Crossroads, nonviolence, and the Green Party

So, in our little local Green Party we have this nutjob dude, Bill Mulcahy (I care not at all if he finds this post, so I see no reason not to use his full name), who is a known homophobe (when our town was getting lots of media attention for our mayor marrying same-sex couples in 2004, he was very public about his opposition to gay marriage) as well as a lightly racist, classist xenophobe who wants to save the planet for, apparently, white upper-middle-class people. I can’t stand him, and am angry beyond belief that he won’t go away. He only agrees with the GP on one issue – environmentalism – but because we are “the green party” (but we’re not, we’re The Green Party – there is a giant difference) he can’t understand why we don’t just work on environmentalism (racists aren’t all that smart) and shut up about all this equality bullshit.

As regular readers of this fine blog know (read older posts from this month if you’re in the sad position of not being a regular reader), Crossroads is the hot issue in the New Paltz Green Party at the moment. He keeps sending these annoying emails to our listserve all about how we are “infiltrated by the Democrats” because we are not all quitting our jobs and devoting our lives to making sure that this giant development doesn’t happen in our town.

Here’s his latest email and my response to it. His email isn’t all that bad, but coming as it does in an endless line of emails in the same vein that are always so harsh and aggressive and just plain annoying when we are all trying so hard to have a nuanced discussion of the issue – oh GRRR, I just can’t take it anymore.

On Jun 25, 2008, at 7:58 AM, Bill Mulcahy wrote:

After many Greens attended the pubic hearing on the Crossroads Project,
and saw the OVERWHELMING opposition to it, I don’t see how we can
keep the position that we should just be trying to “amend” the DEIS.

I think we should change our position and join the hundreds of our
fellow New Paltz residents who feel we have been suckered by
the democrats who are trying to sneak this project into New Paltz.
It is outrageous this project has gotten this far without people
knowing about it.

We have the chance to take the lead on this issue, build
membership and break with the democrats which I believe have
too much influence over “our” local party.

I would like a vote to know who is with the democrats and who is
against this megadevelopment and the sneaky way some democrats
are pushing it.

Bill Mulcahy

My response:

Bill, you really believe the Democrats (I’m assuming you mean Democrats as in “Democrats are better than Republicans, though not by much” instead of democrats as in “we live in a democratic society, thus we are all democrats” – correct me if I am wrong) have influence over the NPGP? Personally I find those charges offensive, insulting, libelous, uninformed, untrue, and mean-spirited.

Because we are trying to have a reasoned discussion about the Crossroads project you seem to think we have been “infiltrated” by Democrats. Because we want to see our local leaders (Toni [Hokanson, our town supervisor, a good Democrat most of us Greens like who Bill apparently believes is the devil], in particular) as allies who can help us out to further the common goal of a more progressive New Paltz instead of as evil conniving Democrats who must be slain, you seem to think we are somehow not being true to Green Party values. I personally doubt you could name all the 10 key values that Greens subscribe to. I know I couldn’t name them off the top of my head, but then again, I don’t stamp my feet and scream like a baby all the time about how we are not vanquishing the bad Democrats fast enough.

One of the primary values the Green Party believes in is nonviolence. If you have ever read about Gandhi’s conception of nonviolence, you will know that it is about much more than just not shooting people with whom we have disagreements – Gandhi talked about nonviolence in thought, feeling, and action. He wrote about the way that all forms of violence reinforce each other, and the importance of vanquishing them all.

I know a lot about this because I am often guilty of breaking a self-imposed rule on violent thoughts and words. It’s something I’m always working on (see the first paragraph of this missive). Gandhi believed that poorly chosen, overly aggressive word choices are perpetuating a form of psychic violence which can be just as harmful as that caused by guns and knives. I believe this, and try hard to curb my naturally aggressive emailing tendencies, especially when conducting GP business, because I know that the Green Party adopted “nonviolence” as one of its 10 key values with the full, Gandhian usage of the term in mind.

Bill, are you trying to live up to this value as well? What I’m trying to say is: your constant overly aggressive tone on this listserve is not only tiresome, it is actually breaking one of the Green Party’s key values. We are a group of people brought together by a common goal and shared purpose. We seek to create connections between us that can help us in this work, not artificial divisions. With respect, I would like to request that you tone down your extremely harsh and violent communications on this peace-seeking listserve.

Re: Crossroads.

At the last meeting we did not vote to love Crossroads forever. I personally hate the idea (hate: a very non-Gandhian concept. One I am working on, but truly, I hate the idea of Crossroads). However, what we decided at the meeting was that it might not be useful to be 100% against the idea if that precludes us from working to make it better if it has to happen.

Happily, since that meeting there has been a wonderful groundswell of anti-Crossroads sentiment. It seems to me that we should jump on that boat and see how far it carries us. If it looks, sadly, like Crossroads will happen, we can implement our original plan to try to make it a paragon of Green and green design. This is just my opinion – what does everyone else think?

And finally – as has been pointed out many times by many of us – you are incorrect when you say that “Crossroads has gotten this far without people knowing about it.” We have been talking about it at GP meetings for months. I have been reading articles in the paper about it for months. As Jason pointed out in a message to the list recently, he worked on the project when he was mayor last year and discussed it a little with us. It seems that the “people not knowing about it” you are referring to might just be, unfortunately, you. The reason there is more public discussion about it now is because the public comment period is starting.

I love conspiracy theories and subscribe to pretty much every crazy nutjob leftist one out there, but I do not believe that there is a giant Democratic conspiracy to see Crossroads built. Even if there is, I would prefer to work for or against the project believing that our elected leaders are flawed people truly trying to do what is best for the town.

Humbly yours in shared Green values,

We don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an endless succession of presents, and to live now as we think humans should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory. – Howard Zinn

(Hey look! The stupid “automatically generated” related post is by me!!)

4 Responses to “Crossroads, nonviolence, and the Green Party”

  1. Parke Burgess

    I spent some time (not much) in Green Party meetings several years ago and found them to be every bit as political and, in that sense, violent as other party machines. Most everyone there was interested in the project of consolidating power, albeit with a far better underlying philosophy than the Dems or Republicans.

    I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that third party politics is not much better than mainstream politics in advancing a truly nonviolent society. I suggest a more radical approach, such as building “dual power” alternative institutions.

  2. lagusta

    Thank you for your thoughts, Parke. Your book looks awesome!

    Though you are most likely right, I feel that we’re currently stuck in a political party system, so at least I can join the party that most represents my views. I have seen some GP chapters that are extremely concerned with consolidating power and “playing the game” just as much as the mainstream two parties, but happily our little New Paltz Green Party is full of true radicals who always keep the bottom line – steering our little town in a truly green direction, in all senses of the word – in mind and (with some notable exceptions) don’t usually get caught up in politicking. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that most of the ones really doing the work (instead of seeking and wielding power) are women…

    That said: dual power – how fascinating! I just did some Googling on it and am smitten. I do think there are ways for the Green Party (at least my little chapter of it) and a dual power philosophy to coexist. I will continue to research and think about it, thanks so much for the idea.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: