Friday, 15 September 2006

It's a Big Time in America

That was Jim Hightower's catchphrase last night as he entertained, agitated, and communed with an activist rich community last night in Seattle's Town Hall.

Hightower never minces words in his indictment of the powers that be who misuse their wealth and power to separate themselves from the rest of us, but what secures my admiration of him is his unrelenting optimism in spite of his often dire analysis. He finds the underlying progressivism in the fabric of America, even among those who think of themselves as conservative. Of Republican mothers he comments, "Guess what? They don't want pesticides on their babies' food."

"We don't have to create a progressive movement, we just have to go out and collect it up!"

There were zingers aplenty.

America depends on its agitators to beat out the dirt.

The bigwigs are "gettin' so rich they could air condition hell, and I tell you what ..."

When the Bushites tell the poor about their number of jobs they created, one working poor woman respond "I know, I have 3 of them!" (Then Hightower went on the expose that myth noting that Bush has created the fewest jobs of any president since Hoover.)

He quoted fellow Texan Bill Moyers who has noted that "the delusional is no longer marginal."

He made fun of himself, noting that at an earlier point in his career he decided to "stop running for office, and start running his mouth."

But beyond the barbs, Hightower's optimism takes over. He told the faithful that "pursuit of egalitarianism is America's true path." He doesn't pretend that the road will be easy or that it will be short. He reminded us that suffragists Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton never lived to get the vote themselves. But what they wrought brought America one step closer to its egalitarian destiny. Hightower referred to the "prairie fires of rebellion across America" today - "It's a big time in America!" and he quoted the Chinese proverb, "Those who say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."

He talked about how lucky he is to be able to travel all over America and meet the people who are getting things done. He thanked the crowd - not for coming to hear him, but for being on the front lines of the fight to retain our democracy. He thanked the sponsors. He thanked the Seattle Peace Chorus who had warmed the crowd up with several rousing songs of hope. He took a moment to remember the recently passed Ann Richards, another rabble-rousing Texan who made a real difference in moving that state forward in an earlier decade. His words were a accompanied by a genuine warmth, a warmth that was felt by a number of us lucky enough to meet him before the main event. Jim Hightower is the real deal, not just a blabbermouth ideologue looking for attention. He understands that the struggle is not about ideology, it's about truth.

All of us are going to be wrong sometimes, and sometimes partial truths can lead well intentioned people to disastrous decisions. But other times it's pretty obvious what's going on, and if we're all too timid to say it the powerful will continue to run roughshod over us. Timidity is certainly not among Hightower's shortcomings. We can always count on the sharp-witted Texan to give it to us straight in his "Lowdown", regulary aired on many public radio stations. But if you ever get a chance to see him live, don't miss it. Hightower live is a helluva treat.

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