Every significant cultural, political or religious innovation has been fired up by them. In fact, every religion was founded by them. And, of course, America was as well.
Reformers who wanted to re-shape society by re-imagining what “We the People” could look like if we lived up to the ideals written on paper and signed in the blood of Revolutionaries.
Radicals who stirred up the masses and the minds of citizens to think beyond the old ways of doing things and thinking things. Radicals who fearlessly faced down the self-appointed “authorities” of Church and State, and faced up to the necessity of Change, Growth, Progress, Evolution … Humanity being better, indeed, more Human.
I just finished reading Holly Jackson’s excellent book, American Radicals: How Nineteenth-Century Protest Shaped the Nation. Jackson takes us into the lives and minds of women and men with wild ideas such as Equality, Freethought, Racial and Gender Justice, Communal societies and more. Fanny Wright, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Thoreau and many other lesser-known reforming radicals who shook their world, our world, with their risky and revolutionary protests and programs.
From the Introduction to American Radicals:
“Clearly, the country had a peculiar relationship to radicalism from the beginning.”
“Even as they aimed to ‘disorganize’ society at its roots, these radicals saw themselves as the true inheritors of the American project who would keep its ideals alive.”
From the Conclusion:
“These activists knew their aims were utopian and had every reason to expect defeat, but they tried for them anyway. All that they accomplished was fired by this mix of radical hope and unrelenting antagonism, their willingness to hazard failure rather than accept the world as they found it.”
And this Great Closing Line:
“Devoting their lives to a struggle with no end, they dared to begin.”
Who are they now? Where are they? Are we listening?