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AUGUST 30, 2010 7:39AM

Glenn Beck vs. Al Sharpton: A tale of two rallies

Rate: 38 Flag
                                  Saturday 8/28---8:30 am

My husband was still sleeping when I stopped by his room to say goodbye for the day.

"Honey, I'm about to go into a situation where I might encounter some hostile Caucasians. If anything should happen to me, I want to be avenged."

"Yeah okay."

"No, I mean it, don't let that shit go."

He opened one eye. "Alright babe, I'm on it."

                               

My fake press badge template. You can learn how to do anything on the net. When I was out in the field, I discouraged close inspection.

                               fakebadge   

I wasn't seriously afraid when I left home for Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally. But given all the nasty snippets I'd seen of these events on cable, I figured violence was at least within the realm of possibility. I expected to encounter Tea baggers, lets-take-our-country-backers, and Obama bashers. As it turned out, I did meet some of those types, but surprisingly enough, they were all mild-mannered pussycats. Even the most vociferous Obama bashers spoke to me with such temperance and respect that a few times I almost forgot myself and shouted, "Amen brother!"

Glenn Beck's rally: Restoring Honor

I was barely three miles from my house near Fairfax, Virginia when the traffic started to slow to a crawl. You know things are bad when the guy in the car in front of you is reading his morning paper. Between the snail paced traffic leading to the metro stations, the impossible parking situation at the metro stations, and the train congestion I encountered in the metro stations, it took nearly four hours to get downtown. 

By the time I made my way up to the WWII memorial (never made it to the Lincoln Memorial steps), I had missed the speeches entirely. However, I tried my best to hit the ground running, relying on the crowd to give me a sense of what I missed. Fortunately there was a gradual exodus from the LM back to the trains; easy pickings for interviews.

Most people I spoke with described the rally as decidedly spiritual in nature. "It wasn't about politics at all, " was the common refrain. The crowd was overwhelmingly Christian, and they seemed to appreciate the revival-like atmosphere. Rally organizers told people not to bring signs. This was a bit of a disappointment for me since I had hoped the signs would make for some provocative footage. In lieu of signs; flags, and lots of them. In fact, I daresay there was enough "Old Glory" to drape the Washington monument three times over.

When I asked people how they felt about the rally being held on the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech they seemed to reply in unison, "it was about M.L.K and his dream, that's why he did it on this day in the first place...King was talking about everybody- black, white, and everybody." Now I don't mean to imply that these people were being disingenuous; they may have been misinformed, but Glenn Beck said himself that the timing of his event was coincidental. They cannot have it both ways.

So what about Glenn Beck himself? From my point of reference--an  African American, bleeding-heart-liberal-independent--I had quickly judged Mr. Beck as an opportunistic, chameleon-like entertainer who was smirking all the way to the bank. I figured I knew just enough about him to know he was someone I didn't want to know.

However, I was committed to do my research, and thankfully Kathy Riordan's post, Understanding Glenn Beck, sparked my curiosity about the man. I was drawn to the Mormon angle because as a child I had some very close Mormon friends and was nearly converted myself. I followed her links and continued to read about him from a wide variety of sources. And what did I learn after an evening of digging? Glenn Beck is an opportunistic, chameleon-like entertainer who is smirking all the way to the bank.

I did not endure the hellish commute and scorching sun to learn more about Glenn Beck. I wanted to meet some of those conservative "others" who I'd so often seen caricatured in the press; to decide for myself rather than judge them based on received knowledge. For all I know, there was a well of resentment roiling just beneath the surface as they smiled politely and answered my questions. Did they hold back because the interviewer was black and they didn't want to bear the racist label? There's only so much you can learn from a brief encounter.

Beck rally interviews pt.2

Beck rally interviews pt.3

Beck rally interviews pt. 4 - I wasn't able to edit this one the way I wanted to. There's some dead space in -between, but if you fast forward through, there are some good interviews buried in there. Oh, and my voice is particulary squeaky...sorry.

