As I was driving into Philadelphia last month to represent North Carolina at the 2002 U.S. Green Party convention, I started thinking about why I was doing it. I joined the Green Party because I knew I could make a difference, and I like to think that I'm participating in a new revolution in American politics, not unlike the one that happened so many years ago in Philadelphia. In the Green Party, it is the members of the party who run things, not the corporations that give the most money. This was going to be a chance for my voice to be heard, where my opinions will mean something. This past spring at our state convention, the N.C. Green Party voted to become a member of the USGP, and we were accepted as the 39th state to join the national group. This will allow us to help guide the direction of the national party in ways such as helping determine our national candidates in 2004. When I arrived at the convention and was introduced as the delegate from North Carolina, the other delegates were happy to see that the Green message was spreading across the South. The party's foundation is 10 key values that cover our commitment to social progressiveness, ecological wisdom and personal responsibility.
At a reception Thursday evening, delegates running for office were given time to speak about their races. There are 409 Green Party members running for office in 40 states, and 30 of them spoke. Several talked about the need for more citizen involvement in our local governments and the need for openness of the political process. The positions they were seeking ranged from a register of deeds in Maine to superintendent of public instruction in Georgia, from governor and lieutenant governor in California to soil and water conservation supervisor in Mecklenburg County, N.C. (me).
My favorite was a woman who is running for lieutenant governor of Alaska. Diane Benson is a Native American Alaskan grandmother who decided to run after her son enlisted in the Army after Sept. 11. She has had to endure taunts and derision from her fellow natives and even her family because she is running against a Democrat. She said the Democrats are running scared because they know the Green Party has taken the lead on many social issues the Democrats have abandoned as they try to appear more centrist. Benson stressed that Alaska needs to find ways to get off the oil gravy train and for natives to receive such basics as indoor plumbing. Democrats across the country are upset to find Green Party competition. In California, the incumbent Democratic governor refuses to be on the same stage, much less debate, with Peter Camejo, a first-generation American who Ronald Reagan listed as one of the state's most dangerous people because of his strong defense of immigrant rights.
Roy Williams, an African American from Texas who is running for Senate, said he decided to run because his part of Texas, which has a large minority community, had become the state's dumping ground. We also heard from several Greens who are already in office, such as Mike Feinstein (mayor of Santa Monica, Calif.), Dean Zimmerman (city council member in Minneapolis) and Joyce Chen (alderwoman in New Haven, Conn.).
Friday night was headlined with a speech by Ralph Nader, but there also was music and plenty of other speakers. Michael Morrill, who is running for governor of Pennsylvania, spoke about the need for universal health care and equally funded schools, so all our children will receive a good education, not just the ones who live in the richer parts of Pennsylvania. Donna Warren, who is running for lieutenant governor of California, spoke of the need for a living wage instead of a minimum wage, and for affordable daycare for working families. Nader started out with a strong condemnation of the corporations that are running our political process and then moved into a rally for opening up the political process to all Americans, not just the ones who support the two big parties. He spoke about Election Day voter registration and the abominable practice of excluding those with a criminal record from exercising their right to vote.
When I left, I realized we have a challenge here in North Carolina. We have some of the toughest ballot access laws in the United States. To get on the ballot we have to collect 60,000 signatures from registered voters, and once we are on, we have to get 10 percent of the vote in the next statewide election to stay on the ballot. We have chapters from one end of the state to the other working on this project; one of our most active chapters is in the Triangle. You can contact the local chapter at (919) 286-2056, or check out our Web site at: www.greens.org/nc.
"Catfish are hitting small bream, goldfish and big minnows on trotlines. White bass are hitting Roostertails."
--Excerpt from a fishing report from the Arkansas Game and Fish CommissionPlease send all tips, digs, cheers and fish recipes to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call Richard Hart at 286-1972 ext. 134.
Trotline is illustrated by V.C. Rogers.