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Synthesis/Regeneration 22   (Spring 2000)

A Green Presidential Primary

Stephen Gaskin for President

[Stephen Gaskin is a candidate for the Green Party nomination for US President. –Editor]

I support all the stuff that’s in the Green Party platform, with emphasis on these planks:

Plank 1. Universal Health Care.

Everyone gets taken care of while we argue about the money. Immediately, in this rich country, we should start treating everyone, and planning how to share the expense fairly as we proceed. Health care must be taken away from the drug-industrial complex and returned to people, practitioners, and consumers. Alternative treatments which give greater responsibility to individuals for their own health must be promoted. I believe the crisis in individual health is related to the critical state of health of our planet. The environmental damage suffered by the planet is reflected in every living thing that draws its life from that same planet.

Treating our own bodies in a more natural and healthy way, along with stopping and repairing the damage to Mother Earth, is a key part of raising the standard of health on a global scale.

Plank 2. Campaign Finance & Election Reform.

The Airwaves belong to the people, and everybody gets a say. The people need to have choices in their political system that allow for broader representation and full citizen participation. Proportional representation is one way that’s been pretty successful in Europe in giving people a share of the say-so in return for whatever vote they cast. Campaign spending needs to be capped, political action committees and lobbying groups need to be controlled, and the networks need to give up enough time for the people to run their elections, free.

Plank 3. Choice in Education.

Let’s educate the kids now, through junior college, on merit and argue about the money later. With all the money we save on elections, we can finally start educating our kids for the 21st century. Technology needs to be available to every kid that has an interest, whether they live in a government housing project or Indian reservation, or a middle class suburb. If people want to educate their children at home, we need to support them to do the best job they can.

If 10, 12 or 20 families want to get together and create a neighborhood school, then they should get the funding and the advice and the materials to help them do that. We need to be teaching conflict resolution and emotional literacy in all classrooms, and helping children to explore and accept the different ways of being in the world so that we can start producing more balanced, more satisfied human beings.

Plank 4. Decriminalize Marijuana.

Give amnesty to all simple marijuana prisoners who are not involved with guns or hard drugs.As part of a total system of justice reform, we must address the half million dissidents imprisoned for the victimless crime of simple marijuana possession. We need to immediately decriminalize marijuana possession and release these prisoners, granting them amnesty and full return of their Constitutional rights. These folks can then help vote for things like repeal of mandatory drug testing, expanded treatment and counseling, prison education and job training, repeal of the death penalty, and a bunch of other changes that need to happen in this area.

Plank 5. A Corporation is Not a Person.

People are more important than profits. It’s obvious that we have to start regulating the unreasonable power and resources wielded by corporate interests. There’s a bad piece of policy out there that allows a corporation the same rights as a person, and guarantees its freedom of speech to be exercised through its money. Runaway corporations are a big part of the reason why we barely have a middle class anymore—it’s pretty much Bill Gates or welfare. I think big national chain stores need to sell stuff made by locals as cheap as they sell the stuff made in Taiwan, and start giving artists, craftspeople, and small entrepreneurs a chance. We don’t need more dead-end jobs, we need more opportunities for people to support themselves by their honest talents and labor, and we need the big corporations to stop gobbling up all the markets and all the resources and putting everybody to work for them.

Plank 6. Fix the Veterans’ Benefit System.

When somebody goes off and fights for their country, risks their life and maybe gets a little messed up in the process, then their country needs to make sure they’re taken care of when they get back. Vets shouldn’t have to hassle to get their benefits. The G.I. bill should provide full educational benefits, and medical care, alternative employment, counseling and rehabilitation should be a priority for all veterans.

Plank 7. Equal Rights Amendment for Women.

We gave women the vote, now let’s give them the benefits. It’s hard for me to believe in this day and time that women do not automatically receive full, fair and equal treatment under the law. And it’s unthinkable for this kind of gender discrimination to continue. Women—and their children—are the future of the planet, and we need to start treating them with the respect and devotion they deserve. Women not only have to receive the same privileges and opportunities as men, but they also must receive greater support for their role as mothers. There have to be more liberal policies for sick leave, vacation time, on-site daycare, and time-sharing to give women the maximum support in caring for their children. Motherhood is a positive, productive service provided to the human race; it needs to be recognized as such, compensated as such, and supported by everyone else on the planet.

Stephen 2000: Background

Stephen F. Gaskin was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1935. He served three years in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, where he saw combat for several months. He received his BA degree cum laude in English and Creative Writing in 1962, and his MA in Language Arts in 1964, both from San Francisco State College (now University). After serving as an instructor in Creative Writing and General Semantics for two years at San Francisco State (1964-1966), he began what came to be known as Monday Night Class. This weekly meeting started with six people and within three years was drawing 1500 mostly young people to participate in discussions about politics, religion, psychedelic drugs, sex, and the Vietnam War.

In 1970, Gaskin spoke at a San Francisco conference attended by preachers from throughout the country. They persuaded him to organize a speaking tour later that year of 42 of their towns and cities. He made the several-month tour with his family in a school bus camper, accompanied by about 300 Monday Night Class participants who petitioned to come along in 60 campers. The Caravan became the largest counterculture community in the nation before parking in the spring of 1971 in rural Tennessee, where Caravaners pooled their money to buy a 1750-acre tract of hilly, wooded land.

The Farm, as it came to be called, turned out to be the fastest-growing intentional community of the 1960s and 1970s, rising to 1300 people by 1977.

All Farm members agreed to eschew alcohol, tobacco, animal products, and welfare. The newcomers to Tennessee grew their own food and created their own housing, water system, midwifery service, primary health care system, paramedic and ambulance service, and telephone system. The Farm is internationally famous for at least three major accomplishments: that it survives nearly three decades after its founding, that it popularized tofu and soy-milk as the basis of delicious vegetarian cuisine, and that its midwifery service published its excellent maternal and infant outcomes, accomplishing these results with extremely low rates of Cesarean section and other obstetrical interventions.

In 1974 Gaskin founded and served as first Chairman of the Board of Directors of Plenty International, an international relief and development organization that, among other projects, helped rebuild 1200 houses and many schools, and installed water pipes to many village neighborhoods after the devastating Guatemala earthquake of 1976. Other projects were carried out in Lesotho, Belize and southern Mexico. Plenty projects in the United States included the South Bronx Ambulance service in New York City, which cut the ambulance response time from 45 minutes to 7 minutes.

In 1974 Gaskin and three other Farm members served 1 to 3-year sentences in the Tennessee State Penitentiary as a result of some members having planted marijuana shortly after settling on the land. Gaskin's book, Rendered Infamous, recounts this period of his life. A class action suit on Gaskin's behalf returned voting rights to more than a quarter of a million convicts. Gaskin is the 1980 winner of the First Right Livelihood Award from the Right Livelihood Foundation (Europe's Alternative Nobel Prize). He has authored 10 books and currently serves as general manager and production director of Birth Gazette, a midwifery quarterly. He is founder of Rocinante, a community project for aging activists combined with a birth center and midwifery service.

Gaskin campaign website: http://www.stephen2000.org/

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