David Wager called me that morning to let me know that George was slipping away, and that his wife Deb Boynton Shafto could use some company at the house. Before I could get there, David called again to say that George was gone.
David and I went to work calling and texting various friends and comrades, and then we went out to bring some takeout from George and Deb's favorite local Chinese eatery, Shan Hu on Bellfort Street. I was going to say that we contacted our Green friends, but almost all of them—as well as George, Deb, David, and I—fell out with the current HCGP régime last year and haven't been active Greens since then.
Thank You, Chron
It was quite heartening to see the Chronicle post an item (digital subscription required) noting George's passing—not just a standard death notice—even though it took almost a week to get around to it. (I could rightfully be scolded for not posting this entry any sooner.)
Apparently George was a big enough deal in local progressive circles to warrant a news story, though of course not as big as recently departed KPFT comrade Ray Hill. As the article notes, George was a noted physicist, community radio personality, all-purpose activist, and one-time candidate for Congress. I thought that I remembered him running for Harris County Judge on one occasion, but I can't find any documentary evidence to reinforce that memory.
The third paragraph from the end contains an errant comma; it should read as follows:
He met Shafto, who ran for Texas governor as the Green Party candidate in 2010, when he was a research associate at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island. He came to UH in 1981.
Some Personal Reflections
I have admired George greatly since I met him, a few years before the formal organization of Green Parties in Harris County and Texas, even when we occasionally disagreed. In our years of active membership in the Harris County Green Party, George and I weren't always on the same page regarding the directions it should take. The party lost a lot of forward momentum after David Cobb left for California in 2002, and then Nathalie Paravicini a couple of years later. Collectively, we weren't as able to motivate our members and friends to do the legwork needed to keep HCGP a vital force.
In the mid '00s, seeking a remedy for our inertia, I brought forth a proposal to make members of the Steering Committee directly accountable for specific functions. SC members would organize task forces to carry out these functions and report on their progress at monthly business meetings. George, who was almost perennially on the SC, sorta kinda stonewalled that proposal. He may have advocated vast wholesale changes in our nation's political, social, and economic structures, but it was his nature, scientist that he was, to proceed cautiously and demand evidence of efficacy when intra-party changes were recommended.
People remember George for his passionate stances on peace and justice, particularly justice for immigrants from all nations. I never saw him get quite as passionate as he did at the 2017 GPTX State Meeting, which was dominated by acrimonious debate over charging dues for individual members. I had known George since 2000, and I was surprised not only at how emotional he became, but how tenaciously he held his position and resisted any hint of compromise (not that anyone there was in a compromising mood). When his cancer diagnosis was confirmed in 2018, I wondered whether that and other unaccustomed behaviors from George could be blamed on the unwelcome guest in his brain.
Another issue that stirred George's passions, and continue to stir Deb's, is changing the way we rear children. This is a huge aspect of George's personality that the Chronicle article completely missed. Not only have they both vociferously denounced corporal punishment, but they have insisted for years that yelling and other verbal punishments creates messed-up children who grow into even messed-upper adults, who then pass the damage on to their own children. George, who was raised in a Jewish family, also strongly opposed all forms of circumcision, a genital mutilation that traumatizes everyone subjected to it. It took me a while to come around to these views, but I now agree that child-rearing should involve as much love and as little violence (including violent communication) as possible. In retrospect, I wish that I had not fallen quite so short of that ideal in the raising of my own son.