Q Arrives in Our Town

   The white nationalists have found our town, a seaside village on a long, skinny island in Puget Sound, with a Naval Air Station in the north, an historic farming town in the middle and a parfait of cultures that have over the years chosen the south end as our home.

Like all organized armies – of do-gooder religious groups or anti-government militia – they look for openings to inhabit in the infrastructure of a community. A seat on the school board. A small business. A real-estate license. A sheriff’s department. These are common toeholds.

This is our situation. A far-right militia group in October rented an old Grange hall that, like many Granges, had fallen into disrepair, the board membership shrinking and resources scant. A rising panic lit up on social media as elements of the community tried to process and meet the threat. Outsiders (other towns, other states) with guns and no masks, joining up and meeting in out-sized groups in a pandemic?!

Image may contain: one or more people, hat and outdoor, text that says 'Official Ballot Dro Box COUNT VOTE'Trumpster trucks had been swooping down from the North, flying their flags and flexing their muscles as they cruised the two main streets of our village. I’d already planned to hold a vigil around our few ballot drop boxes in case voters were intimidated by militia. Panic – nationwide – was already in the air. And now, it seemed, they were squatting in our grange. With their guns and Covid breath.

The sense of threat is not unwarranted, as this later Seattle Times article points out. Menacing behavior is one of the features of the far right militias. The question is: can they sashay into our Grange, cross the public health line and join up in droves?

Lest you think I’m putting a halo on myself and horns on white nationalists, I will point out that I’ve done the very thing I’m objecting to. I’ve enthusiastically tried to land my version of the good, true and beautiful in old community institutions.

Years ago I helped start an outpost of a global network of people working to relocalize their communities. Such Transition Town groups work to assess dependencies on global resource flows and to systematically shore up those fragilities with local alternatives: local food, local energy, local money, local fun. We grew quickly to a monthly Potluck with a Purpose of 100 people, with speakers and working groups and a sort of Welcome Wagon feeling for all the young alternative folks showing up on the island. It was intoxicating. And, according to me, nothing but beneficial.

The more the network grew, the more it seemed we needed at least an office, maybe even a clubhouse where all the activities could happen without depending on availability of standard community meeting spaces. Ahhh, expansive dreams. Imagine if our island, in 10 years’ time, were 50% instead of 5% food self-sufficient. Imagine if we had a Public Utility District instead of depending on a corporate energy source. Imagine we had a local currency we could use to partially pay our property taxes. I, at least, can swoon over such possibilities.

Alice’s Restaurant, Whidbey version

A home for our group. A home for our group. The mantra thrummed in my mind and surfaced  a memory of passing many times a small out-of-the-way church with a for sale sign. Historic Maxwelton church is back to its original color | South Whidbey  RecordI called the realtor and a few of us went out to tour it. As she showed us around, I gushed about possibilites. Lectures, movies and conversation circles in the sanctuary, potlucks in the kitchen and fellowship hall and maybe a soup kitchen, offices for the working groups in the Sunday school classrooms, organic gardens on the 2 acres of grounds. The preacher’s house was definitely rickety but intact and the caretakers cum farmers could live there. The church was an A-Frame with a metal roof. Great. Solar cells on the South side, Water catchment on the North. I looked at a glass block wall, clear blocks with a blue block cross. “Look, it’s a T for Transition.”

Drunk with the possibilities, I missed the realtor’s stony silence as we imagined our own version of Alice’s Restaurant.

Consulting only the inner oracles of recklessness, I figured out how I could essentially hock most of what I owned, and buy it. After only 36 hours between the tour with the realtor and the next Monday morning at 9 AM, I put in an offer.

“I’m sorry, we already have an offer.” The church had been on the market for years and now, suddenly, there’s an offer?

“I’ll put in a competing offer.”

“Sorry, we’ve already accepted that offer.”

“I’ll put in a contingency offer, if the deal falls through in a month.”

“Sorry, we’re not taking contingency offers.”

It turns out that the realtor had been a member of the conservative Christian congregation that had, failing to attract new members, been unable to keep up the church and reluctantly put it on the market. My glistening eyed, ebullient narrative of how we would turn their spiritual home into a haven for latter-day hippies sufficiently shocked them that they found a buyer on Sunday to take it off the market. Eventually, the church came alive again with a Bible Study group. God works in mysterious ways – reviving the church and at the same time saving me from financial ruin.

The Grange

Yet I wasn’t done, apparently. I lit on a little Grange hall a few miles outside my town. The front stoop dipped in the center from years of people shuffling in for dances, meetings, church services and potlucks. The toilets, permanently stained, wobbled a bit on their base. The kitchen had old, functional appliances and a Formica counter with the pattern mostly worn through. The big wooden folding tables had grooves so deep in the wood that sanding them would pretty much go through the table.  This local Grange, I learned, was an outpost of a 150 year old, national network of halls with a gloriously populist past. 

