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An Open Letter to Pete Seeger

October 21, 2006

 

Dear Pete:

 

 

Thursday evening October 19th I attended “The First Annual David Dellinger Lecture on Nonviolence” hosted by the War Resisters League and others at the Judson Memorial Church off Washington Square in New York City. Attending were luminaries of anti-war, civil liberties, and civil and human rights struggles going back over 60 years — struggles to which you have contributed so much. Among those attending were George Houser, Ralph DiGia, David McReynolds, Frida Berrigan and others who I now do not remember or didn’t recognize. These are not household names in America. However, those of us who have been involved know them, and History will note the difference they have made.

Like so many meetings over the years that cumulatively have ended up achieving so much over time, this was not a huge gathering. There are never enough people, or enough youth, or enough diversity. But we also never have realized until later the power that we have from our commitment to principle and the difference we can make over time with dedication and perseverance —- by keeping our “eye on the prize”. Like so many meetings you have attended over the years, there was a talk and some discussion and songs. We nourished ourselves from the long struggle we have had and for that we have yet before us.

Staughton Lynd (historian, lawyer, and long-time activist) spoke on “Resistance to War in a Volunteer Army”. Although Staughton is a Quaker and a pacifist, he discussed the case of LT. Ehren Watada, the officer who presently is facing court martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq. Ehren Watada takes his stand, not as a pacifist or conscientious objector, but on the grounds that the war is aggressive, unjust and illegal. He argues that his refusal to deploy is his legal obligation. He is fulfilling his responsibilities that are mandated under the principles and precedents of the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, which also is the position for which I was imprisoned for draft Resistance during Vietnam. Ehren does not seek an accommodation of his conscience alone. If Ehren were successful in his court case that his order to deploy is illegal given its current application, the war would have to be declared illegal. Staughton Lynd’s speech discussed how Watada’s position perhaps offered the best hope of mobilizing opposition to war in order to “bring the troops home”. (see The Nation’s site http://www.thenation.com/doc/20061106/soldiers_of_conscience or see CommonDreams.org site at http://www.commondreams.org/views06/1020-27.htm for the whole speech.)

 

I returned home to Rockland County after this inspiring gathering to find I had received your e-mail entitled “Bring Them Home” written on behalf of voting the Working Families Party line in New York as “the best way to tell the politicians, bring them home, bring them home”. I strongly disagree with this assessment: and I hope I can change your mind and convince you to support the statewide Peace Slate of the Green Party.

 

Unfortunately, despite many good people in the Working Families Party, I do not think they have kept their “eye on the prize” — at least “the prize” that we value and for which we strive. The day after I read your e-mail, I sent you a quick note (with the promise of more to come) to express my surprise and disappointment. I enclosed a copy of an e-mail from an activist within the Working Families Party, who also is a peace activist, in response to your appeal. He said, in part that “while the WFP is a fine party, and represents many fine candidates, they are NOT where you want to be if you want to send a message of ‘bring the troops home now’”. Also, I enclosed the comments of David McReynold’s, who “in 2004 … urged those in ‘close states’ to vote for Kerry”, but earlier this month refused to forward to his mailing lists an appeal from the Working Families Party. His main concern is that the Working Families Party rejected the candidacy of Jonathan Tasini, and it has supported Hillary Clinton despite her continuing support of the Iraq war and occupation, her failure in the area of civil liberties, and her uncritical support of Israel. In refusing to support the Working Families Party, he asks them “ what in the world do you stand for?” Whatever the merit of their founding principles, many people feel the Working Families Party has lost their way, and it does not offer either a real alternative or even credible leverage on the major parties. It “sells” its line too cheaply. It seems to have made its single issue and focus the “living wage” for those contracting with governmental entities.

 

Many of us have been attending demonstrations, writing letters to the editor and vigiling weekly in our communities for nearly four years. There are about 51 on-going vigils in the lower Hudson Valley area alone. For example, see www.RocklandAction.org First, we tried to prevent the invasion of Iraq. Then, we continued to try to end the war and occupation by vigiling for immediate withdrawal. Much of public sentiment has shifted to the realization that we were led into war by lies, and we must find a way out. However, we lack the alternative political means to effectuate the changes wanted and needed, and we lack the political leverage to move the candidates of the major powers towards our agenda. The Working Families Party in New York shares the blame for that failure. They may “talk the talk” in terms of being anti-war. etc., but then look at the candidates they put on their line.

