August 28, 2010

Soul Force

I wasn’t sure how or if I would even write this post tonight. I have endured nearly twenty-four hours of stewing in my own rage and disgust. I will, however, do my best to shield you, dear reader, from such offensive mojo. Having said that, I have decided that duty binds me to write something about a repulsive act of vandalism to the wonderful work of Martin Luther King Jr on this fine day in our fading summer of 2010.

I am talking of course about the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor Rally in Washington DC today on the 47th anniversary of Dr. Kings historic I Have A Dream Speech. I have written about Beck before, and I fully understand that I should simply ignore his idiocy, but something unnamable will not allow me to do that. The man himself is at best is a charlatan snake oil salesmen, feeding on the ignorance of a defeated populace. No! He is not my concern. Nor are his backers at Fox. I am concerned by the ideas he represents and the power they seem to being having on a large segment of American citizens. Most importantly I am afraid of the effect his words have on me. Or how I allow him to make me so angry.

Before I continue, let me say that I can already clearly hear the voice of my good friend and reader Keith of People’s Parking saying that this post is a perfect example of my only see a distorted image of the political theater currently on stage in the America. I can hear him reminding me that these vaudevillian circus shows do not really reflect the struggles, hopes, and dreams of the US citizenry. I know he is right, but I cannot help myself. I need to wrestle with these words tonight and see who remains standing. It is with a confused mind and a heavy heart I sit at this machine.

I do not want to rail against Beck. Too many people will do that in the next few days, all over the Internet; most will be better wittier writers than me. Furthermore, I do not want to express my anger, disgust, or pity for the poor people who must be so lost and scared that this clown is the only form of political action they feel they can understand.

Before writing, the first thing I did was reflect on how Martin Luther King Jr. would handle this beast if he were to somehow magically appear along side Beck on Saturday. What would he say? How would he react? Surely his dignified aura would illuminate and inspire rather than nitpick and belittle. MLK would approach Beck with reverence and respect. He would stay true to his entrenched vision of truth and justice and allow the people to choose between the power of truth and the smoke of lies. He would weave words together allowing listeners the ability to fly above the scene and glance about the blanket of truth for themselves. He would unshackle us from our own fear and ignorance, allowing us to truly marvel at the power of love and peace. To reveal even a glimpse of reality, a hint of love is enough to expose the pettiness of a dogma built from fear and lies.

In short, that is what I hope to do tonight. My intention is to take the higher rode. Except for the opening shots at Beck in the beginning, I simply hope to honor Dr. King by exploring my own shortcomings when it comes to fear and ignorance, in order to show that we all suffer from judgment and hate.

The first thing I did before I started to write was re-read his I Have A Dream Speech, in addition to my previous post where I examined his speech about Vietnam. I was once again struck by how revolutionary Dr. King was despite the whitewashing of his legacy. Yes, he was a man of peace, and yes he preached non-violence, but this Ahimsa was not a passive ideal. His words clearly reflected his vision, which was that of full fledged revolution.
…one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
As I was reading this I could feel the tears well up in my throat. I could feel pure hatred and anger coursing through my veins and cover me like a cloud. How could we allow an imposter taint the words of such an amazing revolutionary with empty epitaphs and clichés? I was suddenly aware of my own seething breaths. I ran to my books and grabbed some Thich Nhat Hanh. I needed something, or else this post would soon head south. I would be embedding Dead Prez videos and quoting Public Enemy.

I flipped the pages and swore to copy verbatim any passage I found highlighted within:
The war stops and starts with you and me. Every morning you open your eyes, the potential for violence and war begins. So every morning when you wake up please water the seeds of compassion and non-violence. Let peace begin with you.
It is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do, but also the simplest: If you hate violence and ignorance do not react with violence or ignorance even in your words.

Our enemy is never another person; our enemy is the wrong perception and suffering within him, within her.
Feeling better I went back to the speech:

Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
You are not helping Martin. Suddenly I see hordes of angry African Americans from across the country, armed and blasting the raunchiest angry hip-hop swarm upon the Lincoln Monument. The nightmare of every white America comes true. A Negro Armageddon of violence and destruction. This time they have brought the tribes of Central and South America. The ghosts of Native Americans charging on destructive steeds. The poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free were descending on Washington with a taste for the blood of pasty white flesh. Beck is cowering beneath a curtain, urine staining his trousers, he weeps as his paltry crowd dissipates once and for all. America reclaimed by those who built her. Those who make up her flesh and blood. The 99% without the wealth. Those who created her art, her jazz and gave her soul. A true America built on the blood and sweat of millions of cast off immigrants and degenerates. Brown, black and queer all marching in the light of redemption and justice. Beck and his impotent minions eradicated once and for all. Disappeared beneath the true face of America.

Damn it Martin! You can’t do that. More Thich Nhat Hanh:
Violence is not inevitable. Peace is there for us in every moment. It is our choice.
I am getting a bit psychotic, so I am impressed if you are still reading. As I was typing that last line Tupac came blasting from my headphones. How do we deal with this battle between love and hate? How do we watch Glenn Beck on a daily basis and stay sane? How do we reconcile the fact that even within our own hearts we face a battle every minute of our lives? What chance do we have in our communities? Our nations? This planet? How can we bring peace to a world where Glenn Beck not only exists, but holds sway over large groups of people? (I see a vision of Tupac spitting in Becks face. I smile. I am wrong. I know. Hatred feels too good. We are doomed.)

Back to the speech:

I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
There it is Martin. Thank you. The secret is that we are aware of our own ignorance. We learn to shed a light on it and expose it’s influence not only on our thoughts, but our actions too. What is it about Beck that makes me so angry? What is it in me that he taps into so adeptly? This is where my battle must take me. Where you go is up to you. We can, however, remember:

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

You know the rest…Where did this post take me? I have no idea. I didn’t know what I should say, but obviously I had a few things. As you watch the news today, or walk alone on the beach, play with your kids, plant a tomato, or wallow in grief I say this:

If we truly believe in love, if we truly believe that justice and truth shall set us free, then the only thing we can do is promote these ideals in every action we take. In every blog post, every conversation, we must quell our need to be hurtful and angry and spread some love. Even if it means we wrestle with ourselves every minute of our lives.

I am sorry Glenn Beck. I am sorry Sarah Palin. Yes, I love you too….(The day that sentiment is sincere, we will be closer to something real.)

Thank you for reading and good night!


  1. Our enemy is never another person; our enemy is the wrong perception and suffering within him, within her.

    Violence is not inevitable. Peace is there for us in every moment. It is our choice.

    a couple weeks ago i was in this conversation that started with me questioning someone's comment that revenge is natural and generosity has to be learned.
    i don't think revenge is natural - i think we just practice it more.

    thank you, once again, for writing about things that matter.

  2. Wow. And Thank You. I, too, like so many other Americans, have been battling rage and the acknowledgement that rage is wrong, because of Beck's rally and others like him. I've been spending the last few years *hating* half my country, all the while knowing it's the wrong thing, that stupid people need love, too (there, I did it, and yes, it does feel good, unfortunately).

    Thank you for struggling with it as I am, and most of all, thank you for sharing that battle. Too often, I think, we hide from this struggle, or try to rationalize it, rather than face it with wisdom.

    For wisdom, yes, it's hard to go wrong with MLK and Thich Nhat Hanh.

    So, thank you.