There is something wrong in government where those who do the most have the least. There is something wrong when honesty wears a rag, and rascality a robe; when the loving, the tender, eat a crust, while the infamous eat at banquets. - Robert Ingersoll
It’s difficult to find any media reference to John Gray, Green Party candidate for Congress. Short of of an occasional brief sort of mention on the news, the lion’s share pf coverage goes to either Republican John Boozman or Democrat Blanche Lambert Lincoln. It is as if those reporting the news have already decided his fate and are not even willing to talk about his effect on the race.
The fact that he has a growing number of supporters never seems to make it intro the equation. They, like John Gray, are not worthy of mention either on the nightly news or in the pages of the daily newspaper. And god forbid any local political reporters actually talk to Gray about the issues his campaign addresses, which are rarely, if ever, on the campaign literature of his opponents.
There is, of course, Tea Party candidate Trevor Drown running for the same seat, but he gets even less press coverage than John Gray.
Though John Gray supported Bill Halter in his run against Democratic incumbent Blanche Lambert Lincoln, he was not surprised that Halter lost. “The American system these days seems to be the one with the deepest pockets is the one that’s going to win. There were plenty of factors behind Blanche with plenty of deep pockets. And she’s very faithful to the people that support her.”
In Gray’s opinion, Lincoln supports the people who pay for her re-election, which includes agribusiness, the medical business, and the banking industry.
One of the chief problems that Gray faces this year, to be honest, is his association with the Green Party, a party that the majority of voters have not always taken terribly seriously.
“I think In the past, “ he said, “we have had the image that rather than being by businessman, like myself, of being young, sandal-wearing, latte-drinking hippies, pot smoking types.
One of my goals in getting involved in this was simply to put a different face on the Green Party and indicate that there are others involved. It isn’t that the young hippie type people don’t have serious thoughts. It’s just that people are judged by how they appear, and I just wanted people to know that there are business people involved in progressive issues.”
Discussing how liberals and progressives are seen in the United States today, especially with the help of media figures like Glenn Beck, Gray noted, “I know that both have been denigrated in the press to that point that they are almost cuss words. It’s kind of like, there’s so much hatred generated against these two words, that if there were ever another civil war, I imagine it would be the far right against anyone labeled progressive or liberal.
It’s really fascinating, because supposedly these are your basic family values, Bible-thumping type people who purport to support one of the greatest progressives of all time, Jesus in the Bible. He was the classic example, as in ‘Take care of the least of mine.’”
Before his current stint as mayor of Greenland, John Gray had absolutely no interest in politics at all.
They were going to build a 550 house development above property that he owns. And he had serious doubts about the septic system planned it. “I could just see that thi8ng going into failure, and all kinds of things rolling down the hill” onto my property. And even worse, past my property into the West Fork River and our water supply.
“Nobody else seemed to want to tackle the problem. I threw my hat in the ring just to try and fight that problem. He won the election, and the reason he credits is that he “wasn’t the other people.”
There were three people running against Gray, all well-known to the citizens of Greenland. Gray, being a total unknown, won the election.
From the very beginning, there was conflict, as Gray found himself in the midst of the classic “Good Old Boy” system. One of the areas in which Gray found immediate opposition was his belief that academics in the local school system was more important to the future of the students than sports. He refused to back down in this belief, although amost everyone in Greenland seems to disagree with him.
Getting back to the 2010 congressional race, the inevitable question must be asked - why not run as a Democrat, especially since he was very active in the Democratic Party for so many years?
“A few years ago,” Gray explained,” the Democratic Party asked me to run against John Boozman. Then they asked me to ante up the first $250,000 to show that I was interested, to show that I was a viable, serious candidate.
“Where am I going to get $250,000? I said that this was ridiculous, that I couldn’t afford Democracy at this rate.” It was then suggested to Gray that he should begin calling Wal-Mart and other corporate sources for funding for his campaign.
Gray declined the honor.
