Sunday, August 29, 2010
Thoughts on the Glenn Beck rally
Yesterday I went to church. Which would have been fine, except I thought I was going to a political rally.
It was what we called "GlennBeckistan," and what Glenn Beck called his super public plea to "Restore America," held about a mile from my house at the Lincoln Memorial.
I'm no stranger to political rallies. The difference here is that I wasn't a supporter this time. It was me and few others infiltrating a tea party / tea bagger 'Murican rally. Yes, I don't hold this group in very high esteem. But I'm also not as virulently against them as one of my friends, who is convinced that every single tea partier is a racist.
I know what it's like to feel alienated and to want change. I know about the wonderful feeling you get when you are around "your people," and the feeling of power that comes with going to a public rally. So I'm proud of them for rallying, and for taking buses all across to the United States to come to D.C.
But I was also appalled.
For a national movement, it was 99.9% white. I saw maybe 3 black people, 1 Hispanic and no Asians.
And religion. Religion was so pervasive it was... like a religion. Beck said people couldn't bring signs to his rally (which is so laughable and damning in its own right, but nevermind) but apparel was off the hook - hats that said "Team God," "Got Jesus?" T-shirts and the like. Faith was almost tangible, like I was at a revival.
To me, I wasn't getting the sense that these people simply had faith, which is fine, but that I was surrounded by fundamentalists. This was reinforced when Beck actually spoke - it was a speech as much as a sermon. He invoked Jesus repeatedly. He wanted to "turn America back towards God." They played Gospel music. He invoked Moses, the burning bush, his "stick" (staff). Miracles and grace. Salvation and redemption. I saw Beck's face 50 feet large on the TV screens, with him pacing across the stage delivering "heavenly" sound bytes, and I thought, "Oh My God, he's setting myself up as a prophet."
And I'm serious. It occurred to me that the purpose of the the rally, besides to increase conservative cohesion, was to add further religious dimension to Beck's persona. Once someone has you in their religious thrall, you become susceptible to all their suggestions and ideas. This mixing of politics and religion in this overt way scares the hell out of me. Beck is not a preacher. He's a political commentator. And the way people were saying "Amen" and (in the case of one woman) kneeling in the middle of the road and praying - that sounds very much like the "sheeple" they accuse liberals of being.
Then there was the incredible misinformation. We talked to some very nice people who thought that Obama was a Muslim, and that he had spent millions of dollars to hide his real birth certificate. People were quoting Fox News in thinking there were 3 million people there (less than 700,00, by most accounts). And one woman in the metro thought that Obama had left town because he was scared of the tea party. How can you have a movement - any movement - that isn't informed? A friend told me that most Americans don't get their information from news channels at all, but from forwarded emails from friends. That kind of junk is a NEWS SOURCE. Something that you base important opinions on.
I don't know what the future holds. Change is always scary. But I think this group is more likely to lead us in the wrong direction than anything else.