One of the joys of Grange membership is seeing our members join together as one. Often unity is reserved for celebrations. When we gather to celebrate a member receiving a 25, 50, or even a 75-year membership award, the room is always filled with smiles and a few tears of joy, and the memories and good wishes wash over all present.
When an outstanding citizen from our community is recognized, the members join in the congratulations that the individual deserves. Unity seems easy to achieve when we are celebrating milestones and achievements.
Yet in the Grange, we somehow achieve a sense of unity through the family or fraternal atmosphere that permeates our Grange meetings. Through our Grange bonds, we hold that unity of purpose far beyond those moments of celebration.
Yet when we come together and debate an issue, the joys of Grange membership are in the diversity of opinion. I’ve heard members speak for and against an idea. Passion has been exhibited in every Grange by members in debate on almost any topic imaginable. Friends have taken the opposite side of discussions. They have pointed out the holes in others arguments and reinforced others. I’ve even seen opinions change on the floor and members acknowledge errors and new insights.
At the end of the debate, seldom do members fail to vote their conscience. I’ve seen wives oppose their husbands, friends vote against the desires of their friends, and others have cast a lonely vote in favor or opposition. Yet after the vote is taken, the members put aside their differences and return to the spirit of fraternalism that brings us together as family.
I wonder why we so seldom see the same from our elected officials. It seems that they spend so much of the time marching in lockstep with their party. I have trouble believing that all members of a party embrace the same ideas, in so many different instances. It is simply due to party discipline?
We understand discipline in the Grange. We practice self-discipline regularly. When we cast a vote in the minority, we often still show up and help with the project, we continue to open our wallets and make donations, and we applaud our fellow members when their ideas bear fruit.
I understand the good and bad that parties bring to the political world. I also understand the ebb and flow of partisanship in American history. Would it not be better if our legislatures and Congress heard the debate about what each bill would mean to each member and their constituents, rather than to inject partisanship as the core of so many debates?
The Grange was formed with non-partisanship as a fundamental principle and while that principle is challenged now and again, it has stood the test of time. When the Grange moves forward on an issue, it does so with unity created through our deliberative process and the self-discipline of our membership.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see our State Legislature or Congress moving forward in the Grange fashion rather than the majority of our lawmakers marching in lockstep strictly due to their party affiliation?