The National Grange and the Washington state Grange are proud of the legacy of our nonpartisan organization, founded more than 150 years ago, to encourage civil discussion and debate while requiring those who join to pledge to “conform to and abide by the laws of your state and nation.”

In the recent Seattle Times article regarding controversy at Deer Lagoon Grange #842 [“Far-right group stakes claim at Whidbey Island Grange, stoking angry debate and exposing political divides,” Dec. 13], concerns were raised as to the membership and activities at this local chapter. It has over its many years been known for excellent outreach in the community and thoughtful discussions about policies that impact the agriculture industry — from producer to consumer — and rural residents.

The Grange was founded on the vision of bringing together a fractured nation after the Civil War by creating a fraternity for farmers that would transcend regional and political divisions. Again, today we see our country divided — this time by partisanship and unwillingness to respect others’ opinions. The Grange can be as essential today in bridging this gap as it was in 1867.

Washington state granges have a strong history of nonpartisan legislative involvement. Our granges have been the champions of rural-free delivery by the U.S. Postal Service. The public power movement, which allowed for the creation of public utility districts, can be traced back to the Washington state Grange. We cannot forget Washington’s blanket primary election system, when voters were not required to affiliate with a political party, and its successor, the top-two primary — both works supported by the Grange organization.

There is no place in our Order for individuals who cannot tolerate an open discussion without intimidation — as our Declaration of Purposes states, “difference of opinion is no crime.” The Grange is a place where people from all sides are bound, by their own pledge to membership, to come together to find a way forward for the betterment of our community and our nation.

What is happening in our communities, large and small, is straining the American experiment. We cannot foster intolerance of our neighbors or fuel a me-first movement where we see only freedoms without responsibility. Democracy requires certain sacrifice, and the Grange is fundamentally rooted in this idea. Our motto, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity,” is clear, and only those who embrace it can be Grangers.  

However, stating our principles and standing by our convictions alone is not the end of this story. To ensure the Grange remains the Order it was founded to be — a leader in championing a strong and democratic union — the 150,000 members across the nation cannot stand alone. Our doors are open to anyone of good moral character, interested in preserving the common good and willing to abide by our values and our bylaws — and we hope that this includes all who seek to join. Only through light can the darkness be vanquished. Only through welcoming new members who mean what they say when they take the oath of membership can we ensure the Grange remains a beacon in our communities.

If you are interested in assuring a brighter future for your community and nation — one that encourages tolerance and civil discourse, innovating solutions to local challenges and helping those in need — go to wa-grange.com to identify the Grange nearest you.