If Glenn Beck and his tens of thousands of followers had gone to the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and stayed silent, he would have accomplished his objective exactly as he did on Saturday, Aug. 28. That is because his objective was a simple one: to dance on the grave of the beloved Civil Rights leader and, by inference, spit into the collective face of all African Americans and other honorable Americans.
There can be no doubt that Dr. King would never have wanted his legacy to belong only to African Americans. He was killed precisely because he promoted the ideal of all Americans living together. So he would have welcomed all Americans, of all races, to celebrate one of his historic moments. Americans of all races were part of his campaign for human rights in this country.
And he probably would have taken the Beck rally in stride. That was the kind of man he was. But we don’t have to.
Mr. Beck accused the first African-American President of the United States of being a racist who, he said, doesn’t like white people. His apology following broad criticism was disingenuous at best. Mr. Beck has hardly sought to disguise his own antipathy towards African Americans and people of color.
His grandstanding on television and the calumnies he utters on radio do not just serve the purpose of self-aggrandizement. That is distasteful but distaste is not an unfamiliar concept in our culture. Rather, Mr. Beck has been making himself rich not just by preying on the genuine feelings of helplessness and insecurity in a large segment of Americans but by exploiting the doubts that persist over whether an African American should run an overwhelmingly white nation. Whatever language he couches it in, his diatribes are deliberately intended to reinforce the anxieties that exist, at a time when the nation desperately needs assurances that this period of national challenge shall pass.
Calling the nation back to God and demanding that Americans take their country back are specific attacks on President Barack Obama, the man whose ascendancy to the highest office in the nation is owed to the life and sacrifices of Dr. King.
No, Mr. Beck does not have a claim to anything King. His rally was an obscenity that was a thinly veiled coup attempt against the legacy of Dr. King. It simply won’t stand.