It must be just me, but I really don’t understand what Glenn Beck’s rally on the National Mall today was all about. Okay, it’s quite clear to Glenn Beck that the rally was about “restoring honor.” Presumably, honor is something we had not yet restored. Presumably the problem has gotten much worse, otherwise such an urgent national rally would not be needed.
As a noun, “honor” has a number of definitions, most prominently “honesty, fairness or integrity in one’s actions and beliefs.” One of them is also “high respect, as for worth, merit or rank.” Why we must urgently “restore” honor is unclear to me, and news reports of the well-attended rally hardly clarified the matter. Service members were praised for their service to country. I don’t know any American who has a problem with that. To honor our servicemen and women, Democrats, despite Republican objections, have succeeded in dramatically increasing funding for the Veterans Administration, including more coverage for post traumatic stress disorder, which the Bush Administration tried to sweep under the carpet. That was an important way to honor our veterans, not with words and flag waving, but with tangible actions for their enormous sacrifice for our country.
Beck also wants us to get in touch with our religious side again, which seems curious because I see no sign that American is less religious than it has been in the past. The diversity of religions in America has increased in recent years, not lessened. Tea Partiers as a class, who presumably formed the bulk of today’s overwhelmingly white rally, are much less religious than African Americans, whose passion for religion and social justice helped reduce their civil and economic disparities. According to a recent New York Times poll, just 38% of Tea Partiers attend church weekly. Yet according to a 2008 Newsweek poll, 85% of African Americans say religion is very important in their lives, and more than half attend church at least weekly. Presumably, Tea Partiers agree it was they, not others who need to become more religious? It’s so unclear.
So what was this “nonpolitical” rally all about? As best I can tell, it’s a show of force of white, conservative America yet minus most of the negative signs and angry rhetoric that have characterized past Tea Party rallies. It should help with Tea Party television ads for the midterm elections. While allegedly not a Tea Party rally, the overwhelmingly white crowd sure looked all Tea Party-ish. Both Beck and “lock and load” Sarah Palin are two of the movement’s key organizers, so it’s really hard not to characterize the rally as a gathering of the clan.
President Obama was not formally on the agenda, but it is abundantly clear from numerous past speeches by both Palin and Beck that he is their target of all they see as “dishonorable” about America. I find this curious, as you would think getting us into an illegal and immoral war as President Bush did would be a very dishonorable deed, so getting us out would be very honorable, or at least a first step to restoring the honor of our country. Curiously, this week, by Obama’s order, the last combatant troops were withdrawn from Iraq, leaving 50,000 American troops on bases, all of which will be gone by the end of 2011.
If it is honorable to fight terrorists and actually win, arguably Obama is doing a better job than Bush ever did. I think adding troops to Afghanistan is a fool’s errand, but the intelligence is clear that expanded and better targeted drone missile strikes in northwestern Pakistan have seriously undermined both al Qaeda and the Taliban in that area.
Presumably, it is neither honorable nor religious to let your fellow countrymen unnecessarily suffer during a terrible recession, which is why Obama and the Democrats pushed for the economic stimulus. Obama has already created more jobs than President Bush created in eight years. Granted, the unemployment rate is still unacceptably high at 9.5%. However, it was the Republicans (aided by Blue Dog Democrats) who resisted further stimulus to the economy, otherwise the rate might now be still dropping and the economy still expanding robustly.
Also, last I checked, GM was getting ready to pay back its taxpayer bailout funds with interest and issue stock again. Many jobs were lost in the American auto industry because of the recession, but it is already clear that the bailout saved tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs in auto and related industries alone and kept the American auto industry from shrinking from three car companies to one. Both Ford and GM are reporting profits, despite the weak economy. Obama and the Democrats are honoring the hard work of the American people through productive stimulus spending and (when Republicans don’t block it) stop gap unemployment insurance. It all sounds quite honorable to me, almost, you know, religious, as in a policy of government to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It’s like we give a crap about our own citizens. The same could not be said for the Bush Administration, which five years ago this week in New Orleans proved bereft of compassion and concern when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
As a political lever to perhaps show a kinder, gentler side of the Tea Party, as well as the nasty Beck himself, perhaps Beck’s rally was a success. As a means to highlight the “honor” problem within the United States, it strikes me as an abject failure.
Based on international polls, Americans electing Barack Obama was the biggest boost to America’s honor in at least a decade. It strikes me that Beck should have invited President Obama to the rally, and honored him for his single-minded pursuit of raising America’s honorable standing in the world. But, of course, that could not be, because in Beck and Palin’s tiny little mind, Obama is the major cause of all this dishonor, not they and the people they want to put back into power that cause all the dishonor.
None of that past stuff could have possibly dishonored America, could it? Could it?