Sometime after the not-buying-the-church incident, I had turned my attention to investigating what it would take to realize the local food part of our Transition Town vision. Inspiration hit. The Grange is about food and farming. So are we. We could all join the Grange. As with so many things I’ve done, a hundred people can catch my enthusiasm, a dozen act on it (in this case join the Grange), and in the end, I’d still be the only one actually attending the meetings. I didn’t realize that the Grange is religiously, politically and agriculturally conservative, not about small farms and Farmer’s Market. While I stopped going to the meetings, my commitment to local food blossomed into in a book, Blessing the Hands that Feed Us, and a prize from Slow Food Whidbey Island for the best local food recipe (zucchini relish).

And so these memories surface while we as a community puzzle the dilemma of members of the far right anti-government militia groups lighting on the Grange as a clubhouse, applying for membership, holding maskless gatherings shoulder to shoulder inside. They are within their rights. It’s a free country. Ours is a welcoming community, even with a diversity of viewpoints held in polite tension. Our median age, however, is above 50. We have a mask mandate and people bow their heads and dance around one another in our small market to keep one another safe. We have a growing BIPOC community. How do we meet the arrival of people who flaut our norms, get belligerent when asked to man up by masking up, and hold trainings at the Grange that apparently included how to treat gunshot wounds? One local group has mounted this response. Others are working with law enforcement.

While this is far more dangerous to our community than a bunch of idealistic people dreaming of turning a church into a hub for our Transition groups, I wonder if we looked to that Church-member realtor a dozen years ago exactly how the 3%ers look to us? Is their discovery of the Grange as a clubhouse for militia activity so different from our discovery of the Grange as a clubhouse for community organizing around resilience?

The difference, I contend, is that an out-of-town group, sporting guns and conducting militia trainings is in fact different content from local-food potlucks and programs on gleaning abandoned fruit trees. The dangers to the community are different. We were intent on contributing to a thriving culture on Whidbey Island. Who knows what the intention of the 3%ers is on Whidbey Island, but going maskless, and gathering in large groups during a pandemic, and bullying residents who ask them to mask up is decidedly different from local yokels trying to support farmers in selling local produce in our local markets. There aren’t equally “good people on both sides.”

The question is: how do you stay true to your values as in inclusive, welcoming, safe-for-all community with its parfait of immigrants since we forced out the Lower Skagit peoples: the farmers and loggers, the vacationers, the people who dredged and dammed the wetlands to make more farmland, the hippies and the evangelicals who came when the land was cheap in the 70s, the Boeing workers, the consultant class coming here to retire or to raise their kids, the people of color trying to make our island home.

Whose town? Whose Grange? Whose island?

Fundamentally, Whidbey has been historically and still is a semi-rural agricultural community where it takes at least a couple of winters living here to be accepted, and a couple of generations to lose Newbie as your middle name. How do you belong somewhere? My experience here is that you do so by blending with a rural culture of church and community groups trying to make life better for its members. You don’t use the place and spit it out – either as a wealthy second homeowner or as a right-wing militia group from somewhere else.  You pay your dues. You volunteer at the food bank. You help with the homeless teen program or the Spaghetti feed in support of our annual day of helping elderly homeowners. You try out for plays. You sing in the choir. After a while, even though you have dreads or braids or legally-acquired guns on your hip, you are seen as part of the parfait.

Kathleen Dean Moore, a moralist, author, educator and climate activist, gave me this profound insight in an interview:

Jose Ortega y Gasset, the Spanish philosopher says, barbarism is the absence of standards to which an appeal can be made. It’s not the absence of adherence to the standard. It’s the absence of standards themselves. If we can’t say what’s right and good and true and worthy of us as human beings, then we are barbarians.

Maybe the question is: how can the townsfolk get the rule-breaking outsiders to behave themselves around us. Show respect. Act with integrity. Not bring their bravado and bullying into our midst and make a community institution an outpost?

This isn’t only our issue. An army of QAnon converts and right-wing militias and angry Trump voters is fanning out across this country. They are actually part of cities and towns, part of the weave, as well as outsiders. They are finding openings in the institutions of the social body: running for office, joining boards. And in my state they believe our Governor is a tyrant and the virus is a hoax and mask-wearers are sheeple and the government is illegitimate. How do all the villages that hold community values of abiding by the laws of love – care, concern, kindness and such – meet this force that is not going away even as we turn the page to 2021?

Note: Please read the many thoughtful and informative comments below. I got some details wrong and made incorrect assumptions. If this had been journalistic, I would have approached it differently. It’s an essay to explore how communities stay safe and welcoming when people who won’t honor public health guidelines come to town – and to make the point that we often do exactly what we are accusing others of doing. I thank my commenters for stepping in to correct misinformation.

Over to you.

