On this Historic Day

newly revised edition

“to struggle together … to stand up for freedom together”

African Americans do not own Martin Luther King Jr., on this Glenn Beck and I agree. No one but slaveholders own people. But truthfully, aside from a few overly snide liberal pundits, I do not think anyone thinks Beck meant that literally. Instead he was referring to the legacy of King. A legacy of civil rights, social justice, and, nearing the end of his time on this earth, an increasing commitment to global equality and ending violence (including state sanctioned wars without end). In fact, it was his stance on these key issues and his ability to sway people from ALL races, religions, genders, and even sexualities (a feat, since he never spoke out for gay rights), to join in his cause that got him assassinated by white supremacist fearing a message of equality.

Martin Luther King Jr. changed the face of N. America. Along with the help of dedicated women, children, and men from across racial divides, Dr. King put an end to legal discrimination against black people in transportation, employment, education, etc. Yet, in the last few years, radio hosts like Glenn Beck have done their best to foster s well as harness long standing social discrimination and turn it back into law. Thus he argues against access to education, employment, or health care for hardworking indentured undocumented workers, more policing in black and poor neighborhoods because of the fear of black criminality, against marriage equality and even going so far as to criticize fluffy films about upper middle class cis white single working mothers; these are the very people Dr. King stood with and up for.  Worse, Beck and his ilk have tried to make this discrimination and fear the very definition of being N. American. Anyway who supports civil or human rights for the marginalized is transformed into anti-American, non-American, or members of that mythic “Other” America.

So no, African Americans do not own Martin Luther King Jr. but Glenn Beck and his followers will NEVER own another black man again no matter how much they wish they did.

Truthfully, I had not meant to talk about Beck today. You’ll note I seldom mention anyone on Fox News on the blog. I’m old enough to remember when news was somewhat apolitical (somewhat, because the crime reports were always “a black man did …” or “a man did” and often highlighted stories that reinforced similar long held believes about poor people and people of color even as they kept the editorializing about them to a minimum). And before conservatives line up to call me a hypocrite for using footage from MSNBC, one needs only look through this blog or my twitter feed to see that I am just as likely to call them out for race and gender issues as anyone else. More so than Fox news because I expect better of them, and often get it. In my mind the answer to most of Glenn Beck’s antics is: It’s Glenn Beck. Nothing deeper seems warranted when you think about it.

Yet here I am, writing.

There is something so inexplicably demented about a man who spends every day on his radio show inciting or expanding, or simply making space for existing, racism in this country daring to say that he is keeping a dream of equality alive by recreating a history that is only mirrored in the fall of the Weimar Republic and reconstruction in the U.S., particularly in 1865. Like a DW Griffith film, Beck and his ilk have hammered home the idea that there is only one people who can govern and represent a civilized nation and only one solution for everyone else. As a historian, I watched the information coming from Beck surrounding this rally with the knowledge of the history with which Beck has actually aligned. Looking at image after image of his 78-87,000 supporters, there can be no doubt where we are headed or that is decidedly away from any dream Martin Luther King Jr had for this nation.

Glenn Beck wants to make you think it is about a date:

Again, we’re arguing about the date.

He wants you to believe that such a historic date slipped his mind:

I had no idea August 28th was the day of the MLK speech when we booked it. I knew that MLK spoke at the Lincoln Memorial. I knew that it was about the content of character. I knew it was about civil rights and injustice. It knew all of those things, but I’m sorry, media, that I forgot the, oh, so important detail of the date.

And truthfully, Like Jon Stewart, I do find it possible a man who does not think MLK Day should be a national holiday would not know the exact date of the historic I had a Dream Speech. But given the way Glenn Beck has attempted to harness the image of King, Rosa Parks, and even Booker T Washington to advertise for the event, how could anyone believe that he did not know what he was doing? And according to HuffPo, when Beck started advertising this event a year ago, he made several comments on his radio show about the historic date. By calling up actual civil rights leaders he does what others have done with the n-word, ie incensed the opposition to his crusade so thoroughly as to make their arguments sound incomprehensible, condescending, or stuck on a single issue, a word or a date, rather than the much larger issues at stake. And like those people who play victim when caught using the n-word, or yelling “re-load” to those who do, Beck is using this supposed tunnel vision to claim victimhood:

At best, they’re operating in the same old political boxes they usually operate out of: Glenn Beck, bad; Sarah Palin, bad; must destroy.

While I don’t doubt there are a few people who have called for Glenn Beck’s actual destruction, they need mental health services, nor do they have access to a 24 hour network or nationally syndicated radio show. They have not been cited as a reason for actual physical violence involving the shooting of others, as at least two mass shooters and one targeted murderer in the last 2 years have cited Beck and his contemporaries at Fox news for their actions. Nor have they helped create and sustain a movement that includes people who have made threats against the president, against immigrants, queer people, and oh yes, black folks. Nor have any of the people Beck is actually blaming for saying he must be destroyed, actually been guilty of saying so. That is where liberal media and conservative media often definitively part ways. While the Olbermann’s on the left due wax indignant often, and often righteously, very few members of left media would use their radio or tv shows as a place to deify themselves in the name of hatred and violent gun imagery knowing that their supporters are armed and ready “to reload”.

And who exactly is it Beck has invited to stand with him on this historic day in which he claims he is taking the reigns of freedom back from actual civil rights leaders?

