Friday, January 7, 2011

No Permanent...

There is a famous quote, which initially pertained to foreign policy, that I often contemplate with respect to my own involvement in local and larger politics:

"Therefore I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy (of England). We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow."

This has evolved to be a guiding principle for success in politics: No permanent friends/allies, no permanent enemies.

I get the pragmatism and compartmentalizing of issues, but - My biggest problem with this is that if I ally with people who I have previously not just disagreed with, but who have actually conducted themselves in a way I deem poorly or have otherwise exhibited bad behavior - am I not validating and legitimating their previous stances and/or behavior by aligning with them?


ps. I know this is a blog about New Paltz issues & um, if you don't think this is an issue for more than just one resident (me!) I urge you to read the last six months of That Paper.


Anonymous said...

??? I am lost with this one. Am I missing something???

Terence said...

I think Toni Hokanson is an excellent example of someone who conducts herself in this manner. I didn't agree with Crossroads because I thought that bringing in a large amount of high-priced housing coupled with a swath of low-paying jobs would destroy this town. Frankly, I thought she'd hold a grudge. Wrongo! She doesn't take issues personally, and has been happy to work with me on other matters.

This is the same set of skills that attorneys have to learn, since they must oppose the same people week after week while trying to get along with the people that they see week after week. Probably why there are so many of them in politics.

MaryAnn said...

I fully believe that if your stance is valid, when you KNOW you are right and you have all the facts to back up your opinion -- that first, you would WANT to be challenged! You would want to cement your belief and that for every question you will have a valid fact based answer.

Secondly, that if you are challenged on your belief, you can meet those questions with out acting as if you were attacked to your very core. Maybe you might learn something seeing as NO issue is black and white! When a person is reduced to childish outbursts or other immature responses it only means (to me) that they have no more valid fact based responses.

The most valuable lesson I learned when I ran for the school board was that -- what I used to call "ass kissing and schmoozing" is really more of a way to disagree civilly so that people could work together for the common good - I walked away from that with a new found HUGE respect for people I completely and utterly disagree with politically.

pete healey said...

Sounds like the consolidation issue is a prime motivator here. There are several "activists" who worked for village dissolution 17 years ago who may be in favor of a different solution this year. There are those like Toni Hokanson, if I may be so forthright, who want the village dissolved and have changed alliances and shifted coalitions recently in an effort to keep that as the preferred option. And there are very few left who formed the majority in the village seventeen years ago, who remain adamantly opposed to a "one government" solution to our current dilemma, and it will be interesting to see where they land as important decisions get made to move this process forward.
It has been said by several people recently that the Town Supervisor and the Mayor have "made my case for me" that one government is the only option left, it's just the form that needs to be worked out. And some of them might not have been willing to even speak politely to me several years ago.
That's how situations and contexts change peoples' alliances and working relationships, that's what the quote means to me.

kt tobin said...

Like I said, I totally get the compartmentalizing of issues. Goodness, Terence and I only agree on about 75% of things (that wish list post was a collaboration with compromises!!); my boss and mentor is most definitely not on the same political plan as I am & I have friends/allies across the political spectrum. I actively seek out opposing viewpoints - all the time - because it informs, helps evolve, and crystallizes my own positions.

My point here is not just the lack of civility but the outright bullying, name calling, harassment and yes, sometimes even physical altercations that are par for the course in New Paltz politics. (Think wetlands law, elections and party politics, middle school, springtown flood zone, etc, etc)

The only time I felt attacked "to my core" was when someone who I thought was a friend/ally was downright hurtful and nasty to me at a public meeting. If I'm not good at handling that, then, so be it.

Sometimes I just need a cooling off period - the previously referenced person and I did not talk for a while, but have since successfully reconciled. But there are others, whose actions and dishonesty mortifies me - and I just can't pretend to like them or see myself ever aligning with them. Which yes, if there ever were a reason to align for the greater good, it would be a problem! To get back to my point in the blog entry, are we not validating and legitimating their behavior by aligning with them?

MaryAnn said...

I just want to make sure YOU know... I meant the collective you in my response - not the specific you :D (you don't have to post this comment, I just wanted to clarify in case it wasn't understood.)