41 Comments

  1. Well you left out a major ingredient of those who were there before… all the indigenous people who lived there before the “loggers, farmers and hippies”. How was the land taken from them; maybe by a gun held by those earlier Whidbey Island interlopers?Oh yeah, let’s not forget the smallpox and all that.
    Nothing is black and white.
    Just sayin’. ….

    Queenie
      1. QUEENIE HERE IS THE QUOTE: The question is: how do you stay true to your values as in inclusive, welcoming, safe-for-all community with its parfait of immigrants ***since we forced out the Lower Skagit peoples***: the farmers and loggers, the vacationers, the people who dredged and dammed the wetlands to make more farmland, the hippies and the evangelicals who came when the land was cheap in the 70s, the Boeing workers, the consultant class coming here to retire or to raise their kids, the people of color trying to make our island home.

        Vicki
  2. This is a great piece and a really important question that I have been sitting with ever since I got accosted, out of the blue, in the middle of Langley by one of these angry guys in a pick-up truck adorned with Trump flags, as I was biking to drop off my ballot. He must have known? Maybe my polka dot helmet gave it away? It came as a total shock to my system, since I have always felt that this place just exudes abundance and peace and safety. And it took me until yesterday to feel safe enough to get back on my beloved bike. Violence hurts, whether real or threatened. Called the sheriff at the time to report and got only a condescending shrug through the telephone.

    Two things in response to your excellent question (and in hope really that my attempt will encourage other, much wiser people to take up your challenge, because it’s SO IMPORTANT and I want to read the answers of your wise friends): First, the stars are crazy and they just shifted. Things WILL calm down. I do Chinese medicine and next year WILL be calmer. I can feel it already. The commander in chief who is actively encouraging this sort of belligerence is leaving soon. These people have always been there and always will be, but they won’t be in power or empowered any more.

    Second, I really appreciate your embrace of diversity, your insistence on welcoming all voices in the fabric of our home. We are all neighbors. The more we can strengthen community ties, the more these people, at least the local ones, will recognize us as fellow humans, as will we with them. Of course that has to be balanced with safety. I have a neighbor who is “one of them,” and no, as an older lady living alone, I am not signing up to knock on his door and bring him cookies, even though I thought about it, but he’s armed to the teeth and has a history of domestic abuse, and I do NOT want to be on his radar. So where do we go then? Maybe a chat with the female person in the orbit of that house? Surrounding it with loving energy?

    AND… at its root, violence is always fear-based and rooted in unmet needs. Can we channel Marshal Rosenberg and Nonviolence Communication and start a true sincere conversation around that in our community? When things are calm (and covid-safe), the grange may be the perfect place to do just that, especially if we can involve the elders who we all still might listen to. Can we take the challenge of this moment, the insights from this difficult year, all the ugly and the beautiful truths we have learned about this country, and turn them into gold so that we grow from them?

    And… on a much deeper level, individually, I just try and cultivate loving kindness towards the people around me, the neighbors right and left and red and blue, grocery store cashiers, the librarians and mail carriers, the tourists and the locals, the hippie farmers and the multi-millionaire visitors. Key word being “try”….Ultimately, I do think that it is exactly the local connections that I see you building all over in so many ways that will pull us through this. Langley will continue to be what it is. The threads of connection will hold. Too many of us treasure them to let them go. And when you do call that meeting at the grange, you won’t be alone!!!!!!!!!!! After this last year, when it is safe again to do so, we will all join you for one hell of a dance party and spaghetti feast! Much love and appreciation for your work!

    1. It totally amazes me how many people were traumatized by people driving threw Langley with Trump and The American flag waving! I was there! People were waving and a lot of people were clapping! I guess it’s all about perspective.

      Rose
      1. Hi Rose, It’s okay for Sabine to have her experience and you have yours, right? She doesn’t have to be wrong for you to be right about your experience, right? As for waving, many of us cheerfully waved to the trucks even though we disagree with many of Trump’s policies. It’s part of being a welcoming community.

        Vicki
      2. I agree, Rose. I was there too and I felt the love for patriotism and sovereignty, which is what Trump/Culp stand for. It’s unfortunate that a couple people represent the whole, in some people’s minds and that there is so much generalization. People can support our president, and the Earth/ sustainability as well. We all see things differently so how do we create more bridges of understanding. Many people realize that masks do nothing except for harm our own bodies and after living with viruses for thousands of years, we adapt with good nutrition and Vit D3. We are not out to hurt others, we just trust in our immune systems. There are kind people everywhere.

