BUT I repeat myself: public Christians in this country have been disgruntled since Engle v. Vitale, which (maybe this should be pointed out now and again) protects the children of public Christians from being forced to recite prayers to Cthulhu, Vishnu, or Mitch Daniels same as it does the heathen children from forcible conversion by rote; the Right, in general, has been disgruntled since Eisenhower stopped at the Rhine, compounded by his later refusal to surrender to Arkansas; the Paranoid Right at least since fluoridation, but it's hard to tell, and it might be since public initiatives involving vaccination, sanitation, or Thought; the laissez-faire capitalists who've held the whip over in them parts since The Gilded Age are just naturally disgruntled, but Child Labor laws didn't help matters. You can trace any of those subgroups' shifting fads, focuses, and adopted whipping boys over the past sixty or seventy years, and whaddya get? Fads, shifting focus, and adopted (and abandoned) whipping boys. Hell, they pretended to celebrate one Saturday in DC (note that Riley just called Martin Luther King "boy", which proves who the real racists are).
They can't govern, they won't govern, and they haven't been able to govern since the Closing of the West and the Dawn of Modernity; it's a political movement which occupies an imaginary space. It's a movement manqué. It's a facial tic. It's the inclination to remain mother's dryer-warm cosset. (And one which, tellingly, requires almost constant distraction with the jangling keys of political outrage, lest it recognize the mewling, puking infant in the mirror.)
So, again: so 300,000 disgruntled white people, in Roy's phrase, follow Glenn Beck to Washington in August. So what? Is this Revolution #3 or #4? If it's not time the Times started demanding more of these buffoons, then it's at least time to consider whether dumbing down the coverage to keep their feelings from getting hurt is doing them any favors.
Why, here's Ross Douthat, whose Culture War Division, Ivy League Catholic Brigade is doubly disowned by the Teabaggers, for the moment:
Entering this weekend, I was convinced that Glenn Beck’s star was about to go into eclipse.
Sure you were.
But after spending my Saturday at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally on the Washington Mall, I’m beginning to think that I underestimated the man.
This is why the insurance company requires three estimates after an accident.
The Fox News host had promised that the rally, billed as a celebration of American values, would be an explicitly apolitical event. And so it came to pass: save for an occasional “Don’t Tread On Me,” banner, the crowded Mall was nearly free of political signs and T-shirt slogans, and there was barely a whisper of the crusade against liberalism that consumes most of Beck’s on-air hours.
I'm sorry; how is it that the only man in America fooled by this has a column in the Times?
Instead, Beck served up something considerably stranger. This was a tent revival crossed with a pep rally intertwined with a history lecture married to a U.S.O. telethon — and that was just in the first hour.
Y'know, the first time through I read that as "U.F.O. telethon". Which I like better.
There was piety — endless piety, as speaker after speaker demanded that Americans rededicate themselves to God. There was patriotism: fund- raising for children of slain Special Forces vets, paeans to military heroism (delivered by Sarah Palin, among others), encomiums to the founding fathers. There was an awards ceremony on the theme of “Faith, Hope and Charity,” in which community-service prizes were handed out to a black minister, a Mormon businessman and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols. And since this was (as you may have heard) the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, there was a long tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.
Interesting, really: I don't think that stuff, even if it were genuine, amounts to real "piety, patriotism, or photogenically-multicultural altruism". And that's before we get to the idea that facile praise for a Cartoon King abnegates the public racism of the day's two main speakers. Reload, Dr. Laura!
But a suspicious liberal could retort that all the God-and-Christ talk and military tributes were proof enough that a sinister Christian nationalism lurked beneath the surface. (I’m sure The New York Review of Books has already commissioned an essay on that theme.)
Wow. If only this was on blogginheads. You coulda finished by wiping one eyebrow with your pinky.
Look, Ross, maybe I haven't made this clear before, but for our relationship to go any further you're going to have to understand that I don't give a shit what imaginary liberals do or say in your head. Sinister Christian nationalism? You might've noticed we're still in Afghanistan, and we're still in Iraq, while pretending we're not trying to slink home. That's a) the second-poorest nation on earth and b) a country whose tenth-rate military had already lost two wars in twenty years when we came back, and we've spent a decade losing to both. Bring on all the Christian nationalism you got, boyo. Just hastens the day when the Wiccans take over, and at least their robes are cooler than Rehnquist's.
Similarly, one could call the rally a gross affront to the memory of King, who presumably wouldn’t have cared much for Beck’s right-wing politics. But one could also call the day a strange, unlooked-for fulfillment of King’s prophecies: 47 years after the “I Have a Dream” speech, here were tens of thousands of white conservatives roaring their approval of its author.
Just not anything the man stood for.
And look, let's go ahead and call the rally a gross effrontery to the Civil Rights movement, writ large, and not just that guy they put on a stamp, if you'd like. Was it an affront, or no? In fact, go ahead and explore the idea, instead of tossing it off like an amulet against flying cudgels. Doesn't bother me. Neither does the affront. I hope it's the first of hundreds. Glenn Beck Freedom Rides. Glenn Beck marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Glenn Beck Lunch-counter sit-ins, which they'll probably have to update to McDonald's drive-thrus. Boycott everything that smacks of Big Gubment. Boycott public transportation, not that you use it. Boycott education (ditto). Boycott hospitals, and health care, and supermarkets that take food stamps. Fuck, I don't care that you won't be risking anything. I care, personally, that you're disrespecting the heroism and self-sacrifice of so many people who fought real injustice in real ways when there were real, physical consequences, but what I think about that isn't going to stop you. If you can't learn the lesson from the total disasters that've followed your every moment in power like bubbles follow a sinking rock, by all means, bring us President Palin. Bring us President Beck. Put 'em on teevee on every channel, all the time. Because at some point your phony movement will get to prove its bravery. When y'all start shooting each other, because there's no one else left.