I could easily have watched Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" Rally - Interviews With Participants added my smug, flippant, elitist comment and passed it along on Facebook or Twitter. I would have bandied about words like ignorant, uniformed, red state, bible belt, and so on, but after watching this video three times, yes I am sick I know, I was left with a pile of pity so heavy in my lap that I had to write about it, so as to be able to sleep tonight.
Before I really get into it, let me say I understand that it is not fair to use videos like this to paint an accurate picture of an entire country or even a small group of people, even if those people are suspected Tea Party members. We cannot look at interviews with the same six people and claim they represent the ideas of even right wing fanatics, conservatives, or Republicans, whatever we are calling them these days. It is easy to edit the worst of people, stand back and laugh at the results. I get that. But there has to be some truth of the views being represented in this video.
There is something sad buried in here not too far below the surface. There is something scary in there as well. There is something that screams of fear and failure. We have failed, all of us as Americans if we allow this level of ignorance to continue. This misinformation seeped in panic and fear of the unknown brings out the worst in us. I see such terrified, insulated, uneducated people. I don’t mean stupid or even uniformed when I say uneducated, I mean people who are simply not thinking. They have never been taught that the world is made of many shades of grey.
Ideas, religions, even reality can be good and bad at the same time. We must question ideas and weigh the options. Look for reasons, motives behind our thoughts as well as the thoughts and ideas of others. I will not blame the lack of critical thinking on the American public school system, because after all I am a product of this system, and because teachers are getting a lot of bad press these days, I will simply ask- how can we as a nation work to help our citizens think more critically? How can we open their minds to the world outside America? This insulation is destroying our country.
Rather than ridicule or belittle the victims of this video, I want to see if we can think of a way we can reach out and share our knowledge of the world with Americans who perhaps see little more of the world than the talking points Fox News forces into their exhausted minds. Are you a teacher in a small rural town? Are your students afraid that Mexican hordes are coming to the US to drop anchor babies? Have you done a unit on Mexican history? Did your students learn all they need to know about Islam on 9/11? Can they find Iran, Malaysia, Qatar, or Indonesia on a map? I have lived in all four places and can Skype into your class and clear a few things up quickly. I am no fan of religion in general, but I will do my part to prove that Islam is not the enemy here.
The things these people say may border on the absurd, but careful examination shows that they are the main talking points of the punditry at Fox. If we deride and make fun of the most exploited amongst us, we are allowing Fox News the right to call us elitists and vilify us as they wish. If we do not help educate our citizenry, Fox will be more than happy to do it. We will never be able to compete with the Koch’s of the world, but maybe we can help open minds. We can move forward small classroom by classroom and help young people understand that America is not the last bastion. She is just a nation who struggles with other nations. She is made of people who struggle like all people.
I am not sure what percentage of people actually think that Al Sharpton has the ability to mobilize battalions of Black Panthers, but I would venture it is more than we think. Comments like the one about the Panthers illustrate how little people really understand the way our nation was built. I bet if asked to offer one aspect of the Panther philosophy, the subject of Black Power would quickly be changed or ignored.
There is something wrong with a nation if in the google age we cannot grasp the basic idea of what the Panther Party was about: We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. Do we teach students about the Panthers, Chicago in 1968, Malcom X, Tupac Shakur, of course not, so why do we belittle people for being terrified of African Americans, when a Mormon puppet master tells them 100 times a day that their president is a Muslim monster. Once we understand our history both black and white, we will realize that Al Sharpton has about the same chance of mobilizing these kinds of numbers of African Americas as Glenn Beck does.
But that’s just it. Glenn Beck does mobilize his base. How? By repeatedly appealing to their pride, faith, and fear. American is the only worthy nation on Earth blessed by God himself. It says so right on our money, how could that be wrong? We are the Last Bastion of freedom, not even Canada has a chance. If we don’t watch out we will all be living as slaves to black Muslim communists. We won’t be allowed to pray at the monuments. How will we know all of this, “ we will be told by the news.”
I don’t teach in the US, so I will do my part by teaching my Muslim students to be open minded and have them kind enough and ready to interact with Americans if they you ever brave enough to come out into the world and join the rest of us on this beautiful planet. You can watch the video, but after writing all that, I don’t recommend it.