Trial Balloon

The Allure of Radicalism

Posted at 5:04 AM on October 6, 2009 by Radio Heartlander (22 Comments)
Filed under: Guest Bloggers

From the Desk of the Heartlanders
Guest Blogger - Barbara in Robbinsdale


A few weeks ago when Husband and I were on a Minnesota stay-cation, we were honored to attend a memorial service for a man who had been a real "mover and shaker", someone who was active in many arenas and really got things done. In addition to this, he was considered a "radical." On a hilltop overlooking the gorgeous green valleys of Southeastern Minnesota in August, people told stories about this man for three solid hours - how he kept to his principles, questioned and at times defied authority, blazed trails, and worked incessantly for environmental and community-building causes.

I grew up in a household of mixed messages: Be Different (but not So Different That You'd Embarrass Us). In the late 60s and the 70s, there were so many ways to Be Different! You could blaze a little trail by trying out vegetarianism or marching in protest to the Vietnam War. Some of us left for the East or West coasts, or abroad, hoping to find something radically different, and of course we did. When ready to settle down, I came to Minneapolis in the late seventies hoping what I'd heard was true - there were Radicals in Minnesota. I've never been disappointed - the coastal hot spots had nothing on this state!

Most of us are now more subtle in our radicalism - there are hundreds of ways to be a little bit radical. I still enjoy getting people to raise an eyebrow by telling them, say, that I listen to this eclectic radio show on - what! - an HD radio.

What is the most radical thing you've ever done, in your mind OR someone else's?

From Dale's desk, but not necessarily from Dale
A giveaway

Enter now! Or at least before 1 p.m. Wednesday October 7 for your chance to win tickets to the Over The Rhine concert at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 at 8pm. Official Rules in fine print available.


VW Bus image courtesy Julia Schrenkler

Comments (22)

Good morning, All! this should be a fun topic also. thanks, Barbara in Robbinsdale.
i am among the oldest of the boomers - born early in '46. not that there weren't radicals before us, certainly, but i think being "different" was more important to us because there were so many of us. what an honor, if when one is dead, that folks talk about sticking to principles and integrity. don't think i'm a radical or even much different. but Steve says he thinks that moving from the city and raising goats is radical (ha, ha! for a city boy it is!)
can't wait to read your comments today.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | October 6, 2009 6:27 AM

Well, Barbara, this is kind of a sensitive topic for me. You don't really want to be labeled as a radical in this country and if you do something radical you might be in trouble. I think it is time for change, which some would call radical, and there has been a big need for change for a long time. We are not getting it from Obama and we are not getting the information we need from almost all of our media to help us see this need for change.

I am not sure that we can really have much of a discusion about this topic, but thanks, Barbara, for making an attempt.

Posted by Jim | October 6, 2009 6:56 AM

Thanks for the interesting blog entry, Barbara! I look forward to reading the comments that will follow.

Nothing about my life has been particularly radical, though I think my mother would have disagreed at times. Having to overlook my dyed pink hair when I was young was something she did without issue because she was smart enough to recognize superficiality for what it was. I think she really didn't like it when I hitchhiked across Germany, Holland, and France during college. Still, that's not exactly a radical thing to do. Maybe unsafe... but quite ordinary actually.

I guess when I gave up my career in education to work in the IT industry as a network engineer and Unix systems administrator with all men, that was radical. I make a lot more money than I did prior, but I'm not sure how I feel about life in a fattening pen or about babysitting network connections, devices, and hosts 24/7.

Posted by elinor | October 6, 2009 7:03 AM

well, not all radical is political. it might be, as Barbara suggests, doing something not predicted. a "one eighty" from what folks might think you would do.
radical, for our governmental leaders, would be to help us get equal health care for everyone and not worry about being re-elected.
radical, for me, would be to get up at 5 am and not complain that i'm tired :-)

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | October 6, 2009 7:07 AM

Barb, radical for me now would be to give up coffee! ;-)

Posted by elinor | October 6, 2009 7:15 AM

Greetings! A really radical thing I did many years ago was move here to attend college at U of MN in Mpls. A couple of my older sisters left for college far from Green Bay, WI, but came home after a semester. Whereas, I came here and stayed, which was really radical because I was a very shy homebody type.