Al Sharpton's Counter rally: Reclaiming the Dream

When I heard that Glenn Beck would be holding a rally on the steps of the Lincoln memorial on the anniversary of the famous I have a dream  speech, I thought it was inappropriate, to say the least, but I'm no good at outrage in such cases. I would have voted against it if given the chance, but since there was nothing I could do about it, I mostly put it out of my mind: Al Sharpton, being the rabble rouser that he is, decided to do something about it. 

His counter rally, Reclaiming the Dream, was held simultaneously at Dunbar High School in NW Washington. Given how much effort it took to get to the Mall area, I did not venture out to the Sharpton Event, but from what I've read, it was a peaceful gathering of like-minded souls. According to the Washington Post, "speakers addressed everything from education to ending gun violence to gay rights to congressional voting privileges for the district."

At about 4:00 pm, I saw Sharpton and his followers marching across the Mall on their way to the site of the future M.L.K. memorial. As they passed, I photographed and interviewed a few of them. Unlike the Beck crowd, Sharpton's group had lots of signs, a few of which were anti-Beck, but most were positive, black empowerment messages. The Washington Post's Robert Pierre described it thusly, "...the intersection of Independence Avenue and 17th street was a crossroads of expressions as participants from both events came together."

Several of the marchers asked me to join them. By this time, after hours of sun exposure, I was positively wilted; so parched that my tongue was fused to the roof of my mouth. I had to be on stage for a performance in three hours, and all I wanted to do was go home to a hot shower and a cold Perrier.

But as I write this, I can admit to myself that those were all lame excuses. I'm ashamed that I was too selfish and lazy to join them. In Dr. King's era, he and his supporters were jailed, beaten and worse, and yet they kept coming back for more. They were warriors on the front line of history, and I couldn't be bothered to walk a few blocks in the hot sun. I keep telling myself, they marched and died so I wouldn't have to. It doesn't make me feel any better.

As I dragged my tired feet along the gravelly walkway toward the Federal Square metro station, I was greeted with Martin Luther King's voice.  A row of banners, adorned with his image stood high, bellowing in the afternoon breeze as Dr. King's speeches played on a continuous loop for all to hear. I hadn't really listened when I came through that area on the way in, so eager was I to get started, but now  something he was saying had caught my ear.

He was talking about his little six-year-old daughter...she kept seeing something on TV about a place called Fun Town. She chided her father for his inattention. “Daddy, I want to go to Fun Town! I keep telling you I want to go, but you won't take me." Dr. King related the story in his mellifluous cadence. "How could I explain to a little child that she could not go to Fun Town because she is colored?"

I stood for several minutes listening intently, feeling the tears sting my eyes as I tried to imagine what it would be like to tell my daughter that she couldn't go somewhere, anywhere, because she was black. I could not even fathom the sting of that injustice. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest in the 80's, I hadn't always fully appreciated the contribution of Dr. King and others who took the civil rights mantle when it was necessary to do so. The story about his daughter brought this into sharp relief. Thanks to their tireless efforts, I will never know their pain. I rode home with a grateful heart, thinking of my charming daughter, and of my charmed life.       

_________________________________________________ 

*The videography and editing presented a steep learning curve. I am still in progress; more videos to come.

*About my squeaky voice and nervous giggles...sorry, first time around. In future, I will endeavor to modulate.

  ______________________________________________                                                                        

Sources: Understanding Glenn Beck--Kathy Riordan,

                       Beck speaks for the White Majority--The Huffington Post

                       Sharpton's Reclaim the Dream event-National Action

                       Network

                      Meet the Man Who Changed Glenn Beck's Life 

                       Salon/Alexander Zaitchik 

                      Inside Al Sharpton's Reclaim the Dream March

                       The Washington Post

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Comments

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Wow - such a thorough, well-written post! And such a moving ending. The article, just as I'd hoped the day would be, wasn't all about the Beck rally - I'm so glad that in the end, it's Martin Luther King's words that are the most important and moving here. A great post, full of both information and emotion - you deserve a REAL press badge! Rated.
Great job! Uh, can you make me one of those passes for next time?~r
Thanks Alysa, all that video stuff wore me out, but it was good experience. Now I know how to edit and publish.

