On Saturday, April 28, I attended a Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Town Hall Event and had an opportunity to ask the Senator two questions: first, “Why were you one of the ten Democratic Senators who voted in favor of the ridiculously enormous military budget, some $70 billion larger even than the Pentagon had requested?” and second, “Why did you vote against the proposal of Senator Rand Paul and others to reopen for discussion the Authority for the Use of Military Force, a 15-year-old transfer of the constitutional power to declare war from the Congress to the President?” Whitehouse replied to the first question in terms of a compromise which had been necessary in order to save social spending from cuts threatened by the Republicans. He did not explain why he and fellow Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed were two of the ten Democrats who made this compromise nor did he explain how the bargain was set up, i.e., why, how, and by whom was the extra $70 billion thrown into the pot.
In his reply to the second question, the Senator referred to its “being a bad time to raise that question” and “there not having been sufficient time for a thorough study of the issue.” I was profoundly dissatisfied with these replies and, in regard to the first, said that I would like to propose to the Senator and to all the attendees the consideration of whether they were really comfortable with the idea that the social spending that maintained the quality of their lives was really worth the cost of killing millions of people – including women and children – in the rest of the world. At the end of the session I waited for an opportunity to engage the Senator in a more informal discussion of the questions. As he defended the righteousness of his stands I told him how disappointed I was by what seemed to me his increasingly warlike positions and that I would find it impossible to vote for him. He asked, “Well, who will you vote for then?”, and I replied, “I would rather not vote than vote for you.”
That reply of mine weighed on my mind over the following weeks. “How can it be that there is ‘No alternative?’ If the polls consistently show that the public is opposed to wars, why can I not vote for someone who will consistently oppose unjustified wars and exorbitant military spending and who will not seek an exemption from seriously considering and voting for or against any specific use of military force? There must be someone who could run for office on a strong anti- war, or at least a strong last-resort-only war, position.”
That was my state of mind when, in late May and early June, a few people began to approach me about the possibility of my running against Senator Whitehouse in the Democratic primary election. And so, here I am, Patricia J. Fontes, more widely known as Pat Fontes, declaring my candidacy for the Democratic Party primary election for United States Senator in September. I live in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, having done so since my retirement in 2004. My familial and educational roots lie in the city (then town) of East Providence where I was born at the end of 1936 and educated in its public schools from 1942 to 1953.
The focus of my candidacy will be that of opposing the militaristic and imperialistic position of the United States with respect to the rest of the world and promoting peace, domestically and internationally, through the collaborative establishment of justice in all the various spheres of human interaction.
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It is my opinion that these 2018 elections should be the year of the activists, especially of the activists who have a long and strong record of being out in the meetings and on the streets, organizing events and sharing on social media the positions they have developed through sustained interaction with the local communities and advocacy groups.
For that reason I will, instead of describing my positions issue by issue, outline many of the memberships I hold and actions in which I’ve been engaged, from which you can draw your conclusions about who and what I am and stand for.
PEACE AND OPPOSITION TO WAR AND MILITARISM
As an active member of the Rhode Island Anti-war Comittee (RIAC) and of Pax Christi-Rhode Island (PCRI), I suggested and maintained a sharing collaboration with other peace groups – the American Friends Service Committee – SENE (AFSC- SENE), East Bay Citizens for Peace (EBCP), South County Tuesday Interfaith Peace Group (TIPG) – to encourage mutual support, shared attendance, and the avoidance of scheduling conflicts. With other members of PCRI as well as RIAC, AFSC-SENE, and TIPG, I organized the event “A New Global Nuclear Arms Race: Risks, Prevention, and Moral Imperatives” in September of 2016 with speakers provided by the Union of Concerned Scientists. With members of RIAC I organized the panel of speakers/discussants: Socialism, War, and Peace in May of 2017 and the showing of the documentary film Thirty Seconds to Midnight: The Final Wake Up Call including discussion and Q&A with the film’s maker Regis Tremblay in August of 2017.
I have been a regular participant in the street vigils organized by RIAC and by the group Anti Endless War and Excessive Military Spending. The themes of the posters I carry at these reflect my concerns with the moral and politico-philosophical underpinnings of the US posture in the world: “Might Does NOT Make Right!”, “War Does Not Equal Foreign Policy! Try Diplomacy!”, and “Full Spectrum Dominance Is NOT Defence!” The phrase “Full Spectrum Dominance” comes from a statement of United States Military Doctrine and refers to dominance in the air, land, maritime, space, and cyber spheres, the ability to dominate and nation or group of nations. I submit that this doctrine is more offensive than defensive and goes much further to answering GW Bush’s question, “Why do they hate us?” than any “They hate us for our freedom,” which was the reply he himself provided.
In the interactions with passers-by which these posters often provoke, I like to ask questions like the one I put to Senator Whitehouse, “Are the people of Rhode Island really happy and morally satisfied to be supporting wars which result in chaos throughout the world, which destroy the homes and workplaces of millions, which force people into refugee camps and onto life-threatening rafts…all so that our corporations will grow richer, and our jobs will be (supposedly) secure, and we can continue throwing away 40 percent of the food we buy, etc, etc?”
I attended and testified at a hearing on the Statewide Planning Committee’s “RhodeMap RI: Building a Better Rhode Island” in 2013 as well as hearings on the House Corporation Committee meetings in 2017 and 2018 on the re-structuring of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. At these hearings I opposed proposals to increase the power of the defense industry in Rhode Island and the excessive dependency of the state’s employment on arms manufacturing. As a follow-up to these matters I initiated the presentation in Westerly last week of the talk by Alex Nunes “The Defense Industry and Nuclear Weapons in Rhode Island and Connecticut.”
I became active in Occupy Providence in 2011 and maintain my connection to the present day. My major achievement was the organization of the campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, focusing on the threat that the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process poses to national labor and environmental standards. I have also collaborated with the George Wiley Center on protection of the electrical energy supply to poor and disabled people and with Jobs with Justice in planning sessions and street actions. I have recently testified at legislative hearings at the Rhode Island State House on a bill which would facilitate the creation of worker co-ops (Democracy@Work) and on a bill about appointments to the Coastal Resources Management Board – a bill which dealt with the issue of environmental injustice in the location of an LNG facility in South Providence.
I have been active in the movements against Invenergy’s Clear River Energy Project in Burrillville as well.
ECOLOGY/ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH POLICY
I spent several years working on a European environmental education research program which framed environmental education within a broader action competence model. The model was also applied to both health education and education for citizenship and has inspired my own activism since that time. I participated in the People’s Climate March with nearly 400,000 people in New York City in 2014. As a Master Gardener since 2006 I have practiced and promoted science-based environmentally sustainable gardening practices both at home and at the Demonstration Garden at the University of Rhode Island (URI), usually delivering the produce of this garden weekly to the Jonneycake Center in Peace Dale: Better eating for the less-financially-privileged population in that area. As a result of my experiences with universal health care services in Europe, I am committed to the creation of such a system here in the United States.
I am looking forward to meeting as many people as possible along the campaign trail and to discussing my ideas…and yours!
[From a press release]