Beck and Sharpton’s Dueling Rallies Highlight King’s Unfulfilled Dream

Beck and Sharpton’s Dueling Rallies Highlight King’s Unfulfilled Dream
I Have a Dream MLK
I Have a Dream MLK

And back in the land of real change and hope, Al Sharpton is rallying today to honor King’s memory on the 47th anniversary of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The theme of today’s march is to “Reclaim the Dream”. While speaking at the rally, Sharpton made no mention of the Beck rally that had secured a permit to the location of the historic Martin Luther King speech we are celebrating today. Sharpton and the civil rights movement supporters and progressives had speakers until 1PM and then began their march, hoping to reduce the opportunities for conflict with the Beck people lingering at the Lincoln memorial.

Sharpton and the speakers focused on how much we still need to do in order to achieve equality.

In a recent interview Sharpton called out Beck for trying to reverse the work of Martin Luther King, “”Glenn Beck is trying to reverse what King did and there are those of us who are not going to allow that to happen. They’re saying, ‘we’re talking about the honor of America,’ they’re saying ‘we’re talking about restoring dignity.’ There is nothing more dignified than our country coming together and making sure that everyone has equal opportunity. That’s not communism, that’s really what this country is supposed to stand for and what Dr King gave his life for.”

Krissah Thompson of The Washington Post reports that not everyone was as restrained as Sharpton regarding the Beck rally:

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“”Shame on them. We still have a dream. We are here to let those folks on the Mall know that they don’t represent the dream,” said Jaime Contreras, president of SEIU-32BJ. “They sure as hell don’t represent me. They represent hate-mongering and angry white people. The happy white people are here today. We will not let them stand in the way of the change we voted for!””

As they prepared to march, Sharpton urged everyone, “Let the line stretch. They already going to say there were only 2,000 or 3,0000 of you here. If people start heckling smile at them. This ain’t about you, it’s about Dr. King.”

You know, only the privileged can afford to mar their message with anger, justified or not. Those who are still not equal, those who could easily be stereotyped can not afford to be off message.

It doesn’t take courage to join a lot of white people and rally around the notion of taking your country back. After all, you’ve always had it. It feels like a right and an entitlement. What does take courage is to stand up against the prevailing notions and stereotypes. It takes courage to restrain yourself from responding to hate. It takes courage to stand up for your beliefs, when they engender such hate and when the source of that hate has long, historical ties to actual physical harm and even death.

It’s clear after watching the Beck rally that it most certainly was about race. His message was to “Restore America”, a message he delivered to a predominantly white crowd on the very location and anniversary of MLK’s historic speech. Restore America? To what?

The Washington Post reports: “Tehuti Imhotep came from Baltimore with posters depicting black history from the middle passage through King’s 1968 march in support of trash haulers in Memphis. Imhotep shouted at passersby: “This is our real history. [Beck’s] trying to redefine the civil rights movement,” he said. “How insensitive! King was about bringing people together. This man Beck is pulling people apart.””

And it’s this truth that haunts me. It’s why I shudder when progressives relentlessly criticize our President. Like the heavy air before a bad storm, I sense the impending build up of the Right’s efforts to destroy our President. A man who represents hope and the best we can be. No, he’s not perfect. But then, I never expected him to be perfect. I guess I am happy to have a decent man who is pretty honest with us and who stands for uniting us and using diplomacy before force. I guess I’m happy to have a man who cares about civil rights of all people, even though we are far from achieving them.

And watching the stark contrasts between these two rallies, one where the leaders make no mention of the hate but focus on the change still needed and another where they took obvious pot shots at the change they don’t like in our country, I’m deeply saddened. In fact, I’m grieving.

But I won’t give into this momentary despair. I know others fought much harder battles. I believe in the ultimate power of good. I believe in the aspirational progressive ideals of the Left. And in the end, I know Liberals will find a way past their grievances, once they see exactly what’s at stake here. I know they’ll find a way to hold the President accountable while still supporting him. We still have a lot to do. And it’s this fact that needs to come home for the Left. We can only accomplish this together.

If I have a dream, it’s that we will find a way to unify behind our President and make felt the awesome presence of our desire for justice. We’ll hold Obama accountable as we embrace him and protect him from the slings and arrows of hate.

Yes, we can.

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