Joan-sure I'll make you a badge anytime, now that I'm an expert and all. You don't want to know how much time I spent fiddling with that darn thing...it's embarrassing :)
I'm glad to read a thorough and well-written report from someone who went to both rallies. Interesting perspective. Great job. Will watch the videos soon!
Thank you for going and bringing back the video's and your thoughts on the rallies. I didn't even turn the TV on, so I'm glad someone on OS was there to get the truth! (EP/Cover)
EP!
I was angry when I saw the rally and realized how many crazy people live in the US.
Enough to put the country back a million years.
Excellent piece and rated with hugs
Outstanding work, Raya! My inferior speakers on my laptop wouldn't allow me to hear much of the commentary in your interviews, but I could get the gist. I'm still trying to decide what I think about the whole happening.

Lezlie
Deborah-I hope you like videos, but they are far from professional quality so be warned :)

Scanner-I'm sure the TV didn't offer much. You know how they play their games.

Linda-I thought I might have reason to get angry too, but I really didn't. Those Tea Party folks were on thier best behavior around me at least.

Lezlie-I'm still trying to sort out my feelings too. As I mentioned, I'm not so good at outrage in cases like this. I guess that's what Al Sharpton is for...to be the go-to outrage guy.
Great juxtaposition! Rated.
Most excellent. I'm especially impressed by your video interviews and the subjects you found who agreed to be interviewed. Those videos alone gave me more insight into the gathering than anything I got on cable news. You're a natural at this and have a great voice for it; you should be doing it professionally. Thanks for going and giving us added insight into the day.
Your logic here is impeccable. Thank you. They can't have it both ways.

When I asked people how they felt about the rally being held on the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech they seemed to reply in unison, "it was about M.L.K and his dream, that's why he did it on this day in the first place...King was talking about everybody- black, white, and everybody." Now I don't mean to imply that these people were being disingenuous; they may have been misinformed, but Glenn Beck said himself that the timing of his event was coincidental. They cannot have it both ways.
Oh yeah *clap, clap*

I am hugely impressed with your writing and I'm in love with the undercurrent of self-aware humor that runs throughout your observations (too many instances to quote, but the fake press pass along with the interchange with your husband: priceless).

I understand well the suburban slacker part but I really hope you do more reporting; you've got the voice!
Loved your post! Good idea with the badge, even if you are just pulling our cyber-legs.
Best Wishes,
Blittie
I enjoyed reading your article as it showed 2 different viewpoints. There are many opinions written about Beck's rally, but there is a fact rarely mentioned. Beck's rally raised a large sum of money for college scholarships for children of military killed in action. Pro war, con war, it is not the issue here. Children of all colors will benefit from this financial aid.
Alysa Salzberg said it so well. Still, I'll add a cent:
great post, and hope your husband doesn't ever have to "avenge"- Hee hee.

Fabulous post, soldier.
Kathy--I'm honored to be read by you. Your post on Friday helped to get my journalistic juices flowing.

Nikki--you flatter me. I'm a fan of yours so it's nice to see you here at my place. My husband wasn't phased that morning since I'm always saying something off the wall.

Tomreedtoon--funny you should mention that because I planned to have a friend of mine, a white guy come with me...just to see how it would play out that way, but at the last minute, he couldn't make it.

Blittie- thanks, and I actually did wear that fake press badge. I work as a sub during the school year and I had a sub badge that I accidentally wore home one day. It had the little plastic sheath and neck band too. I just slipped the substitute teacher badge out and my fake media pass in. It was also a convenient place to carry my metro card. All day I was fiddling with it trying to make sure the press part showed in front and not the metro card :)

Janeaire--thanks for pointing out the scholarship angle. I should have been more informed about that since it was my story. Thanks for the informatioon.
That was utterly fantastic and quite possibly the best post I have ever read on OS. Big 'ol kudos to you, hon.

It was also very educational. for example I didn't know that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln even knew each other much less worked together to be a theocracy that worshiped the "correct god" (must be the same god that told Pat Robertson hurricane Katrina was because Ellen was queer, I bet).


I was especially moved by your closing. If I may, I'd like to add:

"How could I explain to a little child that she could not go to Fun Town because she is colored?"