        Stacy
        1. Thanks Stacy. Do you know the purpose of masks? It’s not self protection, though it can provide it. It’s if you have the virus and you don’t know it, you won’t spread it to the people around you. Patriotism can also be protecting fellow citizens from harm. Do you know that many people who get Covid, even if it isn’t severe at the time, have severe symptoms for a long time? They are called long haulers. We are just learning about this virus. Good nutrition and Vitamin D didn’t stop HIV-AIDS. Nor Ebola. I keep a mask hooked around the turn signal of my car. When I shop, I put it on. I don’t feel less sovereign doing it. I feel like I am being kind to everyone I meet because I don’t know if I am carrying the virus. The countries that have been most strict about public health measures are having far far better results in terms of infections and deaths than the United States. If you love your country, love your fellow Americans, why put this country in such peril and extend the epidemic here, which just extend the time schools and businesses stay closed. Masks are one small but vital steering wheel of getting back to normal. The virus is raging now. A new strain is more infectious. Do you know this? Have you read this story? So sad. So unnecessary. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/12/29/world/covid-19-coronavirus-updates#a-congressman-elect-from-louisiana-died-from-covid-19-complications

          Vicki
      3. Actually, Rose, I was not traumatized by a Trump truck or a few driving through town. I was innocently riding my bike when a truck very threateningly pushed me off teh road and slammed their brakes right in front of me, the guy got out of his truck and starting yelling at me. For no reason whatsoever. To make light of the traumatic effect of having your physical safety on a bike being threatened by a huge truck passing you intentionally close and then having a huge angry guy get out of and approach you physically threatening you, that is the ultimate insult. You have apparently never experienced physical abuse from a man or you would know better than respond like that. Shame on you! Shame on you!

      1. If every one of us who felt threatened filed a police report, we’d overwhelm our police. People try to work it out together and maybe her comment here is part of that. If that person meant no harm, he wor she could just say “sorry.”

        Vicki
  3. Since we are no longer on the island, perhaps I shouldn’t post. But Whidbey Island consists of at least three very distinct cultures, mindsets, and world views. Military, agrarian, artsy. Whidbey is such a small island, with its inhabitants comprising a huge diversity in approaching life and understanding their reality. A microcosm of our country, our world. E pluribus unum will either be a reality or it won’t. Civil war will either be declared or it won’t. Watching and waiting.

    Teresa McElhinny
    1. i didn’t know you’d left. Yes, diverse cultures co-existing. this grange issue has definitely gotten people concerned amidst the general national polarization most definitely accelerated by Q folks and national leadership. I hope laying out a larger more complex picture helps

      Vicki
      1. I have simply never listened to mainstream media during all of 2020. After Whidbey Telecom quit offering television services, we didn’t have TV till very recently. We watch DVDs and some movies. No news. Never listened to MSNBC. Never listened to Fox. Maybe an occasional press conference on YouTube, but soon grew tired of those as well. What we have witnessed first hand, however, has been former friends, now enemies, becoming increasingly and EQUALLY vitriolic and poisonous on BOTH sides of whatever equation was the topic du jour. Where I live now we do not have to create a Civil Discourse Safe Zone. It is simply safe to have civil discourse, for the most part, everywhere. In my heartfelt opinion, these are not red vs blue issues. They are rational and kind vs irrational and hateful issues.

        Teresa McElhinny
  4. Great article, good questions, important life work! I agree, roll up your sleeves and do something for the community. Best way to make friends, build connections and way more fun that fighting!

    Laurie
  5. Ouch! I have no ideas, and for that very reason, I’m going to keep visiting daily and listen very carefully to all the ideas presented and discussed. This is IMPORTANT, and thank you, Vicki, for a) introducing the topic, and b) presenting it with compassion and fairness!

    Cheers, Faith

    Faith
  6. First, I love you, Sister Vicki. Your clarity and eloquence delight me.
    As we all struggle with this shift in our peaceable kingdom, I’m thinking of decades of dealing with Islanders who are now Trumpers.
    Moments like, after months of formal disagreements over land-use planning, some of us had a lunch meeting with “them.” After a pretty long discussion, one of the most aggressive ones looked at me and said, in amazement, “You’re NICE.” He’d discovered that the enemy might just disagree with him, without being Beelzebub.
    My part of the citizen-generated planning was dark-sky regs. I wrote them after going to Dark Sky HQ in AZ and getting model language from other areas. I chose TX to present to the Council when it was all Good Old Boys. One of them listened and then said with a grin, “And Texas is a Republican state.” He knew what I was doing and we had a good laugh. The measure went into the Plan.
    Then there was the airfield. Porter was for sale and the Feds were offering the county almost all the purchase price in a grant. The port commission was going for it. There were huge public meetings with Our Side raving about noise, about pollution, and about military use of the field if the grant was accepted. None of that stuff was of interest to the commissioners. But some of us got on phones and called managers of public-owned airfields all over the country. To a man–and they were all men–they said “Don’t do it. You’ll go bankrupt running it.” We got financial reports to the commission. On the night it was to be passed, all the pro-buy folks showed up with cameras to record the great moment. And one commissioner said it was fiscally irresponsible, given what was happening to other municipal airports.
    I think the point is to look for the intersections of interest rather than hitting on all the disagreements. There are usually chinks you can squeeze through. In the airport matter, it was financial. For dark skies, it was going with what another conservative group had already done so it didn’t get classified as liberal craziness.
    I’ve engaged people about their families and mine, recipes, movies…anything that gets us going as fellow humans. And sometimes it just don’t work. One such effort was met with the tires on our cars being punctured with nails during the night. There will always be people you just have to outvote.

