Because, even though political assclowns are the gift that keep on giving for a blogger with a satirical bent, too little attention is paid to the few, true heroes who made or at least tried to make a difference by taking an often lonely stand against greed, prejudice or injustice without any heed to the odds, consequences or no guarantee of impunity. Every year, no matter how bad, produces them and, Buzzflash’s Wings of Justice Awards notwithstanding, we don’t give these men and women the credit they deserve. Therefore, I humbly present my list of who I think were the top ten heroes of 2010. May the living ones continue to stand tall in 2011 and well beyond.
The only quadruped on this list, Target gets a special mention for helping to save countless lives when a suicide bomber tried to enter a crowded rec hall at a US base in Afghanistan last February 11th. When Target and two other guard dogs began to bark and attack the intruder, the bomber was forced to blow himself up outside, wounding only five soldiers. She got her name after getting shot by an insurgent in Afghanistan. Target was rewarded for her bravery with a medal, a Facebook page and a guest spot on Oprah. Tragically, after getting loose from her owner’s yard in Arizona, Target was accidentally euthanized when an idiotic dog pound employee mixed her up with another dog that was scheduled to be put down.
As with so many people on this list, Lt. Dan Choi became a much-needed face for his cause, in this case the repeal of the despicable Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Choi was one of over 13,000 American servicemembers to be unfairly drummed out of the service since 1993 because of his sexual orientation and valiantly attempted to re-enlist within days after a federal judge struck down DADT. Choi has recently been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown relevant to his ongoing struggle for equality for all members of the US armed forces. Here’s hoping he gets back on his feet and rejoins the good fight soon.
In a year in which even liberal icons such as Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart have disappointed, the brainy and funny Rachel Maddow did not once falter and likely never will. The MSNBC host and former Air America DJ took on (and, in some cases, took down) some of the most pompous and extreme assclowns of the year, starting with Rand Paul. Maddow has an almost eerie way of finding herself on the right side of every issue whether it be DADT’s repeal, the tax bill, Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care reform bill or any other thorny issue that’s polarized this country.
Once again, it was up to a Comedy Central funnyman, this time faux conservative Stephen Colbert, to stand up for the plight of the common working man when Colbert testified before Congress to deliver his thoughts on the hardly-touched problem of undocumented migrant workers. While he drily cracked wise in character, Colbert at several times during his testimony played it straight and delivered some sobering statistics before a House Judiciary subcommittee at the invitation of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. Among the numbers was the fact that the “Take Our Jobs” campaign enlisted the aid of just a handful of Americans, including Colbert. When the dreary Judiciary Chairman John Conyers asked Colbert to leave the chamber before he’d had the chance to open his mouth, we knew we were onto something.
In order to make a disaster or a cause resonate with the public it needs a face and a story and citizen activist Kindra Arneson of Louisiana provided both in the wake of the BP oil spill disaster that almost completely decimated the fishing industry on the Gulf Coast. Arneson’s husband was among those afflicted by BP’s negligence and she quickly proved to be a passionate, telegenic and eloquent spokeswoman for everyone who had been devastated by the disaster in one way or another. BP made the mistake of allowing Arneson to rub shoulders with its corporate elite in the interests of full disclosure and transparency and she faithfully kept going back before banks of microphones to inform us of more outrages such as BP’s purely PR “Balloons and Ponies” campaign that actually faked cleanup details for the press and politicians.
First Lady Michelle Obama deserves to be included on this list because of her ongoing crusade against childhood obesity. Self-appointed pundits such as Rush Limbaugh have derided her for telling us how to care for our bodies without once explaining why he wasn’t saying the same thing when Nancy Reagan was waging her own “Just Say No” crusade (which Rush, on reflection, should’ve listened to more closely). But the truth is that pediatricians have recently listed childhood obesity as the world’s number one preventable cause of death among children. So kudos to the First Lady for helping to elevate this epidemic to national awareness, regardless of her husband’s fondness for Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
A trooper to the very end, liberal icon Elizabeth Edwards passed on a week ago after doctors informed her her cancer had spread to her liver and that treatment was no longer viable. Throughout her life, and especially since allegations about her husband John Edwards began to be solidified, Edwards continued devoting the rest of her life to liberal/progressive causes and her children. Living under heartbreak such as personal betrayal and terminal illness, Mrs. Edwards stubbornly insisted on showing a grace and good humor that the rest of us, including me, can only hope to aspire to.
During his brief career in Congress, outgoing Congressman Alan Grayson was the Bernie Sanders of the House, regularly going after the Republican Party and its greediness, stupidity and mean-spiritedness with teeth flashing. Showing absolutely no respect for the GOP, giving no quarter, never apologizing for his often hilarious yet dead-on remarks while lambasting their idiotic policies with rare and refreshing politically incorrect humor, Grayson was the conscience of the House Democrats, someone who wasn’t always appreciated by Blue Dog and mainstream Democrats. Florida’s 8th congressional district thought they could do better than Grayson and elected a psychopath named Dan Webster to succeed him. Alan may be gone in a few days but he certainly won’t be forgotten nor, I suspect, will gently fade into that good night.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the only Socialist in Congress, proved his progressive bona fides and then some in an epic eight and a half hour-long fake filibuster of the tax bill that would eventually pass this week. With a smattering of help from Mary Landreiu and Sherrod Brown, Sanders basically took control of his seemingly endless speech, packing it with personal stories from his constituents, that of his colleagues’ constituents and shook the rafters with an inexhaustible supply of outrage at how we can forget the poor in this country and allow the GOP to hold them hostage so the most undeserving people on earth can continue paying lower taxes while undermining Social Security. Sanders must’ve known his 124 page-long jeremiad on this latest outrageous example of billionaire welfare would fall on deaf ears in the Senate but it was heard loud and clear in the progressive grassroots community.
Without seemingly getting, nor expecting, any offer of protection from Julian Assange and Wikileaks, intelligence analyst Bradley Manning delivered to the people of the free world a treasure trove of millions of documents that showed just how corrupt, murderous and patently dishonest the planet’s leaders are, starting with the United States. Thanks to Manning’s audacious theft, we got not shocking epiphanies as to our arrogant, cruel behavior but at least we were given documented confirmation of it. It revealed an America that essentially looks down on the rest of the world with imperial contempt. While Assange sips martinis in Ellingham Hall and holds court for the world press that have turned him into a renegade hero, Manning sits in a small prison cell in Quantico 23 out of 24 hours in almost total obscurity. He must have known he was risking it all in the interests of transparency but Manning didn’t care. He faces up to 52 years in prison while getting only a fraction of the legal defense funds he was promised by Wikileaks and precious few others.