Editor’s note: Kat Williams gave the following speech as Commentator for a Workshop at the U.S. Green Party’s annual convention in 2012 (the Presidential nominating convention) in Baltimore on Friday, July 13. The standing-room-only Workshop discussed a proposed “Open Letter to the American People.”
My name is Kat Williams.
I am a feminist.
I am pro-choice.
I am in favor of marriage equality.
I believe that men and women should make equal pay for equal work.
I am in favor of campaign finance reform.
I believe it is crucial that individuals participate in politics in any way they can.
I am in favor of free speech and believe that media reform is vital.
I believe everyone deserves clean air and water, and I deplore mountain top removal.
I am in favor of peace and disarmament.
I demand that my civil liberties be restored.
I most certainly do Not believe that corporations are people.
AND, LIKE YOU,
I believe that there are 2 sides to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
BUT, I am NOT a registered Green.
There are a lot of people like me and I want to talk about what I hope this letter to the American people will do to lure me and others like me, to the Green Party. My participation in this workshop came about after a conversation I had with John Rensenbrink a year ago in which I asked him, “Why am I not a Green?” I continued to ponder this question and over the course of the last few months have had many conversations with friends and acquaintances about this topic and asked them (because they too agree with most of your platform) the same question and in nearly every single case they pointed to fear.
PEOPLE GRIPPED BY FEAR
What will happen if the Democrats lose?What will become of women’s rights if the Republicans win? What about healthcare? Who will make the next supreme court appointments? How could we survive the republican war machine? All questions and fears I grapple with too.
Then I realized that in our minds, you, the Green Party, is being defined by that fear. People don’t know you, they don’t know what you have accomplished or just how you can make a difference in their lives so they define you based on what they DON’T know about you.
And as we all know the fear of the unknown can be petrifying.
It is my hope that this letter to the American people will be disseminated widely. That it will speak to the basic needs of individuals in small towns and communities around the country. I honestly believe that there are thousands of people who want the change you offer.
But until we know you, understand you and believe that you really can be an alternative to the power and corruption of the two-party system, we will continue to stick with what we know, the lesser of two evils, because to do other- wise is simply too scary.
THINGS GREENS CAN DO
But, I do think there are things the Greens can do to help us get past this fear. And, I believe that this letter to the American people will be a huge step in addressing some of the issues at the crux of those fears.
First, and I know you all have heard this many times: a vote for a Green party candidate in a national election is a “throw away” vote.
On a national level perhaps it is. I am most certainly not the first person to point this out to you, but the Green party does not have the money to compete with the two major parties. So, if all people know of you is your national efforts, then clearly they do not know you at all or how you can and many cases already do, govern on the local level.
Tell us about your successes.
Second, many people believe you are a movement, and a movement with only one cause, the environment.
I live in West Virginia and I know how important it is to protect the environment. Our air and water are polluted every single day by the coal companies. In fact, the individual group with the lowest life expectancy in this country is women from McDowel County, WV. We know the reasons, pollution. But, if you venture into McDowel County, WV and talk to them about politics, they will tell you that the Republicans help the coal operators and the Democrats help the unions.
“What,” you could ask, “about the Green Party?”
And, you will likely get a response like this one, “Who? You mean those environmentalists? They are going to take our jobs. Do away with coal. They can save all the owls they want, just leave their hands off my job.”
The people there need hope. They need an alternative because trust me when I tell you neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are looking out for them.
Tell those folks what you can do for them.
I am not suggesting that environmental issues should be ignored, also take the time to explain your jobs plan, your ideas about tax equality, about job retraining and yes, explore with them their biggest concerns. I promise you your republican and democratic counterparts aren’t doing that for those people.
McDowel County, WV is not the only place you are needed of course. Tell all of us what you do, who you are. Sing your own praises. When and where did you get a candidate elected and what did she or he do? Show us that you have experience and know how to lead. Give us the alternative we so desperately seek but are so afraid to take.
This letter to the American people lists seven things we, Americans, can do. But few of them are things most people will do without guidance or support.
Be that guidance.
• You urge us to get involved in our community, will you help us organize? Show us how? Come into our communities and teach us about organizing?
• You urge us to support changes in election laws and fight for easier access to third parties. How do we do that and where do we start?
• You ask us to join the movement to amend the US Constitution to assure that only individual human beings and not corporations are persons in the eyes of the law. Fine. I agree. Show us how?
• You ask us to vote for those we believe in, but that is the problem. We can only believe in what we know or understand. Help us to know you.
• You ask us to use our vote wisely, and only vote for those candidates and political parties who do not take corporate money. But we don’t even know who those candidates are. Teach us.
• You urge us to run for office, but few of us have the time or can afford to run for even a small local office. But, with help we can learn. Will you help us?
• You say we should support the independent media, to be the media if necessary. Are you willing to sponsor workshops that show us how to tell our stories?
It is not enough to give us things to do without leading the way. Most of us want to be that kind of change but have no idea where to start.
I urge YOU to be the leadership we need.
Editor’s Note: On returning from the Green Party convention in Baltimore, Kat Williams un-enrolled in the Democratic Party of West Virginia and enrolled in the Mountain Party of West Virginia, an affiliate of the Green Party of the United States.