 

While claiming to be anti-war, the Working Families party has rejected Jonathan Tasini in favor of pro-war Hillary Clinton. Fortunately, Howie Hawkins is the Green Party candidate running for the Senate seat from New York. He has a strong anti-war position and is for a more even-handed policy in the Middle East. He is for single payer national health insurance, and rational environmental and energy policies for a sustainable society, etc. See his site at www.HawkinsForSenate.org Not only is Howie right on the issues for which we have struggled for years, with a vote for him and against pro-war Hillary Clinton, the anti-war protest dent in Hillary’s vote we can make will send a strong message which may even affect what candidates we may have in the 2008 presidential race.

 

On the other statewide races, the Working Families Party merely has given their line to the Democratic Party candidates — including pro-death penalty, private health insurance Spitzer for Governor. I know you support John Hall in the 19th Congressional District; in fact, you are attending a benefit for him this weekend in Beacon, New York. Yet, he is not on the Working Families Party line. In another race in Rockland County where I live, we have a Democratic candidate, Nancy Low-Hogan, challenging the long entrenched Republican/Conservative endorsed Thomas P. Morahan for the State Senate in the 38th Senate District. The Working Families Party also has given Morahan their line instead of the Democratic candidate. There may be some good local Working Families Party candidates elsewhere in the state deserving endorsement, but that does not necessitate or justify endorsing their statewide Democratic candidates who do not speak to our concerns.

 

Where is the Working Families Party going if they don’t offer us real alternatives? Are there any principles involved anymore? Or is it just getting on-board with perceived “winners”? Isn’t it time we start building what we believe? “Lesser-evil” voting over the years has moved our choices so far to the right that now many Richard Nixon positions are starting to look good. Was Nixon the last “liberal”? It is time to move the agenda back.

 

Steve Siegelbaum, a member of Walkabout Clearwater Chorus, wrote a song “Let’s Have A Party” awhile back with which you are probably familiar. It says in part:

 

 

Chorus #1

Let’s have a party, a party

A people’s party we can call our own

You invite your friends. I’ll invite mine

We don’t need to go it all alone

 

Chorus #2

Let’s have a party, a party

A people’s party we can call our own

You invite your friends. I’ll invite mine

See how we’ve already grown

……………………………

…. Before things get much worse, now is just the time to start

 

I urge you to reconsider your support for the Working Families Party – at least in terms of their endorsement of the statewide Democratic Candidates. We can do better. We must do better. Those candidates do not reflect what we believe and need. It is deceptive to say that a vote for the Working Families Party is an anti-war vote. Their candidates do not reflect that representation, and do not reflect what we need in other areas like health and the environment.

 

This is not 2004. This is not 2008. We are not in a situation where for some it may appear valid or necessary to consider “lesser-evil” voting. We need to send a message, and we have an opportunity in New York to send a message for what we believe. We need to vote for the Green Party that actually advocates what we believe. We need to grow the Green Party in New York. We need to build the alternative political forces that can express our struggles and gather us into a cohesive and principled force to at least leverage our power to move the agenda towards our beliefs and eventually effectuate the changes we need. See http://www.gpnys.org (The Green Party of New York State)

 

 

In the alternative to the Working Families Party, I urge you to support the following statewide Green party Candidates:

Malachy McCourt for Governor – http://www.votemalachymccourt.org
(If there are 50,000 votes on the Governor’s line, the Green party will achieve ballot status with an automatic line on the ballot for the next 4 years: and, thus, enhance its political leverage.)
Alison Duncan for Lieutenant Governor –
www.alisonduncan.org
Julia Willebrand for Comptroller
Rachel Treicher for Attorney General –
http://www.voterachel.org/
Howie Hawkins for U.S. Senate – http://www.hawkinsforsenate.org/
Green Party of N.Y. State – http://www.gpnys.org

 

Thank you for your consideration of this appeal.

 

 

In Solidarity for Peace and Justice,

 

 

 

 

David Mitchell

Rockland County

 

 

 

P.S. I have lawn/highway signs: One for “McCOURT FOR GOVERNOR”, and the other

“HAWKINS US SENATE – TROOPS HOME NOW”. If I’ve convinced you, I deliver. I can drive a little further up the Hudson to deliver them for your lawn.

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