I woke up Saturday morning and realized that I had entered Bizzaro World! The strangest things were happening and it just did not make sense. For example I turned on the television and before me I saw a rally that seemed to be commemorating the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech except that it was being hosted by Glenn Beck and the keynote speaker was non other then Sarah Palin, and to top it off the rally was attended by nothing but a sea of white people! It just did not make sense. There was barely a minority to be found. But the weirdest thing was that on stage was Martin Luther King’s niece, a parade of African-American singers and speakers who all looked like they had shown up to the wrong rally. And all everyone was talking about was “restoring honor” and giving America back to the people. I thought that was what happened when dubya left office and the vast majority of Americans voted Barack Obama and the democrats back into power. I was waiting for Rush Limbaugh to walk out on stage with an African robe on and start singing “We Will Overcome”, hand in hand with Beck and Palin. I swear, it was the weirdest thing! Then I realized that I had not entered Bizzaro World at all but had instead woken up to a normal day and this was really going on!
But what possible reason would Glenn Beck have for hosting a rally of all white people to commemorate the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech? And what did King have to do with the messages that Glen Beck and Sarah Palin have been preaching to the far conservative right wing and the Tea Party movement? And how come the only black people that were there were on stage? Maybe I’m making too much of this. After all, there was no talk of Obama being a socialist or questioning his religion. Their was no talk of comparing Obama to Hitler, and Sarah Palin only spoke of the bravery of our troops. The Tea Partiers did not bring their traditional anti-Obama signs and the overall tone seemed to be as peaceful as could be. At first glance it appeared that Beck’s rally turned out to be nothing but a peaceful get together, with out the traditional Beck/Palin messages, celebrating King and the hope for a better tomorrow. But at second glance, maybe the first glance is the actual problem.
You see when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at that rally in 1963, which was called “The Great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” his message was not directed simply to those who followed him but to all of America, and his message was consistent with all that he had said before that day. What made King so great was that even though his movement was ignited by the social and economic injustices to the African Americans at that time he recognized that for all Americans to prosper, no single group could be held back. His message was always positive and he never used hateful or incendiary language to forward his movement
The organizers of the 1963 rally, which besides King also included many labor leaders including those from what is now the UAW, were not only preaching civil rights but also economic equality for all. Flyers from the rally called for a push back against "the twin evils of racism and economic deprivation," and recommended massive federal intervention, in order to bring jobs to the unemployed, both black and white, the kind that Beck would call socialism and a take over of America. A. Philip Randolph, vice president of the AFL-CIO at that time, and the one who actually conceived of the 1963 march, the man who got King involved, and who in 1964 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson was the first speaker that day. In his speech he said, “"Our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not. And we know that we have no interest in a society in which 6 million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty."
The problem is that Beck’s message is nowhere near the dream that Martin Luther King preached that day in 1963 and consistently throughout his whole life. Kings message was for Social and Economic justice for all, yet in Beck’s skewed and warped misinterpretation of the civil rights movement he said that “They weren't crying for social justice…” When Rev. Al Sharpton came out and spoke about Kings dream, that it was “ not to put one black candidate in the White House," but to "make everything equal in everybody's house,” Beck responded with “That is not the Dream, that is a perversion of the dream,” when in fact that was exactly what the dream was. Becks hateful speech has gone so far as to numerous times compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler. He has said that he expects that during this administration we will see dogs and hoses turned on the people. He has said that we will be enslaved by everything from taxes to the health care reforms. He has blatantly called President Obama a racist and has asserted that he has an agenda to “settle old racial scores through new social justice.” While King called for an expanded role by the government to fight poverty and joblessness, Beck equates government intervention to addicting the public to heroin. King called for an economic bill of rights that would "guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work". In contrast Beck called a guarantee to the right of a job, “Marxism.”
The truth is that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today and still preaching the messages that he preached in the 1960s, he would be all over Glenn Beck’s blackboard because there is nothing even remotely similar about the views of these two men. In a 1961 speech to the AFL-CIO, King said in regards to the distribution of wealth and jobs for all, “Yes, before the victory is won, some will be misunderstood. Some will be dismissed as dangerous rabble-rousers and agitators. Some will be called reds and Communists merely because they believe in economic justice and the brotherhood of man. But we shall overcome.” King could easily have been speaking of Glenn Beck who has said, “It's economic justice, which is socialism, which is forced redistribution of wealth, which is Marxism.”
Today we have a nation that just as in the 1960’s is filled with the haves and the have not’s. The middle class is slowly disappearing and the distribution of wealth is grossly imbalanced. Today the abuses of Wall Street have created mega millionaires all while manufacturing jobs have been eroded and gone over seas. Joblessness at the time Obama took office was at 700,000, our banks were failing, our auto makers were about to go under, foreclosures were at an all time high, and very little was being done by our government to bring jobs back to our nation. And just like in the 60’s, joblessness in the African American communities far outweighs joblessness by any other social group. If alive today Martin Luther King Jr. would be preaching the same dream that he was preaching that day in 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, of social and economic equality for all. Just as he did in the 60’s he would be calling for an expanded roll in government to help solve these problems. He would be calling for economic reforms and a reform of Wall Street. He would be calling for jobs programs just like he did in the 1960’s and for a strengthening of our education system that did not include vouchers that the poor could not afford. He actually would be more in line with President Obama then with Glenn Beck. In 1961, speaking to the AFL-CIO, King said,
“This will be the day when we shall bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality -- that is the dream.”
Glenn Beck did not “restore honor” or “reclaim the civil rights movement” as he had hoped to. Instead he dishonored King’s message, King’s dream and the legacy of a man who if he were alive today would be so proud to see how far we have come but would still be fighting for how far we have yet to go.
Interview With Participants at the "Restoring Honor" Rally: