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Activism Is The Only Hope Of Restoring America’s Democratic Principles

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Activism Is The Only Hope Of Restoring America’s Democratic Principles

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Reprinted with permission from Creators.

 

The list of progressive innovations at the grassroots level goes on and on, dealing with one big, complex issue after another that small-minded, corporatist ideologues refuse to tackle (often under the “principle” that government — i.e., the public, i.e., you and me — shouldn’t be involved). Not only should we, but we must, for our activism is the only hope of restoring America’s democratic principles and uniting ethic of the common good.

For instance, homelessness, we’re told by pious politicos, is impossible to cure, and so more and more cities are resorting to criminalizing people struggling to live on the streets. But wait, say proponents of a new way of thinking: Yes, some street people are addicts or mentally ill, but the vast majority are out there because they lost jobs, got hit with major medical bills, suffered family violence or had other personal crises. And, get this — they’re homeless because they don’t have a place to live! Until the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan reduced tax incentives for developers to create low-income homes, America didn’t have mass homelessness. But now we’re millions of units short of housing that hard-hit people and families can afford. So why not address the cause?

Follow me from downtown Austin, Texas, to the eastern edge of Travis County, turn onto Hog Eye Road and go a short distance where you’ll come on a giant sign saying “WELCOME.” It fronts an astounding success named Community First! Village — a 27-acre, master-planned community (as opposed to temporary shelters) for 250 chronically homeless people — about a fourth of Austin’s street dwellers. It’s the creation of a small non-profit group, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, that’s richly rooted in the religious mission espoused in Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount,” admonishing the faithful to serve the needy. Indeed, the village doesn’t proselytize, it serves — by providing a welcoming community of, b, and for the very people who have previously been publicly disparaged, shoved out of sight, and denied even minimal human dignity. Here, “home” is an eclectic collection of 140 micro-houses, each with a front porch to encourage engagement and communication with others. Rents are affordable, and all residents put their unique skills and talents to work – in the woodworking shop, gardens, chicken coops, medical facilities, an art trailer, communal kitchens, laundry, bee hive and aquaponics operations, an outdoor movie theater and 500-seat amphitheater for music and plays, or on the elected community council. By treating the people as valued assets rather than problems — then providing a secure and supportive community — the homeless can become their own solution. Imagine that!

Or imagine this: Instead of constantly conniving to stop poor people, minorities, students, et al. from voting, Oregon officials choosing to make democratic participation easy with automatic voter registration and mail-in ballots. Or a rich, white suburb and a neighboring urban community of mostly poor families (Morris Township, NJ) merging their school districts in a deliberate attempt to establish some racial and economic balance and striving to be “a model of diversity and togetherness.” Or cities around the country rejecting the tar sands and fracking wells of Big Oil’s climate-changing fossil fuels and following the energy/environmental sanity lead of Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah, by committing to move steadily away from fossil fuels and produce 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources within the next 15 years (a goal already achieved in 2015 by Burlington, Vermont).

The place to focus our intense activism is where the action is already happening — right in the communities and states where we live. Yes, Trump, Inc. is out to turn Washington into a plutocratic Heart of Darkness and, yes, we must rally together to resist the horrors it promises. But our greatest strength is not in Washington rallies and protests — it’s in our ability to organize and mobilize masses of local people around issues of populist justice and progressive solutions, mounting campaigns all around the country to elect candidates, pass initiatives and enact reforms in city halls, school boards, legislatures, and regulatory boards.

If we commit to steadily amassing a people’s movement — bigger and bolder than what the corporations and media deem possible or desirable — that movement can become the government.

 

 

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Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a nationally syndicated columnist and one of America's most prominent progressive voices. His column carried by more than 75 publications across the country. Prior to becoming a writer, Hightower served as Texas Agricultural Commission from 1982 to 1991.

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14 Comments

  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 5, 2017

    Trump and the GOP are working overtime to wreck America, and show the Muslim world that America can be as fanatically attached to error and as committed to living in the Dark Ages as the Theocratic bodies in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    One sure way to begin the process of cleansing America of the vile and perverse influences in DC and its ancillary lobbying forces is to put financial pressures on their sponsors—commercial, religious(quasi-religious that is) groups, to educate ourselves in a systematic way about the all-important vision informed by the principle “The Oneness of Humankind”, being active in civic events and engaging with people we ordinarily find excuses to avoid, learning history from non-biased sources, and looking with the faculties of “Inner Eyes” and “Inner Ears”. These latter faculties, and embarking on a study in a systematic manner exploring the meaning and implications of “The Oneness of Humankind”, can be achieved by hooking up with local Baha’is in communities across the country, where all the major cities have viable Baha’i groups. These Baha’i communities have Children’s Classes and “Ruhi” classes for adults, and engage in holding “Devotional Gatherings”.

