Indivisible Saugerties group takes shape

Congressman John Faso didn’t schedule any local town hall meetings during the February recess, so local activists held their own (photo by Dan Barton)

People have been worked up about the goings-on in Washington, DC since the new president was inaugurated. Saugertiesians are no exception. It doesn’t feel like anybody who’s paying attention is neutral, whether they approve of what’s happening or not.

Right after the elections, some congressional staffers who watched the Tea Party build a highly effective and successful movement around resistance to president Barack Obama got the message and went to work. They created a document called the Indivisible Guide, available online (www.indivisibleguide.org) as a primer for resistance, this time to the Trump agenda. It targets, as did the Tea Party, members of Congress and senators. It explains how to get them to listen and modify their positions if they have a hankering to get re-elected.

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A couple of months ago, Saugerties activist Virginia Luppino put out the word that there would be an Indivisible meeting in Saugerties at Inquiring Minds bookstore. From long experience with tepid responses to such events, she expected eight people. Over eighty turned up.

Several attendees offered to help Luppino organize a local chapter of Indivisible. A website, Facebook page, and mailing list instantly materialized.

A second meeting was scheduled for two weeks later at a local church. Word spread. Again, eighty people (about half newcomers) packed the parish hall. People began voicing their concerns over immigration, environmental and healthcare issues, among others.

A small group formed a team to organize a town-hall event to which congressman John Faso would be invited. The steering team met the following week to talk about how to channel all this energy by encouraging teams to form around the issues people care about.

The third meeting, held in the community room of the Saugerties Library, was attended by over eighty people once again. Four teams did indeed form, with more expected in the future.

By the time this column runs, a fourth meeting will have been held, with continued monthly meetings planned.

Representatives to Congress usually hold town-hall events back in their districts during recess weeks. Faso has publicly declined to hold any, saying they are “unproductive.”

Many people just want him to listen. “Faso-less” town halls are springing up without him. He is invited, of course, but the meeting will go forward if he doesn’t come anyway.

The group is explicitly non-partisan and inclusive. The motto is “Leave your political party identification at the door.” Indivisible Saugerties is here to resist the Trump (and I would say also the Tea-Party) agenda. It encourages anyone with its concerns to join. If you’re interested, you can get more information by visiting the website: www.indivisiblesaugerties.wordpress.com. There are already over 250 Saugertiesians on the mailing list.

While I am an active and involved supporter of this group, I also have a larger vision that the group might foster. It would involve more than resistance. As important as it is to protect our hard-won gains in environmental safeguards, healthcare, civil rights and other vital areas, I feel that finding a way for people who see these issues differently to talk respectfully with each other is even more important. However we feel about politics at the national level, the most important thing is that we don’t feel at odds with our neighbors.

Respect is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to develop an understanding of each other’s perspectives and points of view. We need to carefully listen to each other without responding immediately. We need to discover what we have in common by going deeper than the political agendas we’re offered to address our concerns. We need to get out of our own information silos and come together as citizens of the same village, town, county, state and country. In that order.

These goals can be pursued in a number of well-developed ways. The only initial requirements for participation are good will and the ability to set aside the natural desire to convince others that you are right and they are wrong. This is the most challenging aspect of dialogue. Coming together to look at our situation from all points of view can lead to unsuspected benefits for both individuals and communities.

This endeavor requires a group of people who have differing points of view, or aren’t “like-minded.” A small group is enough to start with.

I would be happy to convene a gathering designed to start the dialogue in Saugerties. If your interest is piqued, email Indivisible Saugerties at indivisiblesaugerties@gmail.com with “Bridging the divide” in the subject line.