  7. I was part of the local fire department that hosed down the mess that was Robert Matthews right wing militia hideout in 1984. Groups like his will keep coming here. I liked how well you analyzed and put their presence here today in perspective.

    Michael Seraphinoff
  8. Vicki, This is Chuck, Master of Deer Lagoon Grange.
    First, let me thank you for taking an interest. Secondly, the Seattle Times was full of misinformation about the events and the “who’s”. Some of my friends(?) have taken what was printed in the Seattle Times as honest non-belligerent news reporting (It was biased and inaccurate, and intended to stir up turmoil in our community).
    Even today there is a flowery, but damming website, attacking the Grange dishonestly and without a single person stepping forward to identify themselves.
    We have not ever rented the hall to the 3% group. Most of our rentals are to a local Church, family events like birthdays, weddings, graduation parties, Langley City Council events, private Schools, art classes, quilting groups, we even hosted part of the 2020 Washington State Grange State Legislative Conference in October.
    As far as we, the Grangers go, we ask all members new and present to honor the Obligation. We are a non-partisan organization and accept members who are D, R, and I members. Fear mongering and false accusations are not our business .
    I’m attaching an article submitted to the Seattle Times by our State Master, Tom Gwin. OP-ED Submission: If you’re interested in civil discussion, the Grange needs you
    By Tom Gwin
    Washington State Grange President
    The National Grange and the Washington State Grange are proud of the legacy of our nonpartisan organization, founded more than 150 years ago, to encourage civil discussion and debate while requiring those who join to pledge to “conform to and abide by the laws of your state and nation.”
    In the article published Sunday, Dec. 13 by Mike Carter regarding the controversy at Deer Lagoon Grange #842, concerns were raised as to the membership and activities at this local chapter, which has over its many years been known for excellent outreach in the community and thoughtful discussions about policies that impact the agriculture industry – from producer to consumer – and rural individuals.
    The Grange was founded on the vision of bringing together a fractured nation after the Civil War by creating a fraternity for farmers that would transcend regional and political divisions. Again, today we see our country divided – this time by partisanship and unwillingness to respect others’ opinions. The Grange can be as essential today in bridging this gap as it was in 1867.
    The Granges of Washington State have a strong history of through our non-partisan legislative involvement. Our Granges have been the champions of rural-free delivery by the U.S. Postal Service. The public power movement, which allowed for the creation of public utility districts, can be traced back to the Washington State Grange. We cannot forget Washington’s blanket primary election system, and its successor, the Top Two Primary are both the works of the Grange organization.
    There is no place in our Order for individuals who cannot tolerate an open discussion without intimidation – as our Declaration of Purposes states, “difference of opinion is no crime.” The Grange is a place where people from all sides are bound, by their own pledge to membership, to come together to find a way forward for the betterment of our community and our nation.
    What is happening in our communities large and small, is straining the American experiment. We cannot foster intolerance of our neighbors or fuel a me-first movement where we see only freedoms without responsibility. Democracy requires certain sacrifice, and the Grange is fundamentally rooted in this idea. Our motto, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity,” is clear and only those who embrace it can be Grangers.
    However, stating our principles and standing by our convictions alone is not the end of this story. To ensure the Grange remains the Order it was founded to be – a leader in championing a strong and democratic union – the 150,000 members across the nation cannot stand alone. Our doors are open to anyone of good moral character, interested in preserving the common good and willing to abide by our values and our bylaws – and we hope that this includes you. Only through light can the darkness be vanquished. Only through welcoming new members who mean what they say when they take the oath of membership can we ensure the Grange remains a beacon in our communities.
    If you are interested in assuring a brighter future for your community and nation – one that encourages tolerance and civil discourse, innovating solutions to local challenges and helping those need – go to wa-grange.com to identify the Grange nearest you, or contact the Washington State Grange at (360) 943-9911.

