Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Belated Reaction to Glenn Beck's March on Washington

For the most part, the media has stopped covering Beck’s rally at the Lincoln memorial, and there are fewer pieces each written against, or in favor of the march with each passing day. However, the event was interesting enough that the Gadson Review can’t help weighing in. Here are my thoughts:

1. There is reason to believe the civil rights movement and the tea party movement have certain ideas in common, at least to an extent.

Most of the time, libertarian principles are cited in favor of states’ rights. Small government conservatives were hesitant about the federal government intruding in the affairs of Southern states during the 1960s. But the most important rights for libertarians are the rights of individuals vis as vis the state. Blacks who suffered from state-sponsored racism in the 1960s had their individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness eroded by the state. At its core, the civil rights movement was not simply about group rights for Blacks. It was about their individual rights to advance as far in society as their talent would take them. I am surprised conservatives trying to curry favor with Blacks don’t make this case more often.

2. The attempt to coopt the legacy of Martin Luther King continues

It is doubtful that Beck and his conservative followers were unaware that their rally would happen on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech.” Besides for years, conservatives have spoken of reclaiming Dr. King’s true legacy when they advocate ending affirmative action. But there is simply no way the tea party can claim to represent Martin Luther King’s philosophy in full. When he died, King was in the midst of organizing Black sanitation workers. Were he alive today, he might receive the same charges of socialism that conservatives have lobbed at President Obama during his time in office.

3. Martin Luther King has truly become one of our nation’s greatest figures

One way we know that a person has a special place in American history is when people of all political stripes celebrate him. Just as politicians invoke Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, they now invoke Dr. King. This is actually a comparatively recent phenomenon. King wasn’t universally loved when he was alive. Critics accused him of being a demagogue and a Communist. Certain congress people had their phones flooded with calls opposing a national holiday for King during the early 1980s. Jesse Helms took to the Senate floor to rail against King.

Today however, conservatives cannot find enough good things to say about King. For that I am glad.

1 comment:

  1. People always agree on the board human platitudes. Of course every man should work to eat! I do believe people have the right to be allowed to attain their human potential! Everything then promptly falls into cacophony. Because of this, I have to disagree with you on point number 1.

    Small-government mandates and libertarianism was what lead to the great deal of pain for African-Americans. I agree that that federal government allowed grievous lassitude toward the states in how they treated Blacks. The guiding philosophies behind both movements, however, end the agreement on basic principles and rend them on their irreconcilable differences.

    Both movements, on lip service, believe in man progressing on the content of his character. King and his allies, however, worked toward making the government more powerful and accountable it the use of its power. The political right would find this intolerable, and I feel it is always dangerous to separate intent and method; one speaks plainly to your sincerity to the other.

    The Civil Rights movement has and will continue to push for broader government intervention. It's flattering all want to claim a part of its genius. It's folly, though, to think you can separate ideals from method.