On Veterans Day and year round, honor sacrifices of those who served

(Editor’s note: Because the Portland Phoenix is circulated on Wednesday, we include this letter for Veterans Day.)


On Veterans Day, we honor those who served in the United States Armed Forces because veterans made sacrifices to serve this nation out of a sense of duty and patriotism.

Many generations of veterans share these sacrifices: veterans from the infamous Pearl Harbor attacks; Korean War veterans; Vietnam veterans who absorbed hatred from fellow Americans; Gulf War veterans from the early 1990s; and the newest generation of veterans who served in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan.

Although our veterans span generations and served in different places, they share common experiences. Some of these: boot camp, separation from friends and family, immense stress, and great responsibility. Many of our veterans also experienced combat, and its horrors have altered their lives forever.

As veterans leave the service, they often face new battles as they attempt to reintegrate into civilian life. Some veterans leave the service with debilitating wounds, both physically and mentally. Some veterans face unemployment because civilian organizations do not appreciate the valuable skills the veterans learned and developed in the military. These issues can begin a downward spiral to such ills as substance abuse and homelessness. We cannot let those who have sacrificed so much for us fall to such lows.

I ask you to honor our veterans everyday, but especially today. Fly your flag high. Attend a Veterans Day parade. Think of the veterans who continue to face their own battles. But do not stop there. Talk to them. Thank them. Shake their hands.

If you know of a veteran in need, please let me know. Organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, may be able to help. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Deering Memorial Post 6859 is willing to try.

Joel Demers

Commander, VFW Post 6859


Green attacks on Democrats undermine goals of Green Independents


Election day was very bad for the Green Party in Maine. The Green running for an open legislative seat in Standish got under 5 percent, down a third from the 2014 result. In Portland, where the Party has its strongest presence, Rob Korobkin was somewhat competitive in his race for the City Council, otherwise, all Green candidates and the Green-lead issue didn't just lose — they lost badly. Greens are significantly outnumbered by Democrats, but Portland races are nonpartisan, meaning that voters don't know who is Green or Democrat. And Greens lost badly anyway.

This is not a foregone conclusion. Three Greens have won election to the Portland School Board in the recent past. Three Greens have been elected and re-elected to the City Council in the past. And Dave Marshall fared much much better in his run for mayor four years ago than Tom MacMillan's 10 percent last Tuesday. So what happened?

In the minimum wage referendum, the Green-lead support was outspent by almost 25-1. This obviously is a huge disadvantage. But money does not always buy victories — Portland voted to preserve public spaces despite big money supporting the sale of Congress Square Park. And in a scientific poll paid for by the Greens in March (a poll that told participants that the Green Party did not exist, by the way) Portlanders supported the measure by nearly 55-45, meaning that the Greens did not need to create support, just hold it, a much much easier task. They failed miserably because though they knew that they would be outspent by a large margin they made no efforts to build grassroots support or appeal to those who could help with funding. On the contrary, the Portland Green Independent Committee (PGIC) initially explicitly refused to build any coalition, declaring that the PGIC should "own" the issue and guard against any other organization stealing it. This militant position was softened but not effectively. Despite Portland politics being dominated by Democrats, the PGIC refused to even seek alliances with the Democratic Party or people influential with Portland Democrats. In so doing, the PGIC turned a winning margin into resounding defeat. (I was a member of the PGIC and part of early planning on raising the minimum wage. I am no longer in the Green Party.)

This refusal to work with Democrats is emblematic of the new Green Party in Maine. Maine Green leadership sees Democrats not as sometimes or potential allies but almost always as ethically-corrupt competitors. In general, the Maine Green Independent Party (MGIP) and PGIC have isolated themselves in an us-against-them, you're-either-with-us-or-you're-against-us mentality. They routinely attack Democrats, and also Greens who show a willingness to support Democrats. This has had some bad consequences for the Party. The reflexive Green attacks on Democrats happen enough that Green candidates have a hard time convincing Democrats to support them. Even Green-supported issues may generate suspicion that alienates potential supporters. And large numbers of Greens that want a more nuanced view are leaving the party and not being replaced.

(This isolationism is mandatory unless it isn't. Despite the loud voices within the PGIC that Greens should support only Greens, many of the few elected Green officials endorsed Democrat Ethan Strimling for Portland mayor over Green Tom MacMillan. I applaud nonpartisanship, but Greens do not approve of Green disloyalty. I understand Greens turning on me, which they have, I never pledged blind allegiance to the Greens. But MacMillan has become, in my eyes, one of the more militant Green-Party-Over-All-ists, and still he was abandoned by his own party. This is like the Tea Party attacking Republicans from the right who are not "Republican" enough. Though the redirected Green support went not to a "better" Green but to the biggest beneficiary in the mayoral race of the big money Greens say they despise. And one of the first Green Strimling supporters was the one who had been loudest that Greens should own issues. It's complicated. Or immature.)

Unfortunately, Green losses are often community losses. The PGIC does not play well with others but its political values are community-based. And when raising minimum wage loses, minimum wage workers lose. (And the whole economy suffers, despite what the business community told you.) Portland public spaces were safe only as long as at least two members of the Portland City Council were prepared to vote for preservation, and with now no Green on the City Council, and with Portland's mayor the very developer-friendly Strimling, Congress Square Park's days may be numbered.

It will be interesting to see how the Portland Green Independent Committee and Maine Green Independent Party spin election 2015. A responsible reaction would be to see how the Green Party failed. My guess is that Greens will blame everyone else. And continue to attack rather than support Democrats who agree more than disagree with Green values but who aren't Green.

Look for the Progressive Party of Maine coming in 2016. Green values, but interested in coalition building and electoral success.

Seth Berner