    1. thank you so much, Chuck, for taking time to respond. I agree that the Seattle Times story stirred up more controversy in our community, even as they brought to light a potential problem with white supremacy groups have more of a presence in our community. I hope my post came across as meant – respectful of the Grange and of the full range of beliefs and opinions on our community. The Grange was my soul home in the first years I lived here, dancing every Monday with Christine Tasseff, and later with Ken Pickard’s band. I’ve had many potlucks there. Won my Slow Food prize there! As you know, I wrote a loving book about our local food system and community. I was concerned when the alarm was raised about the 3%ers meeting there, and listened carefully to community members’ concerns. The country is polarized and rumors of “civil war” have us nervous.
      I am surprised to learn that none of those fears were founded. That you never rented the hall to the 3%ers. That there were no maskless gatherings there in greater numbers than the Governor’s orders. I wish we’d all known this, that the rumors were squelched. Is it also a rumor that there’s been an influx of requests for membership from the 3%ers and the Proud Boys? That would be very good to know, and would eliminate that citizen’s effort to make sure the Grange isn’t taken over by people of a particular persuasion. Part of the problem has been lack of clarification, not just from you but from the Police and Sheriff’s office. Gossip in a small community can get out of hand. I did read Tom Gwin’s letter and it eased my mind greatly. I hope you will meet with the people behind the “reclaim the grange” (poor choice of name IMHO) website to clear things up and share information. If indeed the Grange, post pandemic, can flourish with dialogues across the many divides on the island and can actually help promote a flourishing and resilient food system on Whidbey, that would be an idea outcome. If i can be of service in lowering the temperature and increasing local participation in the Grange – the organization and the building – let me know.

      Vicki
    2. Chuck, I’m on the steering committee of the Reclaim the Grange team. I first tried reaching you in October when I became personally concerned about activities at the Grange. I didn’t receive a call back in
      October, or in November—in fact, you were unresponsive until I was quoted in a Seattle Times article, when you called me and suggested we meet. As you know, I have promptly and courteously returned every call you’ve placed to me since then. You were reluctant to discuss my questions—and yours—over the phone at first, but when I asked for a followup meeting by phone rather than in person, for reasons of COVID safety, you agreed to a time for a call.

      You and I were scheduled to speak on Friday, December 18 at 10 am. You missed the call, so I left you a voicemail. I received a message from you ten days later, on the afternoon of Monday, December 28, again suggesting we talk. Again, I returned your call within the hour and left a voicemail with several options for times to reach me. I haven’t heard back since.

      Chuck, several community members have expressed surprise at your blog post here which conflicts with the facts as I’ve experienced them. Would you at least please do me the courtesy of speaking with me on the phone, as we had planned? As I said in my voicemail, I’m quite flexible all day tomorrow and Friday and you have at least two phone numbers where you can reach me.

      Marnie
      1. Thanks for writing this here, Marnie. How frustrating to not be able to clear up any misinformation and misunderstandings via phone. In the pandemic, which I know you and I take seriously, meeting in person can endanger the health of our loved ones – and ourselves – so we rely on phone calls which are a harder way to gain clarity and be heard. Making phone dates and then standing the person up is impolite and disrespectful. I hope Chuck has by now called you and you can come to agreement on the facts of the matter. He and Mr Gwin have said the Grange is committed to hosting dialogues across the divides and perhaps your outreach to him and here can make that more likely.

        Vicki
  9. So glad that Chuck and Tom are responding. We in South Whidbey Tilth have always had good relations and productive collaboration over the years with the Deer Lagoon Grange. I am looking forward to further dialogue concerning this controversy with Grange leadership.

    Michael Seraphinoff
    1. You claim the “Trump supporters come from the North”. No, they live on the south end. You claim the III% comes off island, no they live here.
      You don’t have most of it right.
      The convoys were started by two Culp volunteers from Freeland. But you’d not know that, because it doesn’t fit your narrative. I know: I’m half of that.

      I’m a farmer, who gives back. I’m also a conservative and of mixed heritage….I’m of Jewish descent and Phillipino. That seems mind blowing to many liberals here.

      And to call religious people do gooders? Really?? You have a weird sense about the south end. I don’t think you really know your island like you think you do…..you tolerate what you tolerate, hiding in Langley with other white people over 50, but not listening to anyone else. Do-gooder might be YOUR middle name. Cough.

      S
      1. Hi, you are right, I didn’t know who started the caravans. thanks for the clarification. Not sure about the narrative about farmers being liberals. Plenty of conservative farmers. And your last paragraph. Are you trying to be insulting? Why? Are you mad? Why cough?

        Vicki
  10. Vicky Robin I must say I’ve lived on this island most of my life and i’ve never seen any of what you are writing about! Being a Trump supporter is not being a white supremacist. We are all family ,we are a family of human beings. People should not be separated ,shamed or treated any differently because of our politics or religion. It would be a sad world indeed.

    Rose
    1. I agree Rose. We are all humans. We sing in choirs together, act in plays, go to the fair – many ways we already mingle and enjoy ourselves. I haven’t seen anything like this on the Island until this year, as I said in my post. I’m open to respectful dialogue. Welcome it.

      Vicki
  11. I would like to introduce myself as someone who has lived in the community almost my entire life, cares deeply about this community and the people in it. I am a small business owner and a stay-at-home Mom. I volunteer many hours in my community, and I have family members that are black and Hispanic to which I love dearly. I have friends of all races and sexual orientations…and I am a vetted member of the 3%.
    The only reason I am commenting on this blog is to promote truth and unity for the good of our community. This is not to defend myself because I have nothing to defend. I simply hope I can shed some light on the cold hard facts.

