Guest Blogger

Glenn Beck's Cynical Invasion of D.C.

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 02, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Fox News, Glenn Beck, Martin Luther King Jr., politics

Editors' note: Maya Rupert is the federal policy attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, where she has worked since Spring 2010. She graduated in 2006 from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), and has been a contributing writer on social justice issues for several publications.

Maya Rupert.jpgIf the goal of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally, held in the same place and on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, was irony, Beck should be proud.

While the rally was billed as nonpolitical, it was clearly the rhetoric of the Tea Party that was being espoused by Beck, Sarah Palin, and King's niece, Alveda King, whose role, as best I can tell, was to be Black and a relative of King so that the hijacking of his legacy felt less like highway robbery and more like shoplifting. The theme: Government intervention is not the answer but the problem, and identity is irrelevant.

After the rally, Beck went on Fox News Sunday and sounded like a Bizarro King extolling the virtue of a colorblind society where "race should not be a part of politics" and no government action to address discrimination is needed.

But the story of America has always been a story about identity. Religious identity and the right to worship free of persecution. Political identity and the right to fair representation in government. Basic human identity and the right to live as a free person--owned by, and beholden to, no one. And each of those rights had to be etched into the Constitution, perhaps the biggest form of government intervention, in order to be guaranteed.

When King spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 47 years ago, it was undeniably a rally about racial identity. He invoked images of black children and white children joining hands, because their racial differences were to be celebrated, not ignored. And that speech was a catalyst for passing the Civil Rights Act--yes, more federal legislation, which prohibited racial discrimination in public accommodations. Beck's attempt to recast it as a movement for colorblind politics and small government is baffling at best and ignominious at worst.

However, in a strange way, it is also fitting because it is simply the latest in a long line of attempts to co-opt the language and narrative of the civil rights movement, scrub it of its focus on minority identity, and claim it for a movement of the majority intent on reinforcing the status quo.

Beck explained that in his mind, civil rights is about giving everyone "equal justice; an equal shot." But such equality does not happen without laws that prohibit judging people on something besides the content of their character. And that is true for all minority groups fighting for equality.

As we continue to wait on Congress to act on the long overdue Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), crucial legislation that will give lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees basic rights to be free from workplace discrimination, it is frightening to hear people question the importance of government action in prohibiting discrimination. As the law currently stands, people in this country run the risk of being fired simply for being who they are. Right now, in 29 states people can be fired because of their sexual orientation, and in 38 states, because of their gender identity. ENDA would provide critical federal protection for LGBT people to be free from discrimination at work.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, 89% of people believe LGBT employees deserve equal treatment at work. Despite that fact, a survey from the same year reflected that 43% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people had reported harassment at work. And a more recent study from 2010 reflects that 97% of transgender workers have experienced harassment at work. That disparity--the difference between how we feel about discrimination and how often it still happens--is what Beck and his supporters naively ignore when they talk about equality but asks us to ignore identity and the role of government in achieving it. If equality is the goal, the answer has to be an increased understanding of identity politics, and more government action, not less.

King once famously said: "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important." Beck and his followers are free to disagree with this very simple point, but not while claiming entitlement to King's legacy while they do it.

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"If equality is the goal, the answer has to be an increased understanding of identity politics, and more government action, not less."

No, it needs to be more action on our part. We are the answer. We must educate, enlighten and enroll. We must reach out to any American that will support the basic "human" principle of equality. That effort means religion and politics must be understood as far less important than simply being human.

Beck's message was about religion saving America and that's why Alveda was there. She has a similar infection, an infection of religious beliefs that has convinced her that homosexuality is wrong and a "choice." God told her that.

The fight against racism and bigotry is against the same group - religious "literalists" who believe God has told them it is okay, in fact admirable, to treat some people as less than equal. It is NOT political ideology, it is simply Christian doctrine.

Laws did not end racism and they won't end bigotry. Death does that. Old people with old beliefs die. It will end when religion stops teaching those ancient ideas.

No, law doesnt end racism or bigotry but it does make it unacceptable. Rights are rights even if they are given begrudgingly.

People stopped keeping slaves because it became illegal, not because people had a change of heart.

I am positive there plenty of people alive today who happily and blatantly discriminated against african americans and other minorities in the work place in the past. They havent all died out, laws changed which makes their behavior illegal.

There are plenty of misogynist men out there who would be treating women like crap in the work place, but they don't, because these days it can get them fired. I know one, he has to watch his mouth or it will mean his job, it has in the past.

Yes, we need to educate. But it is easier to accept something as true when law backs it up. Children these days don't question having minority classmates because its the law, and they are used to it. If our parents weren't forced to allow integration do you think it would have happened on its own? When people see law protects the rights and freedoms of all, it makes an impression. When the law discriminates, it then seems ok to do so.

Maybe laws make an impression, but they are nothing compared to the impression religious beliefs make - especially when they are created at such a young age.

I suppose I should thank you AndrewW. I apparently missed the memo that said because I am a Christian I should be a bigot and supporter of Glen Beck. I have to question your tone in regard to "religion" and how you paint all that subscribe to Christian beliefs with the same brush. Sounds a lot like the mirror image of the same tone Beck, Palin, and many others who claim to speak for God have.

Clear it up for us. Which Christian denominations have formally rejected the traditional Christian belief that homosexuality is wrong, sinful and deviant?

Make a list.

Jennifer Hill | September 3, 2010 12:35 PM

Andrew...I understand your justified anger towards established "Christian" religions...I would offer that Christianity at its core is NOT about the followers but rather about the who it is they follow. Having said that, Christianity was formed around a belief in Jesus Christ, and NO WHERE in the bible that is DIRECTLY attributed to something HE wrote or said does he in any way judge people based on orientation. More to the point it was he who had multitudes of friends who were deemed unacceptable by the mainstream society of the day (like we still are today in mainstream religious societies eyes). His was a message of love, understanding, forgiveness, and acceptance.

I realize that there are many parts of the bible that are hard to understand and equate to today's society, but the basic precepts Jesus taught about the subjects I mentioned are unchanged. The bible is a nearly 2000 year old book that needs to be looked at as a guideline. It was inspired by God, but we MUST account for the fact that psychology, traditions, cultures, and many norms of that day no longer exist or didn't exist then (try explaining electricity or psychology to ancient peoples!!). The trouble mainstream Christians have is in recognizing these facts...they want to take what suits them and leave the rest behind. The sooner that Christians realize that none of us can live up to a 2000+ year old dated code for basic life, and realize that it's the simple concepts of loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God with none before him, is when I believe we will have achieved the true spirit of what Christ taught...NOT what his followers added due the times they lived in.

One key point that I think many Christians overlook is that of the 6 (a mere 6 times) times same sex relations were mentioned was in the context of temple prostitution and fornication. In those 6 direct instances EVERY at the time known form of sexual indiscretion was mentioned. It was clear that sexual impurity both in the temple and in society outside of a committed loving relationship was what was being attacked.

Because traditional organized religion loves to have a favored "attack point of the day," they pick and choose what to hate and rail against....NEVER once keeping in mind WHO Jesus was or WHAT his message was. I choose to follow Christ and call myself a Christian because of who HE is and not WHAT his followers have tried to twist him into being. Religion NOT Christ will always have something to preach fire and brimstone against until that point is exhausted and lost...then they will move on to the next "critical issue." The sad thing is, if Jesus were here today I do not believe he would want anything to do with "the establishment" as he was the one who persistently wanted nothing to do with the religious peoples of the fact he called them "white washed seplecheurs" He was always displeased with their judgementalness and fault finding.

I wish more people could look beyond the damage and pain that the established religions have wreaked and see that "religiosity" is the true offender and not Jesus who would from what I have learned would be horrified at all that's been done in his name. I go to a gay not simply gay affirming pentecostal church in Atlanta (New Covenant). We believe in the "restorationist principle"...basically that God has called each and every one of us and that NO ONE is excluded. He is seeking to restore all of us who have been disenfranchised by mainstream religion. I know many will say "why bother, if they don't want me why should I want them"...I say it isn't about whether THEY want us, it's about the fact that HE does....

That's all fine Jennifer, but really too much information. It would be much easier for these "different" Christians you speak of to just come out and say we reject the Traditional Christian teaching/belief that homosexuality is wrong. Otherwise, how are we supposed to tell these different Christians apart?

I'm betting on the Lutherans or Episcopalians to be the first Christians to formally reject the teaching/belief that has harmed us for centuries.

What brand of Christian are you? Are you making progress getting your type of Christians to reject the teachings/beliefs about us?

I'd like to believe there are "new" Christians, but I haven't seen any denomination take that courageous step. Rainbow flags, gay "Music Directors" or tolerance and acceptance aren't enough. Christians need to end the negative branding of homosexuals or they'll go the way of Greek mythology.

Hi Andrew,

I have long believed that 2 approaches are simultaneously required and are co-dependent: From the top down (Laws) and from the Bottom up (Education).

Without the Laws, we are not free to Educate; without Education, we will not convince legislators that there are issues to be resolved, by Law.

Without enforcement of the Laws, however, the Laws are not worth the paper they are written upon: enforcement on the streets, and in the courts.

Constant, persistent, insistent, unrelenting Education of Legislators, LEO's, Judges and Society is, IMHO, paramount to ensure humanely fair Laws are enacted, accepted, and enforced.

It is not really an either/or... both approaches are are simultaneously required.


Hi Jami,

The difference is whether we want to be a "protected class" relying on laws that don't protect and rarely punish anyone OR if we'd simply like equality. Equality means our fellow citizens know we are equal.

Racism still exists despite 46 years of the Civil Rights Act. I have no interest in taking a similar path. I don't want "minority status" or faux "protections."

Thank you, Ms. Rupert,

I would also add, that it is not my duty to educate anyone on sexual orientation. I have no intention of trying to convince a bigot that his/her actions based on bigotry are wrong. We need laws to do that. I have enough on my plate thanks.

Well, then you can wait. Most of us aren't willing to do that. Plus, nobody suggested you had to try to "convince a bigot that they are wrong." We just have to ask for help. But, if you're too busy to ask, we'll all just wait with you. Can you wait 20-30 more years?

So everyone go out and make new friends, right?

Andrew, I have friends who still oppose LGBT equality and will always do so on religious grounds. Short of converting them from Catholicism to Unitarian Universalism, they will never support my right to employment protections, marriage or my right to adopt.

Laws will not end discrimination against LGBT's, but it will give us the right to function as parents, as spouses, and employees or employers in the mainstream, and that alone will change perspective, the sight of 2 women adopting will eventually become old hat as will the sight of two men going 'down the aisle.'

Two-thirds of Americans support our full equality. the other third will never be converted, eventually they'll just die.

The goal is equality, not protections. That means we want ENDA and SSM, but it isn't the solution. We should also be working on the solution.

Speaking of friends, I'll trade you two friendly Lutherans for your stubborn Catholic. I'll even throw in a bottle of champagne.

I do not honestly trust the polls, people in California were in favour of marriage equality til they actually got the opportunity to vote their prejudice

Religion got the vote out - we didn't. It will be even worse this November. Polls reflect public opinion, not voter turnout. God is very good about getting the vote out.

Beck explained that in his mind, civil rights is about giving everyone "equal justice; an equal shot."

Beck is a racist, pure and simple. This is just modern doublespeak. Defining away prejudice and discrimination and their results -- unequal opportunity, unequal treatment -- and declaring that all we need is a level playing field, with the privileged among us owning the field, the ball, the referees, all the equipment, and writing the rules of the game.

Disadvantaged? Hey, you have a shot! To give you more, like an adequate education, safe streets, etc., would be favoritism -- and I don't believe in favoritism.

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps -- as comical an image as it is an expectation.

I do not think it is an accident that Beck's August 28 rally happened in the year in which America's first black president will face his first electoral contest (the first while in office, after having been elected in the first place, I mean). Truth be told, very few of these rally-goers were exactly thrilled about America having a black president. I am convinced that co-opting this day on the calendar was a petty way for them to "get even".

This line about "America is post-racial because we now have a black president" is so much baloney. Instead of wiping out racism, Obama's election has re-energized America's racist minority at a very subversive level.

All I know is that MLK would have been on Glenn Beck's board if he were alive today.