Yesterday, Glenn Beck led a rally on the very site, on the very date of Dr. Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. Thousands of people showed up fueled by the Tea Party ranks who have swelled the heartland's population as of late.
The day was titled "Restoring Honor". This event was planned as being apolitical, and largely seemed so as it was mostly punctuated by an endless stream of amorphous battle cries for 'Freedom' and 'Liberty' - the shouted, veiled language that the American Right use when unable to constructively address the complex issues facing us today.
Reverend Al Sharpton has been the most vocal of opponents to this event, claiming that Beck's presence on this spot, on this day, goes against everything Dr. King stood for - namely social justice. Beck, who has decried 'social justice' as evil and who has said that President Barack Obama is a racist (with a "deep seated hatred for...the white culture"), has been given a complete free pass on his latest comments that he wants to "reclaim the civil rights movement".
Conservatives will point to Sharpton's opposition and declare he is merely trying to keep and old wound open, or perhaps deriding African Americans as trying to claim a proprietary right over Dr. King's legacy. But these voices are missing something entirely, and Sharpton has not been exacting enough in articulating why we who love Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are so saddened by Beck's defilement of this day.
Before Dr. King died, he'd been working with severely disenfranchised sanitation workers in Memphis, TN. He saw this fight as part of a greater war against poverty and for the dignity for the working poor. He'd planned the Poor People's Campaign, whereby he was going to organize a million poor and marginalized people from the worlds richest nation to descend upon Capitol Hill and raise awareness of unacceptable realities. King wanted to press Congress to declare an Economic Bill of Rights. For this, he was absently labeled a communist, most notably by J. Edgar Hoover who harbored an obsession on Dr. King which ultimately contributed to King's death.
Dr. King's message of peace and social justice, for the dignity of ALL people was directed by the Gospels, not Moscow. Somehow, the criminal act of those who labeled him a communist has eluded history. And now it seems a torch has been passed to Beck, to flippantly label anyone and everyone he sees fit, 'communist'. He cleaves the nation into sides, declaring some communists and others as his brethren.
Yesterday, Beck, to his credit, toned down the crazy and turned up the humility. But he also received yet another free pass at explaining where exactly America lost her honor. Oh, he'll point to some amorphous 'turning away from God', but this is more Right-wing code words for 'Democratic leadership'.
Recently, a construction site in Murfreesboro, Tennessee was vandalized and equipment was burned. A mosque was going to be built there for Muslims who'd been living in the community for decades. This event occurred while our nation's unquenchable thirst for rage has been directed at incinerating the plans for a community center in New York City, blocks away and unseen from Ground Zero.
But now it seems a candlelight vigil has been planned by people of all faiths in Murfreesboro as a sign of solidarity with the Muslim community there.
Mr. Beck, while you bankroll millions by preying upon America's lowest fears, more of America's honor is being restored by that vigil than by anything you can fabricate.
Monday, August 23, 2010
I received an invitation today for the 20th anniversary of my high school graduation. This blessed event is taking place in Memphis, Tennessee. Slimbo, being a New Yorker, will be unable to attend. But this invitation did conjure memories of the great Brother Steven, who I've represented here.
I feel this work's colors and tone are a bit too severe in light of the fact that I recall this man with great affection. He recognized an intelligence in me that rote suburban obedience had almost demolished. He taught English. And in his class I, for once, experienced the sensation of being able to work in a discourse of ideas. And I did this in a way that distinguished me from the rest of the mindless herd. For once I was no longer just that pathetic entity skulking in the shadows, hoping no one would fuck with him amid the gladitorian hallways of an all-boys Catholic school. He helped me see that I was better than all those bastards. He was a great teacher. And I'll never forget him.
Friday, August 6, 2010
I'm going on vacation next week - not that I've been a dutiful blogging daddy for you. So I'll leave you with another painting whilst I go away to tropic shores, hoping my Mets implode gracefully and hoping my nation's short attention span doesn't quickly fell us under the authoritarian nightmare of the regressive theocrat from Wasilla.