foreign policy, urging that the U.S. respect international treaties, follow a constructive path to peace in the Middle East, and proceed to dismantle nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

In 2006 the actions of Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan and Green congressional candidate Michael Berg illustrated the in tense personal depth of emotion involved in seeking non-violent solutions to personal loss. Both had lost children in the turmoil in Iraq. Sheehan’s son died in combat. Berg’s son, a private contractor hoping to find business in Iraq, was kidnapped and murdered, and the video of the murder played around the world. Rather than call for revenge and support the destructive military effort in Iraq, both called for an end to the fighting.

Michael Berg had taken a college course in forgiveness and was actively involved in anti-war protests when he decided to broaden his efforts into a campaign against one of the congressmen, Mike Castle of Delaware, who supported the war. Just as Berg’s campaign started, it was announced that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the supposed mastermind behind the killing of his son, had died. This produced a media frenzy with local and cable news outlets sending people to interview Berg, and which culminated in an interview by Larry King on CNN. The spin the media wanted to put on the story was that Michael Berg should be happy and relieved to know that al-Zarqawi had died. They were shocked to find out it wasn’t so. Many cut off their interviews when they realized Berg wasn’t rejoicing at the death.

Berg’s view is il lustrated in an in terview with Soledad O’Brien on CNN. He said, “Well, my reaction is I’m sorry whenever any human being dies. … I feel doubly bad, though, because Zarqawi is also a political figure, and his death will re-ignite yet another wave of re venge, and revenge is something that I do not follow…I do not wish it against anybody. And it can’t end the cycle. As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will al ways have violence.”

Berg and Sheehan have shown that Greens must take the moral high ground on non-violence, whether it is popular or not.  

Additionally, as Martin Kelley at Nonviolence.Org, puts it: “We … need to broaden our definition of nonviolence. … We are not just against particular wars, but all wars and not just the ones fought with bullets between nation states. We are against the everyday wars of people oppressing other people through economics, sexism, racism, ageism and a thousand other mechanisms. When we speak out about environmental damage, we are stopping war. When we talk about lifestyle choices like vegetarianism and living carefree in transit-friendly cities, we are stopping war. When we fight for minimum wage and for stopping third-world sweatshops, we are stopping war. … We need to build a culture of pacifism, we need to become conscientious objectors to the consumerism of our society.”

Several additional options for non-violent action come to mind. We need to develop think tanks to strategize ways to stop conservative efforts to take over our airways, our voting machines, our federal judges and courts, and our newspapers. At present, right wing think tanks spend much of their time developing strategies to dismantle our constitutional rights and blanket the country with conservatives in all elected offices. We need to resist— a house divided cannot stand. We need to unite around our common goals and go forward. We can make a difference!