When it comes to civil rights, liberals have been frozen in time since about 1965, rarely recognizing the progress America has made over forty-five years and never coming to grips with the fact that challenges remaining in that arena just might require different kinds of solutions than the sort of big government intervention that was employed four and a half decades ago. Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington D.C. this Saturday should not be a racially polarizing event by any stretch of the imagination, but the Left’s obsession with Beck, it’s desperation to maintain a pliant victim class in America and the date of the event – the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 – have combined to ensure that liberals will continue to play the tattered race card as often as possible in the run up to the rally.
“Whites don’t own Abraham Lincoln,” Beck said recently. “Blacks don’t own Martin Luther King. Those are American icons, American ideas, and we should just talk about character, and that’s really what this event is about. It’s about honoring character.” There is nothing about that statement that should cause any distress among anyone of good will. If liberals truly want to find common ground with the Right, that brief homage to the vision of a color-blind America is as good a place to start as any. Yet, what has been designed and billed as a rally to honor the men and women defending America and American ideals, has become a focal point for the many angry liberals who look at any idea emanating from the Right through racially-polarized glasses.
The off-the-chart liberals at Media Matters For America provide the most extreme example of this phenomenon. On an average day, the way that Eric Boehlert and his cadre of naïve, idealistic college kids obsess over the supposed hidden-meaning in every word that Beck utters is more than a little disturbing. As Beck’s rally grows closer, MMFA’s efforts to denounce him as a racially-motivated reactionary give new life to the phrase “frothing at the mouth.” For example, while seeking to disprove Beck’s claim that Dr. King’s dream has been distorted and perverted by progressives, MMFA’s Ben Dimiero penned a lengthy comparison that juxtaposed Beck’s free market, small government philosophies against statements by King that espoused the kind of socialist, big government “solutions” that the Obama administration, MMFA and other liberals continue to champion.
In context, the fact that Dr. King looked to government to redistribute wealth and eliminate poverty by fiat during the 1960’s is hardly surprising. The idea that government was “the solution,” not as Ronald Reagan famously observed “the problem,” was as popular during that decade as it was in any other time in our history. Many starry-eyed Americans who believed that government could indeed create a “Great Society,” however, would grow disillusioned as they slowly realized that for every societal and economic problem government tries to solve, it creates that many more. As history inevitably repeats itself, a new generation of citizens is relearning the same lesson today.
Great ideas and the thinkers behind them must always be considered in the context of their time. Abraham Lincoln is not remembered for championing a plan to send African-Americans back to Africa, an idea that sounds barbaric today, but made sense to many people one hundred fifty years ago. The Great Emancipator’s legacy is rather built upon the fact that he set the nation down the long and sometimes painful road toward racial equality. A century after Lincoln took that tentative first step, Dr. King looked to the end of that road, employing some of the most powerful oratory in American history to express the lofty goal that he asked all Americans to embrace. It is that dream that we remember and revere when we think of Dr. King – not how he believed, like so many others at the time, was the best way to achieve it.
If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, would he still support government-imposed redistribution of wealth as the way to achieve his lofty goal? Or, would he consider the abject failure of so many programs and come to another conclusion? Would he recoil in horror from the appalling number of abortions among African-Americans and of all the children abandoned by their fathers in African-American families? Would he lament the fact that, despite the fact that African-Americans overwhelmingly pledge their allegiance to one party, that party has been unable to do anything to help them achieve economic freedom and instead encourages dependency on government largesse? Perhaps Dr. King would support this tired, failed path, but then again, perhaps he would agree with the still small, but growing number of leaders within the African-American community who believe that progressive, big government represents a dead-end for minorities because it necessarily perpetuates the idea that a house must be divided, one part free and the other something very much approaching servitude to the Democratic Party.
It is foolish and entirely counterproductive to say that Glenn Beck cannot embrace Dr. King’s dream of an America that doesn’t care about race unless he simultaneously embraces liberal policies that he, like many of us on the Right, believe exacerbate racial inequality. It is ludicrous to assert, as the Reverend Al Sharpton recently did, that the federal government is the only just arbiter when it comes to equal rights. “Glenn Beck and others are expected to push for the expansion of states’ rights – the exact antithesis of the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s legacy,” Sharpton said. “The Tea Party and allied conservatives are trying to break that national stance on justice and, in turn, break the crux of what the civil rights movement symbolized and what Dr. King fought and literally died for.”
While there are some who argue that the federal government unnecessarily trampled on states’ rights in the 60s to support the civil rights movement, many conservatives – including this one – disagree with that premise. Federal action was needed then to bring us to where we are today. But 2010 is not 1968. Big government is no longer the answer. It has shown that the more it tries to do, the less it accomplishes, and that too many of its efforts serve nefarious political purposes that are ultimately counterproductive. Glenn Beck represents an increasingly popular, commonsense point of view, one that recognizes that not only can the states do a better job of achieving Dr. King’s dream, so can towns, communities and families. The difference between Glenn Beck and Rev. Sharpton is that Beck believes that the average American is a good and decent person at his core, no matter the color of his skin, while Sharpton doesn’t trust us one bit.
Glenn Beck has set out to accomplish the task that liberals and the Obama administration promised to do, but have failed miserably at: to heal America’s divisions by focusing on those things that unite us, rather than the divisions among us. He’s calling on everyone to salute those who defend freedom and to celebrate freedom itself. There should be nothing controversial at all about that call. The fact that he is doing so on a day that commemorates one of America’s greatest dreams and the man who dreamed it, seems entirely apropos.
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