August 29, 2010


The Glenn Beck extravaganza at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 2010, has come and gone.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune estimated the crowd at “Tens of thousands“; then, in the same article, mentioned “hundreds of thousands“; and even “a million strong” (my Congresswoman Michele Bachmann). There are no official estimates, only what somebody or other said there might be. The reader can believe what he or she wishes. The high estimates come, of course, from the people who have a vested interest in making it sound like there were oceans of people gathered there in support of their agenda.

Whatever the case, there were a lot of people, overwhelmingly white, including an unknown number and probably large number who would be like me, had I been in Washington DC on Saturday. I would have wandered over to see what was going on. Regardless, there is a lot of difference between “tens of thousands” and “a million,” but such is how estimates are used, to sell a dream. In this case, reality takes a back seat to fantasy.

(I need context for such large numbers as supposedly appeared in Washington D.C. on Saturday: it is as if some people showed up at the park outside my house, and one person said there was two people there, and another said 100, and somebody “fair and balanced” said that must mean there were 50 there. You can easily count 100 people; when you claim 1,000,000 — it’s a wild, wild, guess.)

There will be endless analyses of this event.

The rally was supposedly to “restore honor” to the United States, presumably because people like me and the persons we support are bringing dishonor to the country.

By nature and by habit developed over many years of daily work with differences in points of view, I appreciate and respect honest differences of informed opinion.

This is not what I am seeing today. What is going on now, in this country, is very troubling in three specific respects:

1. We are being fed lies, and to a very disturbing degree gullible people are believing these lies and acting on their belief. Johnathan Alter of Newsweek has a good commentary on this very sad reality. We are being manipulated by deliberate lies.

2. The campaign of misinformation and disinformation is largely funded by wealthy interests who have no interest whatsoever in the interests or aspiration of the rabble they are inciting to throw out the hated liberals – people like me – accusing us of all manner of evil behavior. Frank Rich of the New York Times ties this together nicely, with links to the research.

This is not an issue of whether or not the wealthy should have the freedom of speech; but what is happening here is profound abuse of this right, and complete contempt for the accompanying responsibility to tell the truth. “If it works, do it” is the mantra.

3. Most dangerous of all, in my opinion, is the tendency people have to focus on their one or two single “hot button issues” and to do all their decision making based on their beliefs (or biases) around these issues. Not only does this make them susceptible to lies and distortions funded by people who don’t even care about their issues, except to the extent that they can be manipulated through these issues; but this country becomes “governed” through a coalition of huge numbers of tiny “islands” of people united around issues. This is dangerous to our society.

I live, and have lived for years, in a “coalition” of 24 quadhomes (96 homeowners) which has its own sets of rules for the respect and maintenance of our collective property. We are like a small town in the midst of a larger city. It is not hard to imagine the scenario if each of these 96 homeowners had the unfettered right to make their own rules for themselves, with no responsibility to their neighbors. The same breakdown can and will cause chaos if allowed to take root in our country.

We are the most complex and (probably) still the most powerful country in the world, and we cannot personally decide our country’s fate on our own pet issues, or through misinformation. We risk losing everything we value.

Beck’s throngs on Saturday are no doubt committed to their version of overthrow of a duly elected government and imposition of their own values on everyone else. While they represent only a small minority of this country’s population, they will all likely vote in November. The only reasonable way to counter them is to vote ourselves, and promote a more positive and constructive agenda.

I speak as an honorable person, and as a liberal.