I guess I'm a tad radical in other ways -- non-mainstream spirituality, was vegetarian and raw foodist (which I'm thinking seriously about doing again), read "Mother Jones" magazine, etc.

I don't know if that's radical or just offbeat, but it works for me! Stay dry and have a great day! Thanks for another great blog today, Barb!

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | October 6, 2009 7:19 AM

For better or worse, my truly politically radical days were during the Reagan era - plenty there to be radical about (though it did shock a co-worker that I was old enough to have been at a Reagan protest when he was in town for a fundraiser).

It doesn't always feel truly radical, but even in my pretty progressive neighborhood and group of friends it still sometimes a little radical that I build sets, fix things, and generally revel in my ability to use big power tools. It shouldn't be radical that a girl can do these things - and again, for better or worse, my daughter is being raised to think "normal" is Dad doing the laundry and Mom fixing the plumbing...

Thanks for the fun posts these past few days guest bloggers!

Posted by Anna | October 6, 2009 7:38 AM

Anna - I applaud your ability to revel in your handy skills. Elinor, you're awesome for making a good income in a "masculine" arena. I, too, revel in my ability to do karate and spar men half my age (and do fairly well).

In most other aspects of my life, I'm a pretty ordinary wife/mom, so it's fun to explore being "different, or radical" in a few areas.

Jim, I understand your feelings of being labeled radical in our country. There's always room for discussion -- but it may get ugly if we get into it. I love Obama and what he represented, but we're just re-packaging a broken "health care" system is what seems to be happening. It would be nice to see a voucher system so we can have easy access to proven alternative medicine, supplements, herbs, etc.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | October 6, 2009 7:50 AM

Your are right, Joanne, being labled radical can get ugly. I'm sure most of us know about the black listing from the 50s.
We don't have the same knid of black listing now, but holding unpopular polictical positions is still likely to put you at a disadvantage in many ways that are similar to black listing.

Posted by Jim | October 6, 2009 8:08 AM

i was the hippie in the vw van traveling the country and canada pickng up work as i went for a couple of years in the 60s/70s transition. vegetarian, peace rallies, weekend music festivals,
i've changed some, i don't have a vw van anymore
if obama ain't the change were looking for it ain't comin. he is going to get us to where we need to be. give him time to deal with the broken mess he inherited.
it is important to pass on. my kids want to sit on the sideline and not be noticed. i try to encourage by example the concept of standing up and doing things that matter. politics yes but it comes up everywhere, everyday.

Posted by tim | October 6, 2009 8:09 AM

Hey everbody, don't forget to throw your name in the hat for the Over the Rhine concert this Saturday night at the Cedar. (Just the thought of being out of the house after dark is a pretty radical thought for me!)

Posted by Mike Pengra | October 6, 2009 8:26 AM

I like to remember that radical means root and to try to work for changes at the root of problems. When my son was in elementary school I spearheaded the PRIDE program. While the program was about encouraging good citizenship and discouraging running in the hall I wrapped all the messages inside encouragement to accept diverse points of view and value others' experiences. It is hard to know if it mattered , but when I saw the 2nd grade teacher in this suburban school stop insisting that the kids use pink paper for Santa's face and had my son come home and say "I made a Santa that looks like me." I felt radical change incrementally happening.