  • A woman who responded to the use of the n-word & an angry tirade against interracial dating by saying the speaker should reload & that America was “unfair”
  • A singer whose lyrics for the event include “you preach your tolerance but lecture me” … “we’re taking names; waiting for the judgment day”
  • A country musician who has sponsored events under the title “taking our country back” that has not included more than a handful of people of color if any
  • Members of the 9.12 Project whose racist, xenophobic, and homophobic signs have been archived at the top of my blog (and whose comments on that page further underscore them)
  • A woman willing to bastardize her own family’s legacy to make a single issue point about denying reproductive rights ( a woman whose participation will no doubt be used to legitimate the date of the rally and the erroneous belief the audience and the event were integrated or diverse)

And let us not forget, that Beck’s rally is not only hiding behind the skirts of Alveda King but also the troops. You see, when all of his denials fall away, Beck resorted to calling the people criticizing him anti-American because they were “anti-Troops” and pointing to the fact that his rally supports an organization that helps widows and families of disabled veterans. Never mind that he could have given money to this group without such a rally or that no money will go to them until the expensive venue, advertising, and speaker’s fees have been paid. And let us be clear the Republicans Beck often supports on his show and at least one of his speakers ran with last election, have voted repeatedly against VA benefits, medical care, pensions, and even protective gear for troops all the while claiming to be the party that supports them. Does Glenn Beck rally around that on his show? no.

According to eye witnesses the event also included:

  • a union worker passing out fliers with a picture of Dr. King that criticized the use of Asian laborers in the capital instead of “hardworking [white] Americans” – apparently he did not know Beck has continuously rallied against unions
  • people who came out to prove “the backbone of this country is the family. Messing with the definition of the family is dangerous” – apparently they did not know that heterosexual families include incest, domestic violence, child abuse, and codes of silence that are often generationally transferred as much as they include happy and healthy people
  • people who want to ensure there is no Mosque at ground zero but claim they aren’t anti-Muslim they are just “pro-American” – because apparently no one has told them that there are already Mosques in the area and Muslim Americans exist and have for a considerable amount of time in this country, some even died helping survivors in 9/11
  • and people with genuine criticism for the state of the economy, the lack of community in this nation (tho they don’t note the irony in how this rally is furthering divides rather than healing them), and the cost of education (again failing to recognize that the Republicans tried to block a critical education bill that saved teachers jobs and ensured schools had funding)
  • and people who sent emails or made comments out loud to reporters like these:

This is hardly a scene that mirrors any Martin Luther King Jr would have helmed nor one that reflects the basic principles of civil rights and social justice, something Beck has gone on record as saying he does not support anyway. (On Friday Beck told a radio show host that he did not support social justice.) Instead, 828 just like 912 highlights the growing racial divides and racial tensions in this country between white people and people of color, between white citizens + occasionally citizens of color and non-white immigrants, between white heterosexists + occasionally poc heterosexists and white + non-white queers and allies, between white arch-conservative women + woc pro-lifers and feminists, between arch-conservative protestants and every other religion represented in this country as well as those of us who are Catholic or Protestant who follow G-d’s highest commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. While the boundaries of these groups shift to make provisional room for those who can increase their numbers or be put in photo ops to claim diversity, and while people from either side of the binaries can find themselves on the other side because of a single issue that matters more to them than others, the reality is that unlike the diverse multicultural coalition of King, Beck offers us a vision of N. America that is decidedly hierarchical, homogeneous, and willing to police its boundaries with violence. The only thing Beck and his supporters have learned from their last march was to leave the signs at home so it would be easier to play victim when people called them racist, or homophobic, or violent. But he did not tell them, could not tell them, to leave their hatred at home, so it showed up in the things both he and they said to each other and reporters. As Beck said himself:

Make no mistake, the flame of freedom is dwindling. The shining city on the hill, the sun is setting. If you don’t want it to go out on our watch, then you must stand in the blaze. The fire of truth that does not burn those who stand in it, but consumes everything that is not. Point others to the truth.

. . .

If you think things are tough now, you ain’t seeing nothing yet.

“if an American, because his skin is dark cannot … enjoy the full and free life that all of us want, than who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed to stand in his place”

please note the quotes for this piece were taken from Glenn Beck’s broadcast yesterday and not the transcript of his speech today which was unavailable at time of writing

7 thoughts on “On this Historic Day

  1. Seriously. I don’t want to so much as type that pretender’s name but he and his must be firmly repudiated, refuted, and rebuked. (Can you tell I’m a little angry?)

  2. you’re probably right to avoid it. I think everybody writing about him is exactly what he wanted, huge publicity, larger polarity.

  3. Not to pick up on a minor theme and run with it but you write: people who came out to prove “the backbone of this country is the family. Messing with the definition of the family is dangerous” – apparently they did not know that heterosexual families include incest, domestic violence, child abuse, and codes of silence that are often generationally transferred as much as they include happy and healthy people.

    I’m so glad somebody else is saying this. I’ve been saying this for years but people in my circle ignore me b/c of the rotten family dynamic I grew up with. Since I don’t know “how great family is”, I can’t possible make a reasoned critique. Anyway, I really despise the rhetoric that equates heterosexual families with unquestionable good and any other arrangements are inevitably and horribly harmful. Heinous things have been happening in “traditional families” for centuries and, numerically, they’re happening more in “traditional families” than in “non-traditional families”. There is nothing inherent in having a married mother and father that makes family life swell; in fact, in some cases, it’s having a married mother and father that’s the problem.

    • Yes. While there is nothing wrong with having a two-parent heterosexual married family, and often many positives, it is no guarantee against considerable & varied forms of abuse.

  4. Pingback: The August 2010 Just Posts | collecting tokens

  5. Pingback: Cold Spaghetti :: Just Posts for a Just World, August 2010

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