You shouldn't have to, Dr. King, anymore than I should have to explain to our children why people voted against their mommie and me being married.
Yes indeed Amy, I believe the denial of marriage rights for gays and lesbians amounts to the same thing. One of the reasons I chose to have an autonomistic marriage was to stand in solidarity with my gay and lesbian friends. Also, I'm just a non-conformist like that :) Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.
Great reporting. I was especially interested in what the gentleman for South Africa said. Reading between the lines, it sounds like he's concerned about high taxes in a year or two when he hits the big time. Alrighty, then.
I would have rated this on the first 8 lines and the press pass alone! The rest of it was excellent, too. Your interviews were respectful and aimed at eliciting information, not arguing.
Yes Cap'n--The African gentleman struck me as odd too, but then again, his is the same sentiment as many Americans who often vote against their best interests. He's expecting to be a big shot some day so he'll vote like one now ? Odd.

Nerd--Thanks for your thoughtful comment. My husband is so used to me being a goofball, he barely even opened that one eye to acknowledge me , but he was glad to see me home in one piece, physically and psychically...hmmm, is that a word ?
You have done an excellent job in conducting and presenting those interviews, bluestocking babe. You kept your own opinions and judgement out of them and showed the people you were interviewing respect whether you agree with them or not. That says a lot about you.

I don't follow Glen Beck, though I'm sure that I'm more closely in tune with his politics than I am with Ralph Sharpton. I do suspect that his claim of coincidence in the choice of days on which to hold this rally on the 47th anniversary of MLK Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech was probably true, though. As anniversaries go, the 47th anniversary of anything isn't parrticularly of note to cause one to do something special for it as would be the 50th or 10th or other numerically "significant" anniversaries usually are of notable events. And the Tea Party agenda really isn't targeting the ideals of Dr. King's as outlined in that extraordinarily powerful and moving speech. That was the embodiment of some of the greatest ideals as expressed in our nation's founding, though they were so drastically crippled by the need for unity in our initial struggle to become a nation and then to be able to protect that national identity and sovereignty that the greater ideals were so badly trampled on and curtailed in appeasement of the South in permitting the shameful and degrading institution of slavery, for the sake of unity back then and later. Could I go back and change any one thing in American History, it would be that that institution should never gain a toe-hold on American soil. That one thing has soiled our higher aspirations ever since.

Too long winded here so I'll stop. Just wanted to say, an excellent job in conducting and presenting your interviews. So well done that I don't mind your editorialising at alll in your written text. ;) We're worlds apart politically, but I think ethically and humanly we're much, much closer.
Correction: Al Sharpton. Not Ralph. Dunno where the Ralph came from.
LOVE the badge--where can I get one? (Love the story, too!)
ooh, I almost missed this. Great piece, bb - really, really well done. Is that you on that badge? You look like a star!!!!!!!! (but I know you are... now I hear Etta....xoxo)
This is terrific citizen journalism, bluestocking!
BB: I just ran to the store and good 'ol Glenn Beck was on the radio so I left it on to hear his take on the rally.

I almost drove off the road twice.

The first time was when he stated that he believed that there were around a million people in attendance. The highest number I heard were 300,000, but most were between 100K & 150K. He must have a pair of them magic Mormon glasses that let him see 5 - 10 times as many people as anybody else. Go figure.

The second time was when he started in on something that we all need to do for 40 days and 40 nights. I didn't hear it clearly because I was laughing too hard as I visualized Glenn Beck as Noah. (wonder if two liberals showed up to board his ark if he'd turn them away???)
Thanks for your reporting of these 2 different events...great slideshows & really thoughtful writing.
Of the Front Page pieces on this event, I liked this best as it seemed the most objective and well-rounded. It was far less an editorial and more journalistic.

The videos were a nice touch.

The guy with the uniform? "We will have freedom of religion and everything if we serve the God of the Bible?" Seriously, that had to be a Colbert staffer in costume.

I found the actions of the people walking behind the second interviewee -- the African American woman -- to be intriguing.

I think I saw a rolled up Confederate flag pass behind the couple from California. I could be mistaken, though.

