...that people like Glenn Beck (above) and Sarah Palin have a following in modern-day America. I guess difficult economic times breed demagogues. During the 1930s, for example, the United States suffered through such luminaries as Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and Charles Lindbergh. Whatever happened to them? They became footnotes in history, as I'm almost sure Beck and Palin will ultimately be.
But in the meantime, we have to put up with them as best we can. Today, Beck is holding a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, on the very spot where Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech exactly 47 years ago. Palin will be a featured speaker.
Bob Herbert's column in the Times today, "America is Better Than This," sums it up much better than I ever could:
America is better than Glenn Beck. For all of his celebrity, Mr. Beck is an ignorant, divisive, pathetic figure...a small man with a mean message.
Beck is a provocateur who likes to play with matches in the tinderbox of racial and ethnic confrontation. He seems oblivious to the real danger of his execrable behavior. He famously described President Obama as a man “who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”
He is an integral part of the vicious effort by the Tea Party and other elements of the right wing to portray Mr. Obama as somehow alien, a strange figure who is separate and apart from — outside of — ordinary American life. As the watchdog group Media Matters for America has noted, Beck said of the president, “He chose to use the name, Barack, for a reason, to identify not with America — you don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify, with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical?”
Facts and reality mean nothing to Beck. And there is no road too low for him to slither upon.
In Beck’s view, President Obama is driven by a desire to settle “old racial scores” and his ultimate goal is “reparations” for black Americans. Abe Lincoln and Dr. King could only look on aghast at this clown.
Beck has been advertising his rally as nonpolitical, but its main speaker is Sarah Palin. She had her own low moment recently as a racial provocateur, publicly voicing her support for Laura Schlessinger, radio’s “Dr. Laura,” who went out of her way to humiliate a black caller by continuously using the n-word to make a point, even after the caller had made it clear that she was offended.
Palin’s advice to Schlessinger: “Don’t retreat — reload.”
There is a great deal of hatred and bigotry in this country, but it does not define the country. The daily experience of most Americans is not a bitter experience and for all of our problems we are in a much better place on these matters than we were a half century ago.
But I worry about the potential for violence that grows out of unrestrained, hostile bombast. We’ve seen it so often. A little more than two weeks after the 1963 March on Washington, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan and four young black girls were killed. And three months after the march, Jack Kennedy was assassinated.
My sincere advice to Beck, Palin and their followers is chill, baby, chill.