“In any case, I continued being active as a Democrat, even after that bad taste in my mouth.” After a time, he became even more disenchanted, when it became apparent that the Democratic Party in Washington D.C. had little use for any new ideas (particularly progressive ideas) filtering up to the central committee that ran the party, that they were basically only interested in money. He began to view the party as stagnant, with a strong right-wing branch running the Democratic National Committee.
“Quite honestly, I don’t even consider them to be Democrats. They are Republicans in attitude.”
At any rate, Gray attracted enough attention that Mark Swaney of the Green Party approached him about joining the Green Party. He began going to some of the meetings, and they liked what he had to say. Soon, he was asked to run for congress.
“I got to thinking that five years from now I don’t want to wake up and say I had the opportunity and I didn’t do everything with it I could.”
According to John Gray, Swaney was quite blunt about the Green Party’s need to change its image.
Asked for his impressions of the folks he has met in the Green Party, Gray has a lot of respect. “I’ve met a lot of people that respect tremendously. But even those who act in an embarrassing way, you sit down and listen to what they have to say, and there are some very good things mixed in with things that are off the wall.”
He laughed. We’re all that way.”
After the primary season ended, Gray’s campaign kicked into high gear. Gray noted that Blanche Lambert Lincoln had left many Democrats feeling uneasy, with some real animosity among many of her former supporters.
In reaching out to disaffected Democratic voters, Gray dexribes himself as a two-issue candidate. The first is getting jobs back to the United States, and also debunking the myth that globalization is a done-deal, and that Americans must face a future of lower wages and standard of living - except for those at the top of the economic ladder.
“If this nation is going to be turned around at all, and it’s debatable whether we have passed too many tipping points, it better be brought on soon, or it’s going to be too late” Expanding on his theme, he went on, “The small businessman is practically out of business. I believe in small business, capitalism, and that is being increasingly shut out.
Not since Goebbels has been such a Big Lie, in my opinion, propagated by the news media. The media, being owned by a few mega-corporations who serve their own inetrsets first before they serve the interests of the people.”
Gray discussed the oft-expressed canard that American culture is dominated by a “liberal media.”
“If you look at the news media, across the board, there is no earthly way that you can consider it liberal. It is very far right-wing, except for two or three shows on MSNBC.”
As far as local news coverage of hiis campaign, Gray does not expect much coverage. “As I read the paper, and the news on TV, it’s based on how much money you’ve got. If you don’t have money equal to in weight to your opponents, you are considered not viable, and so consequently the effort will be marginalize you, and instruct the voters on who is a worthy candidate.”
Truth to tell, to a certain degree, the coverage has been almost exclusively on his Democratic and Republican rivals. A reporter from the local NPR affiliate, KUAF, conducted an interview with him, as dis La Prensa, the Spanish-language newspaper. This week he took part in a debate with the other candidates.
How does he respond when he hears folks say that voting for Blanche Lambert Lincoln is choosing the lesser of two evils, or why “waste” your vote?
“You have to think about your vote. It doesn’t matter for whom you cast your vote, but you have to recognize that that person, and all of their actions, everything they do, is you. So unless you approve everything they do, then you have supported things that you don’t support. If you are, say, against the war, and you vote for someone who supports the war, it’s your war. You are responsible. You’re guilty.”
Coming along to the subject of the war, possibly the longest war this country has ever been involved in, with no end in sight, Gray looks askance on any war that is not declared by Congress.
Getting back to globalism, Gray had this to say, “I don’t know how to bring corporations to heel and make them the servants of the people, instead of the people being the servant of the corporations.” Gray, who lived in Mexico for several years, says that the United States is on the fast-track to being the biggest Mexico that anyone in the world has ever seen, where a very small percentage of the population have all the wealth, and everyone else is just trying to scratch out a living.
“There is no security, and people don’t have time to get politically involved, or actively involved in making their future better in any way. They are just trying to survive.
But even in the United States, where people are often scrambling just to keep their heads above water, how can they mke difference?
“The election of Obama, though he wasn’t exactly what the package promised, demonstrated that the people have a tremendous power in their vote. There are a couple of critical issues that we have to face. We have to get jobs. That’s fundamental. Unless we get people earning money again, and able to take care of themselves, Katy bar the door, it’s gonna get worse and worse.
