Today was quite the harrowing day for me. I attended a Move to Amend workshop on the Corporate Rights and Powers Timeline in Willits given by David Cobb. Afterwards, Al Rosen of Willits Public Access TV asked if I was willing to appear on TV to talk about the Grange/Guild conflict. I agreed. He wants either 3 people from the Guild side, or a panel of 3 from both (or more) sides. Anyway, I said I would get back to him with a date.
Meanwhile, someone overheard Al and I talking and notified Lanny Cotler, who then called me to invite me to talk. I accepted. Lanny also asked me if I knew about the Facebook page imitating the RV Grange FB page saying their 100-yr celebration was cancelled? I assured him that we agreed at our meeting Thursday night not to do anything to hurt or damage anyone. He felt assured that was consistent with my nature. After squeezing a used swamp cooler into my Subaru and then searching all over the back roads of Willits to visit a friend who lives beyond Third Gate, I finally got to Lanny’s house. We hugged at the door but I could see a lot of tension in his face and I could feel he had an agenda.
We sat down and reviewed our ties. We are not only friends, and community members, but being Jews, that makes us mispuscha, “kin." We agreed right away that we can still love the people we disagree with.
First Lanny started by telling me that everything I have heard from Bob McFarland is a lie. I wasn’t too surprised since both sides are accusing the other side of lying. After all, this is the age of Trumpian "Alternate Facts." Lanny then began a history from 2005, including the 2009 annual CA Grange convention, and the plan to make the Grange more progressive. Although there was a note of derision in his voice, he described the kind of political organizing plan we are currently working on to make Mendocino County elected officials more progressive. I interrupted Lanny to mention the similar plan by local progressives, and he readily agreed it is a good plan. So why was Lanny deriding Bob for his well-organized plan?
Lanny went on to talk about Bob McFarland’s personal shortcomings. He praised Ed Komsky as a “straight-shooter” but Bob as charismatic but wily. My thoughts at that point were the pan calling the kettle black. Also, my personal email experience with Komsky demonstrated a few personal flaws on that side also. So one of Lanny’s major points was the personal character flaws of Bob McFarland.
Lanny’s next point is that fraternal law presides over corporate law, and therefore, although the local chapter may hold title to the property, the bylaws of the fraternal order say that the local chapter doesn’t own the building but rather stewards it, as proven by the Vista Grange case. Therefore, Bob is a "tragic hero" since he will fight this to the “death.” There is no chance of winning in civil court since the court doesn’t care about the Grange. I didn’t fully understand this point. But he added that the Guild side is doomed because the Grange side has more money. Of course, with the deep pockets of Monsanto behind the Grange, the fight is David against Goliath. I have never read the CA State Grange bylaws from before the change so I don’t know. And this is a question that the courts are still adjudicating.
Lanny’s next point was to say that Bob McFarland only cares about taking properties, whereas the Grange only wants to support and promote local chapters. That’s exactly what I hear Bob say about Ed Komsky and the newly formed State Grange. Once again, both sides are accusing the other side of the same thing! Lying and stealing!
Lanny may have been trying to badmouth Bob to convince me to turn to the Grange side, but the more details he told me about Bob, the more admiration I gained for him. Lanny told me that he separated from Bob in 2013 when Bob declined to support or publish Lanny’s newsletter, the Independent Grange Communications Network. He gave me a copy dated 11/5/2013 and emailed me several more issues. I have yet to read them. Lanny told me his aspirations for the future of the Grange, and his words were nearly identical to what Bob says he wants for the future of the Guild. I was astonished that both Bob and Lanny verbalized the exact same goals! I can see how they were once partners.
Lanny stated to me that he and I agree on about 99% of all issues, and this is the one issue upon which we differ. I have heard the history from many others, and was astonished that hearing the tale from Lanny’s viewpoint that it was the SAME history I heard from people on the Guild side! So what was the rub, I wondered?
Lanny finally got to it. The Guild is damaging the venerated reputation of the Grange. Lanny and I both agreed that the historical roots of the Grange are now topsy turvy to the current National Grange and CA State Grange, which policies have been corrupted. But Lanny and the folks at Little Lake Grange are planning to change it from within! Except that Lanny says he's tired and isn’t involved anymore. I responded that Bob tried to change it from within and look what happened to him! I added that the Grange doesn’t need the Guild to damage its reputation; it is damaging its own reputation.
Lanny finally asked me where I stand. I told him that as long as the National Grange had a policy in favor of industrial farming and states on their website that GMO agriculture is "necessary to feed the world,” that I would NEVER ally myself with an organization that defends Monsanto in court. Lanny invited me to help change it from within. I laughed. We hugged at the doorway and I assured him that we don’t have to hate each other because we disagree. We mustn’t be enemies. He hesitantly agreed, his eyes full of regret.
By this time, I was starving. I hadn’t eaten since 7:30am and could only think of food. As I headed home, I came upon the exit to Redwood Valley and realized that I had been invited to the 100-year celebration. I could probably buy food there with a check. The first person I met was Peter Mayland, the psychologist who attempted to mediate 2 months in a row, but both times left early in frustration before I even arrived from my conflicting Red Cross meeting in Willits. Peter asked me if Hal was hosting a synonymous celebration in the nearby park. I told him I knew nothing about it. That was the 2nd malicious rumor going around about the Guild side. Peter also blamed Hal. I agreed that Hal was not the wisest leader, but declined to mention that Hal had resigned the other day. I cut off the discussion with this red-faced licensed psychotherapist who perpetuated false rumors, used blame as a tool, and left mediation sessions early in frustration, by saying that I was too hungry to chit chat right now. He gave me a wide smile realizing he had been cut short.
Unfortunately, the only thing they had at the celebration to which I wasn’t allergic was pie. So I wrote a check for 2 pieces of pie, but remained starving. The sight of those 2 slices of raspberry pie made my stomach growl. I hugged a few more friends going out, and passed Jini Reynolds on the porch. We hugged and she rushed away.
Suddenly, as I was leaving, someone I never saw before was calling my name. I turned around and saw a suntanned handsome man with ice blue eyes looking trim and fit calling me. I saw his nametag said Ed Komsky. The shade of his tan was reminiscent of the latest fad in DC, bronze. Every time I see a TV commentator or expert appear with bronze skin, I know they are allies of Trump. The bronze skin, fit stature, and ice blue eyes brought me back to the Nazi occupied Warsaw Ghetto of Poland and gave me shivers up and down my spine. I smiled cordially and we shook hands. He said, “You want to talk to me?” I responded amazed, “I want to talk to you?” So he smiled and said, “You want to ask me questions?” I had no idea from where he got these notions. I had just sat through 45 minutes of Lanny Cotler, my hands were full of pie and my stomach was hollow and grinding. Also my son had a choral performance with the Ukiah Symphony at 8, which gave me less than an hour to eat and get there. I assured him that I didn’t want to ask him questions, and left.
This demonstrates the insidious creep of Monsanto's invasion into the back door of the first county in the Western Hemisphere to ban GMO agriculture back in 2004. It’s the malicious rumor mill, and the manipulation that wins well meaning organic farmers to the Grange side. Like Republicans, the Grange can only win with manipulation and lies. Lanny described Bob as personally charismatic, and Bob described Ed as like a Svengali. When I saw Ed’s charming smile, handsome physique, and the alluring blue of his eyes contrasted against his bronze skin, I knew what Bob was talking about. It is through charismatic leaders that lies are generated and perpetuated. Monsanto has entered Mendocino County through a back door in the name of the venerated Grange, and is charming organic farmers into supporting with their paid dues what is contrary to their own interests.