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mommyof3 is also known as Dee Crescitelli (her "Real Life" name!)

I have been thinking about this all day.  It started while reading teacherken's diary about progressives and the need for a movement to push forward.

I have been unable to let go of the thought that change- PROGRESS- never comes from the middle. Anytime our country has made steps forward, it has resonated from people and movements NOT considered middle of the road. And while it doesn't often happen quickly, change is often seen as controversial- revolutionary, even.

Just look at it from a historical perspective...

The founding of our nation:

Boston Tea Party (1773): a protest of the British Parliament's ability to tax the colonies. A first-person account is recorded here.

The Declaration of Independence (1776): Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he wrote what would become the Declaration of Independence. That the committee tasked with drafting this chose such a young man shows progressive thinking (and smarts).  Jefferson was charismatic and great with words- in short, he was the right man to write the message of change.

Expansion of Rights:

Emancipation of Slaves (1862-1865): This was, of course a LONG process, but there were many people and events that forced this issue. Abolitionists had been working towards this goal for decades.  Congress started by passing legislation to make it clear that they thought that the United States could indeed regulate slavery in its territories (in opposition to the Dred Scott Case. Lincoln made his Emancipation Proclamation a war strategy more that a philosophical policy change, but that was enough to start the domino effect that would lead to the passage of the 13th Amendment to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude.

Women's Suffrage (1756-1920): an example of baby steps towards progess to be sure, but always an example of persistance.  Circumstances in various states and territories lead throughout this period to voting allowances for women ranging from no vote at all to full suffrage. The catalyst for full suffrage for women in the United States came from our entrance into World War I.

After President Woodrow Wilson announced that World War I was a war for democracy, women were up in arms. Members of the NWP held up banners saying that the United States was not a democracy. Women in the audience of his public speeches began to ask the question "Mr. President, if you sincerely desire to forward the interests of all the people, why do you oppose the national enfranchisement of women?"WWI

Wilson did not like the press this created. It took a couple more years and several tries to get an amendment passed and ratified, but the public shaming had worked.

Worker's Rights: an on-going issue, but remember for a moment Mother Jones, "The Most Dangerous Woman in America," who lead movements against child labor (1903 Pennsylvania Children's Crusade) and organizing and supporting miners' strikes. The repeated arrest and demonizing of the grandmotherly looking woman by mine owners and some politicians added to her support and caused many in power to address the issues and begin reforms.

Civil Rights Movement: Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56)- 90% of the blacks in Montgomery participated in the boycott, and it worked! An 80% drop in revenue will open your eyes, apparently. Sit-ins and Freedom Rides (1960-61)- called attention to the inequities and allowed for non-black sympathizers to join in on the protests. News coverage of the violence that Freedom Riders were subjected to during demonstrations and in jail helped further the cause. The public was struck by the images of brutality. Birmingham (1963-64) was filled with more of these images, and after high school students joined in a march, what the public saw was children being fire hosed and attacked by dogs.  Mr. Luther King, Jr. who had been active from the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement found that his "Letter from Birminham Jail, while printed without his permission, had helped explain civil disobedience and encouraged others to exercise their"moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."  The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963)was controversial in black leadership (Malcolm X called it a "farce" for allowing whites to participate- he wanted a show of the influence of black people) and in government circles (several speeches were quite critical of the Kennedy administration).   St. Augustine, Florida(1964) Rabbi Israel Dresner of New Jersey leads a group of rabbis in a "pray-in" to show support for MLK- all are arrested. The Black Power Movement (1966) as made public by the Black Panther Party developed a "by any means necessary" approach to stopping inequality that eventually distracted from the original goal of ending police brutality against blacks, but also initiated a cultural movement that gave african-americans the freedom to wear their hair naturally (giving us the "fro").

I could go on and on here, because the Civil Rights Movement  has SO many important events and faces, but I stop now for brevity's sake.

LGBT Rights: This is full of stops and starts... the 20's were a fairly open period in cities, but then conservatism returned with a higher level of intolerance.  The Stonewall Riots in 1969 were an obvious catalyst, as was reaction to the mis-handling of AIDS in the 1980's. Organizing for marriage and employment equality is now the order of the day.

None of these changes, these movements forward, came easily.  All involved (or still involve) putting the issue right into the faces of the "average" US citizen and making us really look at the truth of the matter. All had some kind of "spark" or rallying point or charismatic leader.

None of them came from the middle... none of them came from the safety of the "status quo".  The middle wants to keeps things the same--change is scary, so let's not do it.  Conservatives like change even less-- let's go back to when change hadn't even begun- to "the good old days."

I am a progressive- a fairly liberal one, in fact. I want my country to keep moving forward. I want my country to examine itself and keep what works and fix what doesn't. After all, isn't that how we make progress?

Lots of what people take for granted today started out as pretty radical ideas.  I hope that lots of what people take for granted 50 years from now comes from what we are now trying to accomplish.

How do we get there? How do we pull America forward?  How do we nudge her towards her future?

UPDATE: There is a diary on the Rec List about a current sit-in! Sit-In

Originally posted to mommyof3 on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 06:30 PM PST.

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