Posted by Beth-Ann | October 6, 2009 8:43 AM

well, i do have radical views pretty frequently---
and frankly, i'm no more concerned about being labeled a radical than i am about being labeled a feminist---i'll wear them both proudly.

i do have a side that would advocate for some short-cuts to social problems, although the shortcuts tend to be a bit extreme and fascistic --
but i seem to have lost patience as i get older---

for example, i would radically like to see parental rights terminated much more quickly when parents are abusing and/or neglecting their kids---take them away before the damage gets too great.

i'd like to see corporations actually receiving the consequences of their actions and the govt letting the ones that pollute and exploit go right out of business....


Posted by Kay H in Utah | October 6, 2009 8:49 AM

ha, ha, Mike!
it's fun to read everyone's comments today. funny how "radical" definition changes thru the years. one of my grandmas loved to fish and she always wore jeans (big 'ole grandpa jeans, but not a "house dress" which was the norm in those days) when she went fishing. as far as i know, that's the only tilt toward radicalism that she took - well, that and shooting her shotgun out the upstairs window to ward off traveling salesmen that stopped at her farm :-)

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | October 6, 2009 8:57 AM

Wow, this is more interesting than I ever could have imagined! I knew I could count on this group.

I like to be "radical" (though not necessarily in the political sense) by doing the unusual. For my 50th birthday I was given a month long trip, solo, on Amtrak/Via (with breaks). People asked me "is that safe"? (It was.) I try to informally educate people about "alternative" nutrition (saturated fats isn't the problem, folks, don't get me started). At this point, I guess I want not to be labeled Radical so much as Original.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | October 6, 2009 9:05 AM

It's also interesting to note that was once radical is now commonplace. Jesus was a radical and Christianity was a cult in its early stages. The US Constitution and our founding fathers were radical and fought bitterly for years over allowing unheard of freedoms and voting privileges to the masses and common folk.

It goes on -- women voting, equal rights for all, 100 years ago agriculture was all organic -- now it's upscale and not mainstream (and they keep diluting the meaning of organic), herbs, homeopathy and chiropractic were acceptable and effective forms of treatment -- now they're "alternative" compared to the toxic side effects of "miracle pharmaceuticals" and aren't covered under the insurance monopoly.

Well, you get the idea. It's easy to get carried away with this stuff and start jumping on soapboxes. I'll stop now ...

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | October 6, 2009 10:00 AM

Good point, Joanne. If Jesus were around today, he would undoubtedly still be considered radical, and many people who presently consider themselves Christians would reject his ideas. He would probably rail against the capitalist system in the U.S., and the worship of money and consumer goods at the expense of the common good.

Thanks for the loan of the soapbox! Anyone else want a turn on it now?

Posted by Linda in St. Paul (West Side) | October 6, 2009 10:20 AM

Okay, if some are willing to get on the soap box, I will have something to say. This goes againest may better judgement, but I will say this much. I think everyone should be concerned about what is going on in Afghanistan and should inform themselves by going the web site of Rethink Afghanistand.

Posted by Jim | October 6, 2009 10:43 AM

Thanks for the info, Jim. I signed. My oldest son is in Marines, currently deployed in Afghanistan. He can't tell us much, but my sense is he doesn't feel like the US is helping much over there.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | October 6, 2009 10:54 AM

As Joanne said a few posts back, what was once radical is now commonplace. And sometimes what was commonplace is now radical. I hang my clothes out on the line (well, not today), and there are communities where that is now illegal! I know there are more examples of that...

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | October 6, 2009 11:58 AM

Joanne -- just want to add: May your son come home safe and sound.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | October 6, 2009 3:22 PM

Ha, what a great topic!

It's fun to read these and wonder, what it is that I've done that was crazy-radical....

I think I "felt" most radical when I was dressed up rather punk and was approached by a little boy who asked me if I was a real punk. I really wasn't, since I didn't listen to that kind of music, but I sure thought they were a cool lot. None of that mattered to the little boy, I conjured up my best sneer and I relished in the thought that I was, at that moment in time, a super-radical punk rocker!

Posted by Sally | October 9, 2009 2:53 PM

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