Glenn Beck Has a Plan

Just over two weeks from now Glenn Beck, David Barton and Sarah Palin will be on a stage in front of the Lincoln Memorial for a rally dedicated to “restoring honor” in America. If the posts on the Facebook discussion board are any indication, there will be busses there from all over the country when Beck announces “the Plan.”

While he’s said very little about the Plan, or who the other speakers will be, Beck has “discovered” a medal of merit George Washington awarded and, characteristically lacking in humility, has decided to reestablish the practice of the founding father. When he announced Palin’s participation, he had this to say:

In 1780 George Washington developed a badge of merit. It is what our Purple Heart is modeled after…At the time the world only gave medals and badges and everything else to officers, but he was looking to create in his words an honorable and Christian army. It was the first time that anybody had ever done that, looking at the farmer and saying you don’t have to be an officer and do something honorable. It was not about the Purple Heart, surprisingly. The Purple Heart was modeled after the badge of merit after they were found in 1933. And that’s when we started awarding purple hearts. But it was not for honor. It was just for being wounded.

Leaving aside the implication that, in Beck’s view, the abstract idea of “honor” carries more weight than “just being wounded,” the promotion of the rally violates the conventional wisdom of staying on message.”

On the one hand the event is promoted as an effort to honor veterans. It is being sponsored by contributions to a tax exempt foundation, (Wounded Warriors) and, though it has been promoted for months on various tea party websites and events and by the National Rifle Association, the tax exempt status of the co-sponsor limits the degree to which the event can be explicitly political.

But in other contexts there is the thread that promotes it as an event to “stand up against racism of all kinds.” This is Beck’s slanted version (drawn from “Christian American History” promoter David Barton) of the history of race in America in which the Democratic party has, all along, supported racism, while the Republicans have been the party of racial equality. During the “Founders Friday” session of his television show devoted to his revisionist version of African American History, and many times since, he shared that, apparently by accident (or divine intervention), the rally at the Lincoln Memorial was scheduled to occur on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famed speech in the same spot.

Acknowledging that it is “sacred space,” Beck noted that he would not stand on the same steps as King but rather two steps below where he stood. Nonetheless, he repeatedly insists that he is representing the “original vision” of the civil rights movement and hints that he sees himself as a new Martin Luther King. If you can’t bear to watch Beck’s show, you can see clips, in a relatively painless format provided by Stephen Colbert here.

jingerso@unf.edu'

Julie Ingersoll is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Florida. She is the author of Evangelical Christian Women: War Stories in the Gender Battles and is currently writing a book on the influence of Christian Reconstructionism.