There are more progressive heroes at your back, than you realize. Seldom seen on television network news, they largely inhabit the Internet.
LAST UPDATED: July 16, 2019
“The Butler” Did It
What impressed me most about the 2013 film, The Butler, were the progressive heroes sprinkled throughout the story of Cecil Gaines’ 34-year tenure as White House butler. The film highlighted famous heroes — like our assassinated trio, Kennedy, King, and Kennedy — and also honored the multitude of nameless, unsung heroes who fought for the civil rights movement. Indeed, the Butler became one himself, as he gradually evolved to the point of supporting, and then joining, his son’s political activism.
The Butler is an emotional experience. Face swollen from sobbing as I left the theater, I felt a powerful yearning. Who, I wondered, are our heroes today? Who do The People have in our court today? I knew of the hapless (as commonly reported) Occupy Wall Street movement, and remembered consumer advocate Ralph Nader. But… who else?
Renewed Political Hope
Little did I know, when I asked the burning question, that I would soon embark on a long study of the Progressive Movement — and would be blown away, as I began to realize that an ARMY of progressive heroes are fighting the Good Fight for you, me, and democracy.
The more I learned about the progressive movement, and progressive heroes, the more my political hope grew. I wish the same for everyone. In the words of Jon Meacham:
The opposite of fear is hope, defined as the expectation of good fortune not only for ourselves but for a group to which we belong. Fear feeds anxiety and produces anger; hope, particularly in a political sense, breeds optimism and feelings of well-being. Fear is about limits; hope is about growth. Fear casts its eyes warily, even shiftily, across the landscape; hope looks forward, toward the horizon. Fear points at others, assigning blame; hope points ahead, working for a common good. Fear pushes away; hope pulls others closer. Fear divides; hope unifies.~ Jon Meacham, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels
(By the way, Ralph Nader is alive and well. He’s still a consumer activist, also a prolific author, and more!)
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Progressive warriors are allotted little air time on mainstream TV. Television network moguls are Status Quo loyalists. From their perspective, that of the rich and powerful, there’s NO need for further political, economic, or social change — unless it’s a guaranteed, faster, easier, no-risk, no-brain way to increase corporate profits (i.e., tax cut legislation or environmental deregulations). From their perspective, on high, there’s NO reason for political activists to be covered on TV. “What in the heck are grassroots???” they ask. “I’ve not seen one.” they answer.
Like the Gil Scott-Heron song says:
The revolution will not be televised.~ Gil Scott-Heron, 1970
When the work of progressive heroes does happen to be covered on commercial network news, it’s typically presented as foolish, problematic, a threat, or un-American. Therefore, thoughtful news junkies must seek independent progressive news coverage, easily found on the Internet, in order to get the full picture.
Progressive Heroes Making Recent “Untelevised” News
Now, let’s take a look at progressive heroes in the current world of “untelevised” news. Come back later for more. The newest additions are always at the top…
Sara Nelson – A Green New Deal for Airline Workers
Sara Nelson, International President of Association of Flight Attendants, advocates for the Green New Deal, because it provides labor protections for airline workers, and all workers — ranging from good American jobs to international human rights.
It’s not the solutions to climate change that are the job killer. It’s climate change, itself, that’s the job killer.~ Sara Nelson
Scott Warren – Humanitarian on the Southern Border
After a jury was unable to reach a verdict, Scott Warren of No More Deaths, faces retrial for providing humanitarian aid to migrants in Arizona.
Bernie Sanders – Reinvestment in Public Schools
Reinvest in Public Education and Teachers is a policy straight from the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign platform. On May 18, Sanders revealed more details about the policy at an Orangeburg, SC rally, where he unveiled his “Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education.” The plan would overhaul the American public education system, and includes the following objectives:
- Combating Racial Discrimination and School Segregation
- Ban For-Profit Charter Schools – existing charter schools must be accountable for:
- Same oversight requirements as public schools
- School boards comprised of at least 50% teachers and parents
- Disclosure of student attrition rates, non-public funding sources, financial interests and other relevant data
- Employment practices that match neighboring district schools, including restrictions on exorbitant CEO pay
- Supporting charter school teachers to unionize and negotiate
- Equitable Funding for Public Schools – rethink property taxes as funding source
- Strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Give Teachers a Much-Deserved Raise and Empower them to Teach – $60K minimum annual wage
- Expand After-School/Summer Education Programs
- Universal School Meals – to include summer programs
- Community schools – connecting education, health, and social-services to young people
- School Infrastructure – rebuild, modernize, and green
- Make Schools a Safe and Inclusive Place for All
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Sanders’ plan to redo American education, is the ban on for-profit charter schools — but public education teachers especially love that part.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – Green New Deal
Progressive hero Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) spoke about the Green New Deal (GND) at Howard University on May 13. Specifically, she addressed the opposition’s notion that the GND is “too much” — too much money, too much to bite off, etc. — by explaining what was “too much” for her. Explosive!
Arundhati Roy – Freedom to Write
Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy presented the 2019 “Authur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture” on May 12. A former winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Roy’s latest book, My Seditious Heart, is a collection of her activist essays on human rights and environmental concerns. You should read the lecture, “Literature provides shelter. That’s why we need it.” It’s more hard-hitting than the title sounds and you’ll see why Roy must possess extra daring, to write what she writes, in India.
From the event’s website at PEN America…
Roy will discuss the defense of the collective, of the individual, and of the land, in the face of the destructive logic of financial, social, religious, military, and governmental elites.~ PEN America World Voices Festival
Ilhan Omar – Human Dignity, Unity & Justice
In response to an attack from the White House “occupant” and others, who falsely accuse Rep. Ilhan Omar of pro-terrorist remarks, Black women leaders hosted a “Hands Off” rally in support of the Muslim representative from Minnesota. In front of the U.S. Capital Building, on April 30, Omar began her address to the crowd by talking about what it was like to grow up in Somalia during its fight for independence. Human dignity, unity, and a yearning for justice sustained Somalians during the war years. Now, these same values give Omar the strength and spirit to break social and political barriers in the United States. It’s the same fight for all oppressed people, anywhere in the world. Together, we win justice.
When this occupant of the White House chooses to attack me, we know — we know — that attack isn’t for Ilhan. That attack is the continuation of the attacks that he has leveled against women, against people of color, against immigrants, against refugees and certainly against Muslims.~ Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)
You may listen to Rep. Omar’s full speech in the video below. It’s inspiring.
Extinction Rebellion – Climate Emergency!
The Extinction Rebellion began on April 15, and will continue “until we win.”
Extinction Rebellion’s first demand is that governments “declare a climate and ecological emergency.” On May 1st, the United Kingdom Parliament became the first legislative body to declare a “climate change emergency” — perhaps because London was Extinction Rebellion’s epicenter, where more than 1,000 climate activists were arrested, or perhaps because Greta Thunberg shamed MPs in her direct address to them…
You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. Like now. And those answers don’t exist any more. Because you did not act in time.~ Greta Thunberg, full speech: ‘You did not act in time’: Greta Thunberg’s full speech to MPs | The Guardian
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