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Jim Hightower: Giving Thanks to Citizens and Grass-Roots Progressives

Real change is up to us, and populist progress is popping up all over the country

This Thanksgiving, even progressive Americans can find plenty of progress for which we can be grateful.

Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower

Let’s start with the Girl Scouts of America. When news broke that the national organization for girls had fallen off its ethical pony, many of its grass-roots members and supporters knew that the first job of a citizen is to keep your mouth open.

Sometimes, however, the collective mouth of the American public must roar in order to be heard — and to make things right. Thankfully, this is what happened after it was reported in October that the organization was seeking new bids for the manufacture of uniforms and sashes worn by the 2.4 million girls who are members of the GSA. For years, this work has been done by a small, family-owned business in Passaic, N.J. — but Scout leaders at headquarters decided to consider shifting the business to three other companies, two of which are overseas, including one in China.

Say what? Girl Scouts of America would offshore 90 jobs of Passaic workers to China, where factories pay pathetically cheap wages and might even use child labor? GSA executives tried at first to defend this, saying they were “engaging in good business practices,” like corporations do. “We have an obligation to deliver the best value to our members,” an official declared.

Well, there’s “value,” but then there are values. Which was GSA choosing — and which was it teaching the girls?

This question was at the heart of the public uproar that instantly erupted from members, parents and volunteers. If you want ethically compromised value, they roared, go to Wal-Mart — but we came to the Girl Scouts for values.

It took only two days for headquarters to get the message. The bid request was quickly modified to require a U.S. manufacturer and to set strict manufacturing guidelines for the ages and treatment of workers. Indeed, officials turned their boo-boo into a positive lesson: “We thank the many Girl Scout (advocates) who stood up for their beliefs and showed ... that every voice makes a difference.”

See, speaking out matters. So keep roaring.

But there’s more to be thankful for, especially after that exhilarating election. Of course, even a car wreck can be exhilarating.

Still, we can see plenty of populist political progress popping up. Rather than looking to Washington, however, look around your own area.

Even though media mavens don’t cover it, grass-roots progressives are forging surprising coalitions in such places as Iowa, Houston, Syracuse, central Missouri, New Haven, Ohio and Rhode Island. All across the country, people are producing new solutions and structural changes that add up to real hope for shared prosperity in America. In issues big and small, there’s much we can be thankful for — and build on.

Take a big one that Washington “leaders” — both Republicans and Democrats — bungled: reigning in Wall Street greed. A growing network of more than two dozen local coalitions have joined into an activist force that you can link with by clicking here. Showdown has deployed more than 200 organizers around the country to rally grass-roots support for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and to decentralize Wall Street’s monopolistic power into locally based financial institutions.

Another effort helps you mount your own personal rebellion against the big banksters by withdrawing your money from them. After all, it is your money, so why let the bastards have it? Click here for how-to steps for transferring your funds into credit unions, community banks and socially responsible investment firms.

The point here is that real change is up to us, not to President Barack Obama or the Democratic Party. They are not the progressive movement, we are. And you can find action right where you live to start putting progress back in “progressive.”

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

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