    Baha’is across the globe, from the Arctic regions down to the southernmost regions, from East to West, and in Christian and Muslim countries—even in former Soviet Republics(and in private gatherings in mainland China), and from North Africa to Central and southern Africa.

    That the world is at a cross-roads goes without saying, and has been at a cross-roads in human social/spiritual evolution since the 19th Century. The events, from 2008 onward alone, should by now have informed all of the perils facing all humans at this crucial juncture in our collective existence on planet Earth. Either we make a qualitative and global reassessment of our shared predicament and make the necessary adjustments, or we can remain as a species in the aggregate as frightened beings, paralyzed into inaction by the limited comforts of an insularity and remaining divisive in our attitudes towards each other.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

    Reply
  2. Phil Christensen April 5, 2017

    “Restoring America’s Democratic Principles.”
    As far as I know, elections haven’t been cancelled.

    Reply
    1. ♚ King Leo ♚ April 6, 2017

      OK but nobody really cares what you think, climate change denying racist traitor dude.

      Reply
      1. Irenewhoward April 6, 2017

        Google is paying $97 per hour! Work for few hours & have longer with friends and family! !wr324c:
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        Reply
      2. Phil Christensen April 6, 2017

        Apparently you do, otherwise…

        Reply
        1. ♚ King Leo ♚ April 6, 2017

          Sorry Ivan, I don’t speak Russian.

          Reply
    2. FireBaron April 6, 2017

      But Teflon Donnie and the Republicans are doing their damnedest to keep people they are afraid would not vote for them from voting.

      Reply
      1. Phil Christensen April 6, 2017

        Accusations of blocking and stuffing the ballot box have been around since the Magna Carter. They’ll be around long after we’re gone.

        Reply
        1. ♚ King Leo ♚ April 7, 2017

          What does that have to do with your constant support of treason, turncoat?

          Reply
    3. idamag April 6, 2017

      Give them time. If we don’t fight for democracy now, the opposition will become worse

      Reply
      1. Phil Christensen April 7, 2017

        It has to be more than everything Trump = Bad. We’re supposed to fight at the ballot box. One of the problems is that we tend to elect representatives who promise us the most crack. No one gets elected by saying “I will bring less money to my district and thus do my part to get our national debt under control.” That’s political suicide. What we have done is elect representatives and executives who gather more and more power to themselves with each succeeding election cycle. Then those two branches appoint and confirm judges who in turn gather more power to themselves as well. We seem to have this insane notion that the perfect government both takes care of us and leaves us alone. That will never happen. You say you want to fight for democracy, have you thought about the second and third order effects? Would that mean de-centralizing the Federal Government? De-militarizing the police? Democracy can be messy. How much messiness (LOL is that even a word?) are you willing to tolerate? How much responsibility are we willing to handle? Right now a lot is being handled on our behalf. Are we willing to take the reins on things like property taxes, the school board budget, funding road maintenance, etc? This maybe not what you had in mind. Sorry if my response leads us down a particular bunny trail.

        Reply
        1. idamag April 7, 2017

          This entire thing has been orchestrated by those who want it all. This includes the dumbing down of America. It isn’t the first time that was used in history. I read an article, in the New Republic. It addresses this mess we are in. The author says even if we banish trump and cohorts to mar a lago, it will not fix the problem. We have a Congress that has been bought and paid for by those greedy corporate people. Instead of more discretionary income for the consumer, the tax breaks go to the big guys. It has been proven over and over, trickle down does not work. The voter does not seem to know that the economy is driven by the consumer, not such a rupert murdoch or the koch brothers. Money needs to circulate in order to fuel the economy. Money stashed in gross bloated bank accounts is not doing we, the people, whose labors make this country great, any good. To make it worse, those greedy people have bought up much of the media to propagandize the country.

          Reply
          1. Phil Christensen April 7, 2017

            While we may disagree on some particulars, there is no doubt that those in power are very creative in separating those who are not from their labor. You’ve brought up number of good points.

            Reply
  3. idamag April 6, 2017

    We do need to be active. It is the do nothings that are as dangerous to democracy and those who are trying to destroy it.

    Reply

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