    First, I find your letter is deeply divisive, radically judgmental, and naïve. I suggest you look at the actual WA 3% website where it states clearly that we are not a militia, we do not discriminate against anyone EVER and would never tolerate it. We are a group of people of many colors, faiths, and sexual orientations who love our country, our families, our community, our faith, the constitution, and desire to make positive change toward those common values.
    We come together to support each other and our community. We learn self-sustainability, self-reliance, how to dress a wound, CPR, how to prepare for an earthquake and how to prep extra food (yes, even enough for our radical left wing neighbors). Yes, we own guns and own them responsibly, as the second amendment allows and encourages all of us to do. We encourage every member to take extensive gun safety classes. I myself just finished an 8 hour safety course and plan to take many more. As a stay-at-home mom in these uncertain times, I want to feel empowered and confident that I can protect my children, god forbid I ever have to do that. We are not antigovernmental. There is a place for government, and it is necessary in its place. We are against the government dictating every area of our lives, our ability to work and feed our children, and our right to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Just because we believe our Governor has shown himself to be a dictator, does that mean that we are going guns a blazing? No, it means we get involved to make a change. Maybe we get involved politically, maybe we teach each other how to plant a garden, maybe we get together and worship, maybe we support a dying restaurant to open? Contrary to your assumption, we do not believe the virus is a hoax. We believe it is real and believe it is also a vehicle for government to grab power and control. We know you disagree and were ok with that because we respect your freedom. We are not out of towners. We are your local nurse, the volunteer at your kids’ school, we are your barista, we are your preacher, we are your hair stylist. We are simply patriots. IN fact, many people you have a personal relationship are WA 3% members, and have read your blog entry.

    As far as the “Trumpsters who were flexing their muscles at you,” I would like to know more details about that. I would like to remind you that we do live in a free county (hopefully for a while longer) where people are allowed to fly flags or drive in their community supporting whatever political party they choose. If you are suggesting that Trump supporters should not be allowed to have a voice simply because you do not agree with their position, you are suggesting that we should no longer be a free republic. Are only Biden supporters allowed to fly their flags because it jives with your beliefs? Did the “Trumpster Trucks” hurt you, call you names, spread lies about you, write untruthful blog entries about the core of who you are and what you believe and then spread it through a small community? Did you know Island County went red in the primaries? Did you know you are quite literally surrounded by conservatives who disagree with everything you wrote and yet, have not harassed you or spread lies about you?

    In these times of tension, it is extremely important to report facts based on proof and personal conversation rather than what you strongly “feel” is true. In a time where division and media are our enemy, wouldn’t it be wise to reach out to one of us, do some actual journalistic investigation, promote unity and understanding? Wouldn’t it be helpful to our entire community to seek out the truth in a small town where we stand in the same grocery line? One thing I will never understand is how you consider yourselves inclusive and great humanitarians and yet you discriminate against anyone who isn’t exactly like you. Please look in the mirror and maybe you will see you are doing the exact thing you accuse your enemy of.

    Truth be told, we are fighting for you just as much as we are fighting for ourselves. We care deeply about this community and are committed to see it succeed. We want a bright future for your children just the as we do our own. And we do not care what color you are, if you voted for Biden, or if you hate Trump. We celebrate our differences because that is what makes us individuals and free. We stand with Thomas Jefferson who said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    J
    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and I appreciate it. I will look into everything you said. I appreciate your service to our community.
      I just checked election results and Island County went almost entirely “blue” in almost every case. I do think there’s a divide in our county, that it tends blue on the south and red up north, and this is part of our challenge in governing ourselves.
      We disagree about Inslee. WA state was the first landing pad for the virus in the US and his mandates, established before other states even grappled with the virus, have kept us safer than many other states.
      You’re right, I’m generalizing from a few incidents of Langley visitors who won’t wear masks and are angry when asked to.
      You’re right, it’s a free country and the Trumpster trucks are free to fly their colors. That it felt a bit aggressive doesn’t mean it was intended that way, but we’d have to ask the people who did it.
      I too appreciate learning survivalist skills – I have done so myself in many ways – but what kind of gunshot wounds are you anticipating dressing. I’m really interested. While hunting? Domestic violence? Suicide attempts? Wouldn’t people be taken to the ER in those cases? Are you anticipating more violence in the future? What kind? It’s an open carry state so everyone with guns has every right to wear them. That it makes me uneasy isn’t your fault, though if you knew more about my history you might understand my concerns. Not everyone is as careful and responsible as you are. I just looked up firearm deaths and it turns out more people turn them on themselves than others, but I take no comfort in that. Here‘s the data I found. Are you and the 3%ers in favor of background checks for all gun buyers? Do you think it would increase the number of people like you who are very respectful of guns?
      I agree that it’s important to be fact based, but I know from my more right wing friends that we get our facts from different places. I grew up with and trust PBS, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. I imagine you have different news sources. I also grew up with a respect for the scientific method – scientists in their search for truth get it wrong again and again, but the search continues. Yes, you have to look at who funds research, who wins or loses from the results, but that doesn’t negate science. Fossil fuel companies have distorted and hidden facts about the effect of burning their product. Cigarette manufacturers as well. And Big Pharma. Look at the opioid crisis. There is reason to distrust science funded by corporations trying to hide the effects of their products.
      I do a lot of work on economic justice, and for sure most of us are getting the short end of the stick – blacks, latinos and whites. I too work on behalf of people who don’t agree with me. I too have supported businesses from dying during the pandemic and I”m glad you have as well. I’m big on local food for local sovereignty. You may like my book, Blessing the Hands that Feed Us, written about our Whidbey food system. Yes, we are community together and I would greatly value a respectful conversation with you and your 3% friends to explore what unites us as well as divides us. How about it? Let’s each gather a few friends willing to have a conversation, listen with respect and understand on another better even if we still don’t agree. If it has to be by zoom now, let’s do it anyway. Who knows when we’ll all feel safe hanging out in a cafe together.
      Given all you’ve said, I do understand that what I wrote was distressing to you and big big thanks for taking the time to write your own story here so everyone who reads this blog can benefit from it.