The little old lady was saddening. Her lack of specifics came across as general ignorance on the issues. I don't hate or disparage her though as that could have just as well been my grandmother.

Maybe the greatest hope for our nation is that these well-attended events for somewhat opposing groups didn't result in violence. That all these attendees could gather for potentially emotionally charged gatherings and let each go on their way is a great attribute of a society.

Rated.
Henry--a really appreciate your point of view. I was making it a point to keep my point of view out of is as much as possible. I wasn't perfect, but I tried.

Steve--the badge is easy with any photo manipulation software. It was fun making it, and playing pretend journalist.

Amanday--thank you for your thoughtful comment and yes that's my mug on that fake badge. I didn't really need it though. People who wanted to talk would have talked anyway.

Clay and Man Talk Now--thanks for reading me.

Kevin--good observations. I have been so busy trying to edit and up load those videos that I hadn't really looked at what what going on in the background. I will have to look again.
Babe, this is wonderful! I feel better for having read it. Thank you!
R
Love the exchange between you and your husband, and love everything else you did here.
Hmmm, so what I am hearing is, you went as an infiltrator breaking the law to try to dig up dirt. That would be a more accurate description. That seems to be a Progressive means of attack to try to infiltrate and cause trouble. Beck asking people not to bring signs, was a very intelligent way to try to stop Progressive infiltrators.

Why don’t you people talk to Dr. Alveda King, as I would guess she would be much more informed on the matter of civil rights than you and Al Sharpton who is as political as they come.

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty" (I Corinthians 1:27).

By God, you people sure are confounded. All of these questions on what it is all about. Let’s blame a man and throw accusations from your ignorant mind. Throw assumptions wildly into the wind and let it be carried to deaf ears that do not want to hear the Truth. You always have to corrupt everything, which I guess just shows how evil and morally corrupt Progressives really are. A deluded and blind mind cannot understand the way that the Almighty God works. He works through people who are brave and willing enough to stand up for Him against a growing godless society. It is God’s Spirit that will enable your eyes to see and your ears to hear the Truth. Ask Him, you may be knocked down in awe of what God will show you. God transcends politics.

What is it all about? Restoring America back to God!

John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Thanks for reading me Stacye and Janette.

Tommy, I think you misunderstood my intention entirely. I spoke in jest about wanting to see provacative signs, but I also said at the outset that everyone spoke to me in a civil and respectful way. I do not identify with the people I interviewed at all, but I treated them fairly and let them have thier say.

Did you see my interviews? No infiltration there, just talking to people. The whole fake press badge was nothing more than a lark. But I don't think I was breaking any laws. I represented myself as a reporter on assignment for OS and that's exactly what I was. You can certainly disagree with me, but don't characterize me as a malicious trouble maker...that I am not.
Oh, and by the way, your "fake press badge" was not misleading or "fake."

At our small newspaper, we made our credentials the same way other outlets do: on the computer. All it takes is Photoshop and/or Quark. Laminate it, stick it on a lanyard (or clip) and you're set.

It's not "fake" because it openly identifies you and your purpose. There's no official press badge licensing agency that has to stamp media credentials. The badges are merely so cops, officials and others can identify you without having to disturb you in the midst of your duties or making you wait.

To clear up any confusion though, you could put "blogger" on there somewhere if you desire having to skip the explanation.
Hey thanks for that Kevin. I actually did think there was some kind of official press licensing agency I was thumbing my nose at, but I also knew I was telling the truth when I said that I was with OS. In future, I think I will make one up with blogger on it. I can also get a better photo and print quality just to polish it up a bit.
Another tip: that OS logo on yours is kind of rough looking. Why don't you grab one from somewhere on this site and just blow it up? If the edges get rough on you, use Photoshop or a similar program to clean it up.

As far as issuing of press passes: in some locales, for some purposes, official licensing is required. However, I don't think you are going to be on a police or political beat anytime soon that would require such extensive background checks.

If there is ever any question as to whether you can obtain access, always remember that honesty and transparency is utmost. Call ahead and check it out. Inquire whether you need special ID or to go on a list. Most folks will return your respect and let you know what's going on.

