Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Impressions of Glenn Beck's 8/28 Restoring Honor Rally

First, some background.  I rarely watch Glenn on TV, and only occasionally listen to his radio show.  Usually five minute snippets while I'm driving home for lunch.  But I consider myself a fan.  I share his concern for the future of this country.  I think his message is one of patriotism.  Not an arrogant, nationalistic patriotism, but a humble patriotism based on love of country and pride in our history and our traditions.   He and I and many thousands of other Americans have rediscovered the importance of the words and deeds of our founding fathers.  We've come to understand and appreciate the founders at a much deeper level than we ever did in grade school.  Glenn has made it his life's mission to teach that renewed respect for the founders to his listeners and readers and to encourage us to pass it on to our children.  And despite what his critics say, I believe Glenn is sincere in both his beliefs and his presentation.  Sure he gets a bit emotional at times, but I've found myself on the verge of tears on a number of occasions lately when contemplating the crisis this country faces, and I've never thought of myself as a particularly weepy guy.  I am actually quite amazed at the level of vitriol the left spews out at him on a regular basis.    If they can't discredit the message, they'll seek to discredit the messenger.  Sadly, our side is often guilty of the same thing.  Rush, are you listening?  The other thing I love about Glenn Beck is his wicked sense of humor.  Talk about a guy you'd love to have a beer with.  If it wasn't for the whole recovering alcoholic thing, I'd love to sit down with the Glenn over a couple of  brews and trash the snobby liberal elites.

Being a Glenn Beck fan can be a little difficult in some of the circles I travel in.  You see, I'm a Libertarian.  I've trended libertarian in my political philosophy for some time, but only recently abandoned my Republican Party registration in favor of formally adopting the Libertarian Party.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that most Libertarians I speak with revile Glenn Beck almost as much as the Democrats do.  What's up with that?  You'd think that anyone who honors and respects the founders and the Constitution as much as Glenn Beck does would be held in particularly high regard by small government Libertarians.  Not so.  Most focus on what they perceive as fatal flaws.  His faith.  His views on marriage.  His regard for the military.  But then most Libertarians feel the same way about Ronald Reagan, citing bigger government and growing deficits on his watch.  As if driving a stake through the heart of Communism wasn't worth a bit of a departure from strict Libertarian principles.  Many Libertarians also resent Ron Paul.  Instead of recognizing him as a shining example of libertarian principles who has chosen to fight his battles from within a major party, many see him as a crafty Republican who has usurped their Libertarian message.  So the people who hate Glenn Beck have a few other folks I admire on their enemies list.  Glenn is in very good company in my opinion.  Truly, sometimes I wonder if I'm cut out for the rigors of membership in the Libertarian Party.   

So I am an unashamed Glenn Beck fan.  I admire his message, and I admire his style.  But I have to say, I was disappointed with the rally today.  Let me tell you why.  I don't blame Glenn Beck for my disappointment.  In retrospect, I believe he made it clear enough what the focus of today's gathering was going to be.  The emphasis was on faith in God.  He had telegraphed his intent for months in advance.  He stated early on in the program this morning that today was not about politics.  It was about faith.  And Glenn lived up to his promise.  I came expecting the message to be about politics.  It wasn't.  I am not a religious person.  I know many for whom their lack of religious feelings translates into an opposition to religious feelings in others.  I am not one of those people.  I have no grudge or resentment towards people of faith, but it's not me.  I know that for religious people, their faith is often the most important and fulfilling aspect of their life.  I would never try to dissuade someone from their faith in God no matter what my personal opinion might be.  In a similar vein, I would not long tolerate someone trying to impose their faith on me.  That was the problem for me this morning.

America is a Christian nation, and I've known that for most of my 57 years.  It's not just a matter of religion, it is a matter of culture.  I have no problem with that.  I happily accept the religious symbolism, the religious language and the integration of Christian prayers in the texture of my daily life.  It is part of the culture of America.  Prayers in public venues such as meetings and festive meals do not offend me.  But neither do I seek them out.  Nor do I make a habit of regular prayer or church attendance in my own daily life.  The first two hours of today's three hour rally would be best described as a revival meeting rather than a political rally.  Most in the crowd seemed to embrace the experience with a sincere religious fervor.  A few like myself were less enthusiastic.  This accounts for my personal disappointment today.  But I am still glad I attended.  For reasons I'll mention in a moment, today was still an important day in the history of this nation, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.  I will be curious to read in the coming days how others felt about the experience.

Having addressed the spiritual nature of the program, and my indifference to the religious message over the political message I had expected, let me tell you some things that I did like.  First, a rather quirky comment.  At one point early on in the program, one of the most amazing things happened.  A flock of geese flew down the open space over the reflecting pool headed toward the Lincoln Memorial.  They were in a perfect vee formation, and flew gracefully to the end of the pool near the stage before veering off over the trees to the left of the podium.  It was like an Air Force fly by: just as inspiring, but much more elegant .  I overheard someone in the crowd say something about divine intervention.  Yeah, well I guess that could be one interpreation.  Whatever it was, it got a huge response from the crowd at our end of the reflecting pool.

And speaking of the crowd, the crowd was huge.  A true patriot had called upon Americans to assemble at a particular time and a particular place to demonstrate their resolve to save this country from its perilous course.  And we responded in overwhelming numbers.  We sent a message that we would no longer remain silent, complacent and apathetic.  We will push back, and we will take back this country.  When I first decided to attend, my principle motivation was simply to make the turn out that much bigger.  I was fully prepared to be a member of a crowd so large that I might be too far away from the stage to even hear anything that was being said.  I would have been OK with that.  Most important was to be one more body in the crowd waving up to the people in the overhead helicopters counting the response of patriotic Americans.  As much as they will deny it, the powers that be cannot help but get the message that was sent today.  I am proud to have been a part of that; to have added my voice to the voices of perhaps a million others all shouting the same message.  "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take this any more!" 

Another appealing aspect of the program today was the recognition and respect shown to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King.  Today was the 47th anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered at this same venue, the Lincoln Memorial.  The liberal press had railed against Glenn Beck for presuming to hold this rally on such a solemn anniversary and in such a hallowed place.  Glenn's answer to them was that Dr. Martin Luther King doesn't belong only to black people any more than the Founding Fathers belong only to white people.  All of these giants among men are part of a common heritage for all Americans to be proud of.  In the end, it was a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to one of the most selfless and heroic Americans that ever lived.  And all the while, somewhere across town, the Rev. Al Sharpton was holding his own rally in protest of what he called Glenn Beck's attempt to "hijack" the Civil Rights Movement.  How's that for the height of irony?  Reverend Al Sharpton, the most disingenuous and dishonest usurper of the mantle of Civil Rights Leader known to man, calling Glenn Beck the hijacker.  As if  pompous windbag, poseurs and race baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson aren't the most despicable hijackers that ever lived. 

Finally, the last hour focused on an inspiring speech by Glenn more in line with what we've come to expect from his TV show.  Still heavily infused with the spiritual, but with equal emphasis on American values and traditions, and frequent references to the giants from the past:  Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. 

I suspect the pundits will say it was political.  Today it wasn't.  They'll say it was wrong to try to channel Dr King.  He did it with grace and reverence.  They'll say Glenn Beck is a huckster and a snake oil salesman.  He's said himself he is just a rodeo clown.  I'll say that Glenn Beck has played a major role in inspiring a generation of Americans to embrace their heritage, and for that he deserves our admiration and our gratitude.



Saw an interesting sticker at the rally.  "I can see November from my house too"

Made me chuckle.