October 2015

A change in thinking for the Greens

By Art Goodtimes

BUILDING FROM THE BOTTOM It’s taken a number of years. The entire membership of the state Green Party has changed since I joined in 1998. We’ve always been an idealistic crew. Tree-huggers, yes. But social justice people, too. And peace marchers, feminists, anti-frackers, grassroots activists. What’s new are the people of color joining the movement. The strong women stepping up into leadership … One of the main points of contention at this year’s annual state meet was an issue that hasn’t been clearly resolved since the state party formed 20 years ago. What is our mission statement? Are we an electoral party that seeks to propel its candidates into winning campaigns? Or are we an educational group that runs as many (losing) candidates as we can field to inform the electorate about our progressive alternative and give them a clear choice? … Back in 2000 there were two Green Parties on the national level – one that wanted to focus on electoral politics and another that wanted to focus on Green organizing, Green demonstrating, Green educating. Thanks to a lot of people’s work, including then-Colorado State Green Party co-chair Dean Myerson, a new Green Party dedicated to electoral politics held its first national convention in Denver in 2000 – the Green Party of the United States (with the unhappy acronym of GPUS). Over the years the other national Green group faded from the scene. But its goal of educating over electing is still the prevailing mindset of many GPUS state and national members. Thus, one sees Green Party candidates for president, governor, senator and representatives in many states like Colorado, but hardly any Green candidates for county elected office, school boards or town councils. It’s a focus I’ve been trying to change for years. My mantra has been “Let’s build the party from the bottom up” … Of course, many are impatient. “There’s no time to work from the bottom,” they insist. They see so many things wrong with our country, from the deeply flawed structure of its electoral system to our corporate sweetheart trade deals, our blindness to climate change and our paralysis in addressing it, etc., etc … But I want us to be true to the first of our 10 Key Values – and that’s grassroots democracy. We need to start winning elections at the only place we have even a fighting chance in an electoral system completely stacked against minor parties – at the local level … Since I’ve walked that talk, I speak not out of theory, but out of practice. And I see it as the best strategy, in a flawed system, to get us back to some kind of social harmony that might have a chance of sustainability in the future challenges that face us. We need a baker’s dozen or two of local elected Green officials in each state before we should even attempt to run candidates for state and national offices … Or maybe we should bring back fusion, which got outlawed in Colorado back in 1901, although it’s still legal in New York State – where candidates can get political backing and endorsements from multiple parties. So the Greens could support Bernie Sanders, just like the progressive Democrats do … Those suggestions used to seem heretical to the Green Party fundamentalists, worried about “diluting the purity of our message” and losing our special outsider status. But this year’s newly elected state co-chairs get the balance between ideological purity and practical action. They don’t want to give up organizing, supporting just causes, tabling at progressive gatherings, educating. But they also see the wisdom of winning at the local level. Of becoming a party of winners. not losers. They are coming round to seeing electing Greens as our primary mission. It’s a significant step forward …

THE TALKING GOURD

Making Peace With
Alien Undesirables

for Katrina Blair

Weeds are plants we fear
& so scapegoat. See through
demon eyes

One day all gifts of
the plant kin-dom will be recognized
as Pandora’s true joys

As affordances in the dance
of reciprocal appropriation
So, regardless of how

far the colonizers love
to roam or fast they proliferate
let’s celebrate how

they green bare ground
Eat catastrophes’ wastes. Seal
heal & energize

DIGGING UP POTATOES … “There is no way to know what we’ll find beneath the yellowing leaves. And always I forget which varieties I’ve planted and where. And so, when the Finnish fingerlings appear just below the surface, I thrill in their golden skin and knobby shapes, and when the dark purple potatoes emerge from the depths of the garden bed, by then, I am already kneeling, but something inside kneels, too – oh the russet and red-skinned and pinkfleshed miracle of it all, the sheer delight of running my fingers through the dirt and pulling out potatoes, each one somehow a surprise, a small reminder of how beautifully the world can work, how the darkness nourishes such incredible gifts. Ten hours since I left the garden, and whatever inside me knew to kneel is still enthralled in prayer.” — Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Western Slope poet Laureate

SHERIFF DUNLAP … This past summer was the 80th anniversary of the slaying of Dolores County Sheriff W.W. Dunlap by convicted murderer Otis McDaniels near Placerville. McDaniels managed to slip the gun out of the holster of a deputized citizen accompanying Dunlap and McDaniels from Glenwood Springs, where he and his brother had been arrested, to trial in Cortez. McDaniels shot Dunlap at point-blank range and the two brothers escaped into the mountains … Ironically, the Dolores County commissioners appointed Jessie Robinson as sheriff in Dunlap’s place. Robinson, a ranchman with a spread on the Bear Creek section of the upper Dolores Valley, was the father of my eldest son’s grandma.

LIVING THE LIFE … David J. Rothman is one of those renaissance men. A marvelous poet and performer, he’s firmly entrenched in Academia, running a graduate writing program and teaching courses at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison. He’s been an alpine racer, a musician, a mountain sports journalist, and a ski & snowboard academy headmaster. He co-founded the Crested Butte Music Festival, is a noted Robinson Jeffers scholar and serves as poet-in-residence for Colorado Public Radio … It’s not surprising then that he’s also an author who’s written a series of essays that he calls “Tales from America’s Mountains & Ski Towns” and which represents one of the best collections of stories about why so many of us love our lives living in the mountains … Telluride is the focus of one of the 38 pieces, and yes he mentions several of his friends (including yours truly), but it’s Lance Waring who stands out in the tale, sharing single malts and smoking fine cigars in the rain under the roof beside the free box … David even comes up with a new moniker for a To-Hell-U-Ride resident – Telluridean. I’m partial to Tellurider, but I’ve seen lots of variation of locals’ names, and David’s seems as good as any … As former ace columnist Peter Shelton notes, David’s book “ranges from satire to whimsy to the profoundly grateful and the essential questioning … Only David Rothman would put Petrarch in a story about skiing’s earthly enjoyment” … David’s book will take you to lots of (probably) familiar places but with many a Rothmanesque twist. As David himself explains in his introduction, “We are a community, as the anthropologist Clifford Geertz suggests, because we understand these stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.” Living the Life (Conundrum Press, 2013) is not only understandable, but it’s downright fun. Highly recommended.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel, Colo., County commissioner.