Good luck...
"Disclaimer". No TPer I. But I talk to a lot of them at work and while obviously there is an element of bigotry in many, it's not necessarily always there at all. The distrust of government flames have been being fanned for many years and have turned into an actual brush-fire. They hate Bush more than anyone else, because they are realizing what fools that they were to believe him, and don't even suspect that they are being fooled again because it's what they are. They are just frightened of the future when they don't even understand the past, or have a clue even. They are passionate but unfocused, and ultimately will burn out. Some, not many granted, may be reasoned with and are worth our patience. It's too bad that we are not likely to be able to harness for good what is bound to be a tremendous waste of energy.
(R)ated for good interviewing and what kind of camera did you use? Excellent video photography.
Great work. I'm not black, so can't know the pain of pre-Civil Rights. But I did work in the movement in the 60s. This is a sad, throwback.
Fred--I used a Cannon (VIXIA HF200). This was maybe the second time I've ever used it or any videocam for that matter so I didn't know it was extra good quality or anything. I just turned it on a pressed the button :) The experience was good for me though because I learned how to edit and publish video. I like playing reporter for a day.
Bonnie--thanks. Your praise means a lot to me.

Lea-I truly appreciate what you did for the movement back in the day. I never differentiate between races when it comes to good works. You saw an injustice and set out to correct it. I often wonder if I would have been active in the movement if I was around at the time. The way I am today, I couldn't imagine suffering for the cause, but then if I was a child of that era, I would probably be a different person. I doubt they had many spoiled, lazy black children back then :)
Hmmm, so what I am hearing is, you went as an infiltrator breaking the law to try to dig up dirt.

Hmmm, what law did she break?

That seems to be a Progressive means of attack to try to infiltrate and cause trouble.

What trouble did she cause?

Beck asking people not to bring signs, was a very intelligent way to try to stop Progressive infiltrators.

That's not why he asked people not to bring signs. The real reason for that was as follows: Beck's whole event was organized and paid for by a tax-exempt non-profit, which means they're not permitted to stage political events. If the participants had brought signs, the political nature of the event would have become obvious, and the organization's tax-exempt status would have been in jeapoardy.

Long story short: Beck's whole "restoring honor" event was organized around a lie.

By God, you people sure are confounded. All of these questions on what it is all about. Let’s blame a man and throw accusations from your ignorant mind.

As if Beck's fans aren't throwing any accusations at anyone? Your pseudo-religious ravings aren't even coherent enough to rise to the level of hypocricy. Do you have any idea what you're talking about?

What is it all about? Restoring America back to God!

And how, exactly, are a party of liars, warmongers, bigots, hypocrites and corrupt incompetents going to do that? (And whose "God" are we talking about again? Are you a Mor[m]on like Beck?)
Motherwell--thanks for having my back! I didn't quite know how to respond to Tommy T's incoherent rant. You handled him nicely :) you can stop by anytime.
A+ on the press credentials.
Kimberly--I'm flattered to death that you would consider this worth revisiting.

Lawless Lawyer--Thanks, I like the little press badge myself. I know I didn't strickly speaking need it, but when I do a thing I tend to go all out. I was playing ace reporter for a day. The badge made it more fun.
Related story on here:
"Standing up to the Likes of Glenn Beck and his Gang of Thugs"
http://open.salon.com/blog/mauibrad/2010/08/30/finally_a_democrat_standing_up_to_glenn_becks_gang_of_thugs
Great coverage! Four stars!
Thanks lefty...goodness knows I tried :)
Blue, this is great work. You were an eye-witness to history and you documented it so well. Thanks for sending me here. It is pieces like this that I kick myself for missing.
Excellent post - glad you linked to it on Catherine's blog. I think if people would awake to how much corporate slavery they live under, they would not be attending the Glenn Beck rally and would be honoring MLK in a manner consistent with his message. Treat the poor kindly, not pocket as much as you can at the expense of the people who work for you. We won't even mention that we bailed so many of them out with our tax dollars yet they don't want a person who is down on their luck to receive the same allowances? GB is exactly as you described him and those who follow in his footsteps scare me.
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