Kindness and Community
A personal tale
Editorial by Siobhan O’Loughlin, Green Party of New York State
When I describe myself to other people, I always say “writer, performer, and activist.” Those are my three identifiers. I write my own plays, I perform them internationally, and I’m involved in several groups here in the Big Apple, one of which is very dear to my heart, the Green Party.
Unfortunately, activism is third tier in my priorities (because of income, of course), so to call myself a prominent or even active member is a stretch. But, I love it. When I get to do it, I’m so happy. I love the people in it.
Some of my more artsy/non activist friends will ask me things like, “You’re in a political party, really? In, nasty, evil electoral politics? Where there are campaigns and boring, unsexy, lame sounding canvassing and petition signing? Where people are washed out, lacking in any zest for life because all they do is mailing list entry, and then they compete for political office that most folks don’t even pay any attention to?” I would say yes, but I can’t, because third party politics are completely different to me. They’re about something else. Like, kindness and community and, I don’t know, fun, even.
Even when it seems like the world is falling on you on a both personal and political level. The personal is political, after all. For me, too. Regularly. On October 22nd, I was riding my bike in the rain on my way to a Green Party event. Our gubernatorial candidate, Howie Hawkins, was going to be on TV debating against his competitors (who also happen to be corporate sponsored members of the one percent) Rob Astorino and Andrew Cuomo.
As an independent, grassroots third party organization, getting any mass media coverage is maddeningly rare. Being the total Green Party enthusiast that I am, I was over-the-moon excited to watch Howie serve it to Cuomo. To speak the speech. To represent the working class. To support the 99 percent. My friend and fellow Green Party activist Josh Feintuch was having a viewing party, and I was geeking out and could not wait. I’m riding through that downpour to Josh’s house. I’m pumped.
“No ambulance! I can’t! I have to stop the Fracking! Howie needs me! Green Party! Grassroots! I don’t have time. I have to… no!”
And then, I had a head-on-collision with another cyclist in the bike lane beside me. We never saw each other until it was too late. And down we went, my bike out from under me, my body slamming onto the cold, wet pavement. I ripped my glove off to look at my hand, and saw my bones bent in ways I’d never seen before.
I became hysterical. I cried. Not because of the pain. Because of… Howie Hawkins.
“No! No ambulance! I can’t! Please, I don’t have time! I have to stop the Fracking! Howie needs me! Green Party! Grassroots! I have to… no!”As the paramedics peeled my flailing, pathetic body off of the cement, the woman who was helping me, Emily, asked me where she could bring my bike. I tearfully told her Josh’s address. She brought my bicycle to the debate party and the Greens.
I was desperate for comfort, completely frightened, and infuriated with myself that I’d missed this historical moment on public television. I cried. Michael O’Neil, New York State Green Party co-chair, was the first person to arrive in the E.R. Michael is tall, sturdy, and collected. In just a few movements, it seemed, Michael had removed my rain boots, draped his coat over me to keep me warm, kissed my head and held my hand all the while assuring me, “Yes, Siobhan, Howie did great. You’ll be proud of him. We have a recording. Nope, don’t look at your hand. It’s going to be okay.”
I left the hospital with a board taped on my fingers and a list of hand surgeons. I called them all. They all turned me away, because they wouldn’t accept my health care. And then Gloria Mattera, the other co-chair of the New York Greens, called. She works at Bellevue Hospital, it turns out, and it also turns out that they blessedly take my health care. She booked me an appointment at the hand clinic, assuring me that they’d build me a better splint, give me surgery, and a cast. When I thanked Gloria for literally rescuing me, she said “Kindness and community. That’s my ideal world.”
That night, Josh came over to provide company, comfort, a variety of beer, and support. When I asked if I should get the bike out of his apartment, he said it could stay there as long as I liked it to; he’d take care of it. Kindness and Community.
I struggled, but when I could, I made my way out to the last few weeks of events, actions, and electioneering. I worked alongside people devoted to ending corporate greed, raising minimum wage, uplifting unions, banning Fracking and using only clean safe energy, supporting public schools and prioritizing people over profit.
My activist community, the Green Party of New York City, supported me immediately, right from the start. I never had to ask. Kindness and Community.
Howie’s campaign got five percent of the vote. Which, of course, seems like almost nothing, but it’s huge for us. It also means, obviously, that we didn’t win. My friends and I spent quite a bit of time, energy, and emotional effort on this campaign that we didn’t win. I broke my hand on a bike ride to watch the debate. But at the election night party, Brian Jones (our candidate for Lieutenant Governor) signed my cast. He wrote “You Rock, Siobhan!” and he hugged me. And I can say, quite sincerely, that none of it was wasted. Nor was my vote. This political party and these candidates represent my values to the core. I’d break a bone for Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones. I did break a bone for them. I’d do it again. The Green Party would be there.
Kindness and community.