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Susan L. Travis Headshot

No Democrats! No Chocolate!

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RUIDOSO, NEW MEXICO. Last week the local Oktoberfest organizer denied a booth to the local chapter of the Democratic Women.

By his own admission, the director "hates everything the Democratic Party stands for” and won’t consider their participation."

For
many years, our softly-lit park in the pines hosted a carousel of
charming holiday celebrations, that is, until the restrooms and parking
lots at the new civic center proved more alluring to the organizers.

Now, the eternally scrolling roster of rather homogeneous annual events includes Ruidoso's Oktoberfest, a charitable event produced by a local non-profit, the Special Events Resource Group (SERG).

If
the erosion of our slice of aesthetic Americana weren’t bad enough, now
it seems civility and fair representation are the newest casualties in
our little village.

A
few days ago, the vice president of a newly formed local chapter of the
NM Democratic Women, Mrs. Foulds, began investigating the possibility of selling
chocolate at Oktoberfest in 2010. She phoned the
special events director (the founder of SERG), explaining that she was
well aware that the 2009 deadline had passed.

“Not necessarily,” the director replied encouragingly. “What is your product?”

When
Mrs. Foulds answered, “chocolate,” the director expressed a friendly
appreciation for chocolate, explained that so far no one was selling
chocolate, and then asked, “What is your group?”

The
instant Mrs. Foulds replied, “We are the Democratic Women of the
Sacramento Mountain Area,” the conversation flipped on a tiny mean dime.

The
director responded coldly, “I've had too much trouble with your group
in the past and I won't even go there" and hung up on her. Persistently,
she phoned him back and explained that he was mistaken, because the
group has only existed for six months. He answered, "I hate everything
the Democratic Party stands for and I won't even consider it" and with
a decisive click, hung up again.

As one might expect, Mrs. Foulds immediately dialed the Ruidoso Chamber of Commerce to report the incident. (Keep
in mind, that SERG and the Ruidoso Chamber are tucked together as cozy
as peas in a little green pod.) The Chamber offered the following
recourse: file a formal written complaint, send it to the Chamber for his file, and they will forward it to him. He can address the matter if he chooses.

Now,
is it just me, or doesn’t this seem an inordinately weak, candy-assed
response in the face of such an insult to our fellow community members? What a racket! The Chamber avoids confrontation, SERG avoids accountability, and viola, the women of the Democratic Party are shut out, just as the SERG coordinator insisted that they would be.

Well, we shall see.

Apparently,
the charming town of Ruidoso has no compunction about discriminating
against its citizens based on political affiliation. For Mrs. Foulds and her organization, there’s no thin veil of convenient excuses; not a single
salty solitary crocodile tear related to scheduling or booth
availability were offered. After all, this year, the Republican Party’s annual booth will be selling burgers.

Even
if the Democratic Women are ultimately allowed their booth, (which they
are now willing to pursue for this season) this conflict has soured the
experience. So much for Americana. Ruidoso is overwhelmingly Republican (witness the craziness of our town hall in “Billy the Kid and the Town Hall Meeting”) and SERG stands only to gain sympathetic profits because of this incident.   Yet, in
his determination to withhold from the Democratic Women the opportunity
to give back to the community based on his own political agenda, SERG
demeans the very community it claims to promote and represent.

Although
I am not a member of the Democratic Women, I assure you, I would be
equally outraged if Republicans were being refused representation. Such an act weakens all of us. As
Americans, our duty is to stand first and foremost to protect the
rights of our neighbors to freely express their beliefs or
affiliations, whether we agree or not. Whatever separates us, we have in common our rights. Once American rights are protected, then we can gather in our own self-interest.

The
intimidation and shunning of good American women from fair political representation of either party undermines the most fundamental
principles of our democracy. Surely these issues were
resolved by our suffragist grandmothers and need not be re-fought in
community celebrations in Ruidoso, New Mexico in 2009? One would think.

Yet, with
civics classes cut from education across the country, our democracy
increasingly develops gaping wounds to its collective consciousness. In
times like these, with right wing extremists ironically screaming, "Nazi" at the president, such wounds open our country to particular vulnerabilities. From tiny pockets
to sweeping community segments, many remain shielded from consciousness about
what being an American means. Rights historically understood in an almost sacred light now shift to a perversion under such a lens. These days, thinking members of both parties find themselves constantly reviewing the basics of democracy through letters to their editors
and water cooler conversations, because for far too many, the most rudimentary
understanding of American principles has become eroded and moth-eaten.

Even as they write their letters to our town fathers and fume behind the scenes, members of our local chapter of Democratic Women stand determined to hold high ground. They are assertive and measured in their response, though I’ve no doubt that they will be depicted in our local paper as frothing shrews cawing from the pits of hell.

We’ll see. The
situation continues to stew around us, but if the Democratic Women are successful at gaining an Oktoberfest booth, I know they will buy Republican burgers and share their chocolate across the aisle with the women manning the
Republican booth. It’s part of their graciousness -- the
kind I remember from the old days, when we were a warm community
enjoying our slice of Americana under the twinkling lights in the park
among the pines.