As much as the enlightened, historically correct bunch of us would hate to admit, Glenn Beck’s planned Restoring Honor rally on Saturday, August 28th is a master stroke of PR genius.
So, we’ve already established that he “went there,” poking finger in a jello bowl of fun at the 47th Anniversary of the now fabled “March on Washington.” So awfully intense is that feeling that Beck and his cronies are trying to play “us,” that some of us are headed to D.C. just to see it or to “counter protest.”
The provocative talk show host has proven Barnum’s maxim on ‘fools every minute,’ taking it to the next level with brazen ferocity by choosing one of the more hallowed, untouchable moments in American history – the anniversary of the 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech – as the day on which to host his rally.
As compelling as Beck’s choice of date and venue will be the resulting clash of grand political movements intersecting ideological corners on that same day.
On one end, organizing the original rally and serving as its central impetus, will be Beck and an assortment of red state conservatives representing everything on the right from Tea Party referendums to gun rights.
On the other end will be a consortium of prominent civil rights organizations, staring it all down in frustration over what they see as the FOX talk-show host’s blatantly disrespectful use of that historic day for personal gain.
Squashed in the middle will be the newly-minted Celebrate the Dream, a hodge-podge of lesser known advocacy groups and artists planning to unveil an original sculpture of King by Georgia State University professor Michael Murphy.
While each “movement” differs in agenda and mission, everyone wants to march. And there is one item they all have in common: a date and a permit from the National Park Service.
One could stretch and argue that this vast confluence of movements is really an unwittingly symbolic convergence of competing racial and political interests meeting in one place – similar to the themes on August 28, 1963 when 250,000 plus people participated in the largest gathering of its kind before the Million Man March broke all records in 1995.
There is something beautifully democratic and open in that sort of assemblage. Yet, it will depend on the ability or willingness of organizers to keep it clean and civil to determine the ultimate tenor and tone of the day.
Despite the rancor and rhetorical guns blazing, we could wax idealistic and find some moderation in the events, hoping for an epiphany on the National Mall amid the political pressure-cooker of this racially charged summer. After all, should you take his word for it, Beck promises to simply “honor” the troops while celebrating “American values.” Meanwhile, Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, in conjunction with the NAACP, National Urban League, Tom Joyner and others, seek to Reclaim the Dream at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial site.
Restore. Reclaim. Clearly, the largest groups want to return to … something. Beck yearns to maximize the visibility of his brand and television show through shock marketing. Sharpton and others among the legendary “old guard” of civil rights icons will demonstrate their relevance in the prematurely dubbed post-racial world of President Obama.
With the economy still sputtering, and unemployment stubbornly high, history trends toward racial animosities and group xenophobia during hard times such as these. We’ve seen this before.
While we hope organizers can stick to King’s universal script on Saturday, the tension is palpably thick.