“So what people can do is consider this - flip the switch in your mind and say that globalization is not a done deal, and we can reverse this, by merely changing the rules. I am a physicist, and made my life’s work looking at data, measuring things, and making decisions based on what the data tells me.
“Well, the data tells me, when you look at the surface, that the experiment that took place between 1950-1980 worked very well for most people. It wasn’t perfect, but the small businessman could have a successful business, pass it on to his children, people could get a college education. Things worked pretty well.”
But then, Gray said, somebody changed the rules, without anyone getting a chance to vote on it. Today, the small business owner doesn’t stand much of a chance. Gray says that if the rules can be changed to the disadvantage of people, then why can’t they be changed back? Gray believes this is possible, but it will take getting politicians out of office who are hung up on what he calls the “false religion:” of globalization and free trade. He believes that any and all politicians who voted for free trade issues should be voted out.
This would include both of his opponents.
Getting back to folks with only a small amount of time to devote towards any sort of activism, what can do to stay better informed?
“Turn off your television, or be more selective about what you watch on your television. Get satellite radio. Go to the library, and get books. Take a balance of information input. One might take The Nation magazine, or progressive-populist newspapers, or read the Wall Street Journal to get the right-wing thought.
:”It’s kind of like the old days where you had newspapers that had their own political orientation and you knew what it was, and you could read a wide variety of things and come to your own conclusion. Nowadays you have to subscribe to newsletters of different types so you can to your own conclusions.
“We have information overload these days. People don’t know what’s true, or not. So consequently, though we have more information than ever before in history we have less knowledge than than ever before.”
Referring to the plant in Mexico that replaced the Whirlpool plant in Fort Smith, Gray said, “Beautiful, state of the art plant, and I know that they pay Mexican minimum wage, which is $4.10 a day, forty-one cents an hour. How do people in Fort Smith compete with forty-one cents an hour?”
Not even survival wages in Mexico. And in Haiti, where the wages are even lower - thirty-eight cents an hour - adequate food and housing is almost impossible to come by.
Gray has first-experience with people losing their jobs. - he helped push them out the door. “Have you seen the movie Up in the Air? If you take away the beautiful women, the good looks of the man doing it, and all of the good benefits, that is what my life was like for a lot of the time. Giving out pink slips and trying to convince people there will be a brighter tomorrow when you know there won’t.
“And then going down to Mexico and hiring people to work for minimum wage, and replace these people. In many cases the the worst thing I ever had to do was take a production line in the United States and haul an airplane full of Mexican people up and have them work that line, and have the people teach them their jobs. Then I’d lay those people off and start up the same line down in Mexico.”
It is very apparent that Gray is concerned about the role of corporations in our culture, and their increasingly dominant role in American politics, drawing parallels to Mussolini’s Italy, He referred to many members of Congress as “direct employees” of corporate interests.
“It’s scary to me. That’s what my father got wounded trying to overthrow, and I don’t want to see that kind of government here.”
Discussing the Tea Party movement, Gray said, “I think there are a lot of very good people in the Tea movement, very smart people, but I think that they don’t know what they are mad at. You hear this anger at big government. If they really read more, and understood where they are at, they would be able to focus their anger. I think they would be angry at big corporations who are buying out our government.
“Because right now the whole system is totally corrupt, and it has been bought out. And until that has been brought down, I don’t see much future for this country.”
John Gray has been using the Internet well, particularly well, with an especially strong presence on Facebook. He has also been seen regularly on Fayetteville’s Community Access Television.
Some Lincoln diehards bring up the “Nader factor” when discussing John Gray, but it is clear that he is offering Democrats another choice this November, perhaps someone who is closer to the ideals of the Democratic Party.
But far from the Ralph Nader Halloween costume that some might bitterly project onto him, perhaps a more fitting image might be that of Jacob Marley, a reformed (plus a decidedly far more sprightly 21st Century version) businessman whose message to politicians of all parties is that humanity is their business