Sunday, August 29, 2010

Snoring Honor, and additional mendacity

My observation -- having not watched a millisecond of the teevee coverage but having read plenty of reports -- is the tent revival aspect of the gathering. Many of the attendees were Midwestern and Southern, reflecting the cross-section of Christian fundamentalism that holds up Sarah Palin as its icon. But Beck, a Mormon, was the one on stage drinking the strychnine and handling the snakes.

They told people to leave their misspelled political signs at home, and aspiring politicos like Gingrich and Huckabee stayed away. Speaking of Mormons, where was Mitt Romney?

Some other reactions to Beckapalooza yesterday ...

Glenn Beck promised there wouldn't "be a dry eye in the house" after his big speech today at the Lincoln Memorial for his "Restoring Honor" rally -- because, you know, it was going to be "so stirring."

Riiiiight. Well, Glenn Beck's eyes certainly weren't dry. He started weeping while telling the crowd that somewhere out there was "the next George Washington".

Dunno about you, but when I saw pan shots of the crowd -- which was one of the whitest crowds in D.C. in recent memory -- I mostly thought I saw "the next Timothy McVeigh." But your mileage may vary.

As for the speech itself: Lunesta in verbal form. I'm having to pick my head up from my desk just to write something about it.

It was essentially Beck's call for a return to the religious life in America -- which was why he assembled 240 representatives of various churches in the crowd and dubbed them his "new Black Robe Regiment". This part was particularly creepy, since it came with an admonition that religious leaders needed to focus on "fundamental values" -- as defined by Glenn Beck, of course.

This means, naturally, that the "social justice" for which Martin Luther King fought -- and which Glenn Beck has vigorously condemned -- would not be part of those fundamental values.

As predicted, the whole show was a hoax -- a civil rights rally for easily frightened white people.

The people who attended were clearly there for a red-meat tossing tirade about how the evil Socialist President Obama and the handmaidens of Satan – aka The Democratic Party – were destroying America. What they got instead was a long-form Christian revival meeting combined with a military recruiting show. The message was pretty clear and nothing new – “If America doesn’t turn toward God we’re all doomed!” combined with speaker after speaker pretty much fetishizing the military.

The faces in the (nearly all-white) crowd told the story – they came from all over the country for THIS? I’ve never seen so many frowns concentrated in one spot in my life. The only people of color were on the stage and it was a parade of sermons and tales of military bravery, one after the other. None of them ever did get around to defining what they meant by “honor” either (neither Beck nor Saint Sarah of the Perpetual Victim), just that we didn’t have it like the Founding Fathers did. Martin Luther King’s name was invoked a few times to scattered applause. People on Twitter were reporting that the attendees said they felt “snookered” by Beck and weren’t happy at all.

Billed as a nonpolitical event, it nevertheless was a clarifying moment for those curious as to what clout an anti-Washington sentiment could have on midterm congressional elections in November. The gathering was advertised as an opportunity to honor American troops. But it also illustrated voters' exasperation — and provided additional evidence that Democrats in power — as well as some incumbent Republicans — may pay the price when voters go to the polls.

The tea party is essentially a loosely organized band of anti-tax, libertarian-leaning political newcomers who are fed up with Washington and take some of their cues from Beck. While the movement drew early skepticism from establishment Republicans, these same GOP powerbrokers now watch it with a wary eye as activists have mounted successful primary campaigns against incumbents.

Today, political conservatives led by media showmen such as Glenn Beck are once again turning to Dr. King to deflect charges of racism as they advance their agenda by questioning, among other things, the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president. To mask their own racism, they have turned history on its head, bastardizing Dr. King’s dream.

Political conservatives are not the heirs to Dr. King’s legacy, and to suggest otherwise is not just fanciful, but farcical. Unfortunately, too many Americans don’t know enough about history to separate fact from fiction.

Nobody landed with a parachute. Nobody took off in a balloon. And where was (were?) Up With People? I only watched on the tube, but at about the two-hour mark of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally I was wishing Beck's liberaliberatiosyndicalarian enemies were right: Where's Mussolini when a crowd needs him?

"This is a moment," said Glenn Beck three months ago on his radio program, "...that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement. It has been so distorted and so turned upside down. ... We are on the right side of history. We are on the side of individual freedoms and liberties and damn it, we will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement, because we were the people that did it in the first place!"

... You'll notice he didn't define the "we" he had in mind, but it seems reasonable to suppose Beck was speaking of people like himself: affluent middle-aged conservatives possessed of the ability to see socialism and communism in places where it somehow escapes the notice of others.

If you agree that assumption is reasonable, then you must also agree Beck's contention that his "we" were the architects of the civil rights movement is worse than nonsensical, worse than mendacious, worse than shameless. It is obscene. It is theft of legacy. It is robbery of martyr's graves.

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