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Swetland/My Turn: The state of local politics

I, like probably most Americans, have been disgusted with national partisan debates that have little or nothing to with improving our lot as citizens.

At the same time, I am appalled at the bipartisan foreign policy that is a state of permanent war and intervention that, according to international polling, has given this country the reputation as being the biggest threat to world peace. One could easily come to the conclusion that all politics are a fruitless attempt at self-deception and then try to become blissfully unaware and go about one’s personal business unaffected. In fact, a large proportion of the U.S. population does just that.

I believe that on a local level, where tremendous amounts of corporate money is not strewn around to corrupt all sides of some useless debate, inklings of citizen democracy still exists. In fact, what I have seen from the present Town Council under the leadership of Mark Wisnewski is an attempt to open up the whole process of governance to deeper citizen participation and input. Many of the present discussions and proposals were initiated by citizens themselves and not simply the whim of the mayor or a council member.

Apparently, there are some out there who believe that this openness lacks “balance.” I think that this is a transparent argument to try to shoehorn an articulate right-wing Republican voice on a committee or on the council itself. Do we locally really want to clone our failed national two-party system in miniature on the Town Council? Do we truly want to give Republican Party operative Isaac Mass or other Republicans a vote and power on the Town Council because we need “balance?”

Of course, there will be those who say that this is a nonpartisan race so one’s party affiliation is irrelevant. How ridiculous can that concept be, as though one can put on and take off one’s ideology like a winter coat. As I am a severe critic of corporate Democrats, I also don’t think that one should underestimate the damage the Republican Party does to national discourse. Nationally Republican operatives have disrupted school boards through anti-Darwin “intelligent design” pseudo-arguments (see Michele Bachmann). Nine states are actually wasting taxpayers’ money discussing “Anti-Sharia” laws virtually all proposed by Republicans. Can one get much more paranoid than that? Crybaby Republican Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner stated that he would commit suicide before he would raise the minimum wage! This is not balance, this is illness.

I recently attended a celebration of the tremendous victory of the Massachusetts Nurses Association in its contract dispute with the hospital. Attending that celebration was a good proportion of the Town Council. What a great feeling to actually have a number of elected officials who blatantly support these union members without apology! Absent that meeting was the mayor, Mass and those who The Recorder has recently donned as “town leaders” and as far as I could discern any local Republicans.

Candidate Mass has stated he wants to fight crime and poverty. One could start by supporting trade unions, like our nurses, which have been the most effective anti-poverty organizations in U.S. history. One could call on the beloved Wal-Mart to pay a living wage so that a portion of its employees don’t need to resort to food stamps to survive. As for crime, one could call on Wal-Mart or any other big box store that may or may not come to Greenfield to cease a desist any illegal anti-union activity which they are famous for. That is fighting poverty and crime. But it also contradicts everything the Republican Party stands for, which in the real world boils down to being a mouthpiece for corporate propaganda.

This certainly is not a personal attack on Mass or any other Republican that will be running in the upcoming election. Most of us have maintained cordial relations with many people with odd or contrary or even fantastic beliefs but that are different than being responsible (by voting) for placing someone in power. I know this sounds old-fashioned, but as responsible citizens we need to be cognizant of who we put in power. As bad as the Democratic Party can be, the Republicans have produced such a blizzard of false debates based on racism, xenophobia, fantasy and out-and-out paranoia that most psychologists would probably diagnose them as “unbalanced.” Should the voters change the Greenfield Town Council at the risk of looking as ridiculous and foolish, as our present Congress (where two-thirds of the country polled believe it is on the wrong track) all in the name of “balance?”

With all the grave problems that Greenfield faces, voters should stay a mile away from those whose organizations (i.e. the Republican Party) that disparage workers and professionals like our nurses and teachers, like our firefighters, postal workers and garbage collectors and that want to destroy their collective bargaining rights. These and other workers and professionals are our neighbors and friends and the true cogs that keep the gears of our country functioning.

Let’s take advantage of what little democracy we have left and get out the vote in June to reject the corporate apologists and retain our honest representatives.

Tom Swetland is a Greenfield resident.

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