      Vicki
      1. All gun buyers have a background check. You yourself most likely voted for 1639 in Wa state a few years back. They are done by the FBI. To get a CPL in Wa state you must have a FBI background check as well, and fingerprinted. We already have quite solid laws on the books here.

        Sarah
        1. thanks for the information. I’m very glad to hear it. do other states have such strict gun laws. What about the stories about buying guns without background checks at gun shows? Is that permitted in WA state? Do neighboring states have equally strict gun laws?

          Vicki
    2. H-
      I found J’s comments to be articulate and very accurate. I have lived on South Whidbey for many years now and one of J’s most accurate comments was “how you consider yourselves inclusive and great humanitarians yet you discriminate against anyone who isn’t exactly like you.” My wife is a person of color that is right a real minority in South Whidbey and a legal immigrant. She has always felt more excepted by conservatives than so called liberals. Again congratulations to J for a great response and hopefully I will meet her someday.

      L
      1. I agree. some liberal-leaning people with racist attitudes live South of Coupeville, and here in Langley. They might not even consider themselves racist, but in my view we live in a racist society with a racist and anti-immigrant history so the attitufde is here even if it’s not overt. There are many people working hard to make Langley and vicinity a welcoming community for people of all races, abilities, orientations and ages. Here’s a link to the working group. Perhaps your wife can help with this. https://www.langleywa.org/government/citizen_boards/dismantling_systematic_racism_working_group.php. I also posted a comment here https://www.theolympian.com/news/state/article248096920.html about some 3% activities that could be counted as racist. The rise of white nationalism in the last 4 years has many concerned and has likely increased our concern in Langley about such activity on South Whidbey. Some people in the #stopthesteal movement arising around Trump losing the election have been aggressive. I know you can’t label everyone in a group by the actions of their more extreme members. Maybe the 3% group participating in first aid training and freedom to workshop rallies aren’t like the ones trying to storm the capital. It would be like saying everyone in langley is prejudiced. If we don’t talk to one another and air our fears and assumptions with respect, how will we ever know?

        Vicki
  12. And Rose, many of my closest friends and neighbors are Republicans, and I drive a truck myself. This has nothing to do with right or left or Republican or Democrat. It has to do with violence and intimidation that is doing real damage to our community and to those of us trying to navigate the middle ground.

    Sabine Wilms
  13. I like what Sabine said about “this has nothing to do with right or left or Republican or Democrat.” But then again, she and a great majority of the threads went gung-ho in their political blame-shifting. I just wish people could see this for what it truly is ~ a war for our minds. I write dystopian literature. To give my writing the ring of authenticity, I have been doing research for 15 years on issues like global control, privacy piracy, economic enslavement … actual processes which are being enacted and accelerated at an alarming rate, right under our noses. I appreciate Vicki’s efforts to keep discussion going. Let’s keep the listening going also. Please think rationally. What if those in charge of the propaganda machine don’t really care if you are red or blue or black or white? What if the goal is to keep us fighting one another so that we fail to recognize the media theater for what it is? Personally, I envision all those who have mega-profited from the Pandemic of 2020 as being totally unaffiliated with any cause other than their own self-aggrandizement. I see them all slapping one another on the back, unmasked, at this jolly barbecue where they roast the ignorant plebes who bow down to the blue screen machine of propaganda as it tells them what to think, believe, love, hate, join in with, disenfranchise from. (1984 anyone?) Look, the virus is real. The fraud surrounding it is also very very very real. We can either be incredibly afraid, incredibly angry, or we can unplug and use our brains to make wise decisions to build community which celebrates our differences.

    Teresa McElhinny

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *