Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beck and Call

There's a lot of interesting things to talk about with the Tea Party rally in DC over the weekend. Interesting to me, at least. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Alveda King were the most famous of speakers. I watched Beck's hour long speech, but I only saw clips of the others. None of what they said was particularly interesting to me. It was mostly about returning to the values of God and what it means to love this country. I did take note that Beck mentioned mosques along with churches and synagogues as places Americans should go to get back with God. Muslim Americans might face the most amount of discrimination lately, and are mistrusted by both major political parties.

It's easy to mistrust what you don't understand. There are some very hateful things in Islam. And two, the only terrorists we've seen in this country lately motivated by religion were Muslims. The word "terrorist" is nearly synonymous with "Muslim Extremist." But let's pick at this perception. There are hateful things in the Bible too. Deuteronomy says a woman who marries and is not a virgin shall be put to death. The Bible says the same about people that eat shell fish, approach altars while sick, or labor on the sabbath. What do preachers do for work? They preach the word of God on the Sabbath. So they're laboring on the Sabbath then... right? The Bible advocates beating your children into obedience, how to treat your slaves, that Lot did the just thing by sending his own daughters out into an angry mob to be sexually assaulted to spare his two male visitors. Horrible, vile stuff. But Christianity has changed with the times. In the recent past, the Christian group, The Klu Klux Klan burned crosses as acts of terrorism. We can easily recognize the KKK as an extremist group that doesn't represent Christianity. We can do that only because we are familiar with Christianity and American culture to know they are the exception. But since most of us do not know or understand Islam, all them Muslim folk seem the same to us.

I saw a political cartoon with an Arab American hopping on one leg. It was after some recent failed terrorist plot. And the guy next to the Arab American was saying something like, "...ok great, now condemn terrorism while hopping on one leg and touching your nose with both hands!"

I think it's sad the way Americans mistrust Muslim Americans. Yes, it's scary that there are terrorist cells. Yes, you never know if your Arab neighbors secretly hate you and want to kill you. But that's true of all neighbors. Crazy runs in all ethnicities, religions, and nationalities.

Anyway, when Beck mentioned it a couple times in his speech, it made me wonder if it was possible for the Republican party to reach out to Muslims. Muslims are mostly independents and feel rejected by both parties. I've heard a lot of disparaging comments about Muslims made from Conservatives. Rush Limbaugh had a link on his website to a ridiculous propaganda video about how the birth rates of Christian Americans and Europeans are slowing while Muslim Americans and Europeans are growing, meaning the Muslims are going to out breed us like cancer. It was a well produced propaganda video, which made it all the more unfortunate. I generally like Rush, and I think that 95% of the time when he's called a racist or hate monger is just plain wrong. But he does hint at playing on Islamaphobia.

While I'm on the subject of Rush and racism. I want to point out something I think is funny that Rush does. He loves pointing out hypocrisy of Liberals. Many Liberals are racist depending on how you define the word. Many believe that African Americans are racially inferior and thus need extra help. This is racist by my definition. But anyway, so Rush will play a clip or read a quote of a Liberal saying something racist. He'll do so in the beginning of his show. Then he'll take part of it out of context and repeat it in new context throughout the rest of his show. Like, with the Tiger Woods scandal. Some Liberal called Tiger a light skinned negro, or something like that. I don't remember exactly. So for the rest of the show, Rush referred to African Americans as light skinned negros. Rush wasn't trying to be racist. He was using the phrase to poke fun at Liberals and left minded people. But his critics, who don't listen to his whole show to hear what he's saying in context, will say, "See! Rush is using the term 'negro.' He's a racist!" not realizing that Rush is repeating what someone "on their side" said and that Rush is doing this on purpose to try and get this reaction. It does two things. The next day on his show, Rush can play reaction clips and read quotes from Liberals calling him a racist not realizing the original context that Rush was quoting someone else. Rush's fans, who do know the context, can then laugh at Liberals. Rush becomes more popular with his fans. Rush's enemies, who don't bother finding out the context, then hate Rush even more and thus perpetuate his notoriety. And when Rush's enemies look towards Rush's fans and calls them "sheepeople," it makes his fans laugh at them because they don't get "the joke." And thus, Rush becomes more popular with his fans. The worst thing Rush's enemies could do is say, "Rush isn't a racist. He just says silly things to get ratings." If Rush's enemies stopped hating him, it would be a career killer.

Wow, I'm really getting side tracked. So Beck organized this rally on the same spot and day in history that Martin Luther King, Jr gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Civil rights activists, who have incorrectly decided Beck is a racist simply because he's a conservative, decided to plan a counter rally with the purpose of stopping Beck from being able to distort and rewrite history regarding King's dream.

This was a waste of time in that respect. Beck mentioned King a couple times in his speech, but those references seemed thrown in and out of place. Like he felt obligated to mention King and edited his speech last minute to do so. Otherwise, his speech had nothing to do with race or equality. I noticed that nearly every shot of the crowd during Beck's speech had African American spectators. I wondered if the camera crew did that on purpose to make the crowd seem more diverse. The Tea Party is overwhelmingly white.

In sharp contrast, Rev. Al Sharpton's counter rally was overwhelmingly black in crowd representation. Sharpton is dead wrong about his opinion of conservatives. Many of the things Sharpton said were propaganda and unfortunate. He said that "those people" at the other rally are the same people that thought of civil rights leaders are trouble makers. That's a pretty despicable thing to say.

Working out at my gym as I do on the elliptical with 10 different tvs hanging from the ceiling in front of me and a box to switch my headphone mix to which ever one, I can see how different news organizations covered the rally. The fact that King's niece, Alveda King spoke at Beck's rally really upset Liberals who want so desperately to believe Beck is a racist and see proof of it. I watched as several news reporters asked Alveda the same question, "Do you feel like you're being used by Beck and the Tea Party movement?" As if "You're being used by the Tea Party movement and disgracing your uncle. What do you have to say for yourself?" is what they really wanted to say. Alveda was gracious about it, no matter how many different reporters asked her that. Her answer was that we need to love each other.

I thought about that as I watched the speeches at Beck's rally. I had read about the counter rally. Sharpton's words were divisive, but many of the other speakers gave more conservative speeches about turning to God, doing more for the community, and of individual responsibility. It occurred to me how similar the two rallies must have been in content, and what a missed opportunity that happened. Rev. Sharpton has said a lot of things that I agreed with in the past. I mostly like him and think he's a smart man. He's just dead wrong about the Tea Party and Beck. What if he had gotten over that and combined his rally with Beck's? And what better day to do so.

Then it got me thinking about the civil rights movement of today in general. The Civil rights act granted all Americans the right to vote without facing intimidation and it ended segregation. The Community Reinvestment Act of the 70's prohibited racial discrimination of bank loans. Many other court case decisions and laws have come down since then to change the practice of overt racism. What more can the Civil Rights movement do?

Then that got my thinking should the Civil Rights movement end and we, as a society, focus instead on loving each other rather than dividing each other? It's an interesting question because, after all, the Civil Rights movement can not gather steam unless it has an enemy. Does Rev Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need Beck and Limbaugh? If the racist boogiemen aren't out there commanding their sheepeople, do Civil Rights activists have any reason to rally people? And if this is so, who is the real fear monger? I'm not suggesting racism is over. Far from it. Overt racism is over. Racism has gone into hiding and many Americans think it's gone. The Civil Rights movement looks like a relic from the passed now. True or not, has that perception undermined the movement's ability to change anything?

If the Civil Rights phase is over, what's phase 2? Like I said, racism still persists. The Curious Formula is still around. African Americans live, disproportionately, in poverty. Well, you can't ignore the fact that poor people go to poor schools and rich kids go to rich schools. So poor people stay poor and have poorly educated kids that stay poor. Republicans want school vouchers and Democrats fight it. Get poor kids out of the ghettos and into good schools and let the poor schools collapse or get taken over by better management. This, I think, is the answer. It isn't a perfect solution. It isn't going to do much in the short run. But I think it's a necessary step for a long term solution.

Until then, Alveda King is right. Instead of focusing on our differences, we should focus on loving each other.

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