UPDATE: Listen to Glenn Beck read and attack this post on air.
Great, so now, just in time for the holidays, Glenn Beck tries to co-opt one of the few unifying rituals of this season, one of the remaining events that we on all sides of the political and religious spectrum can sit down and truly enjoy together. Yes, Beck is now trying to steal the great 1946 Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life and turn it into a rallying cry for the conservative anti-government Christian right.
This week on his radio show, he announced he was going to do his show from the town of Wilmington, Ohio on December 15. Of the countless towns across the country hard hit by the recession, Wilmington, which has only about 12,000 people, may be one of the worst. After the international shipping firm DHL restructured and pulled up stakes in 2008, approximately 9,000 people from the area lost their jobs.
Beck claims the town “is fighting to be Bedford Falls, not Pottersville.”
Now, I’m a great fan of It’s a Wonderful Life, which is set in the fictional town of Bedford Falls. Sure, it’s overly sentimental—Capra-corn, as it’s often called. But there are some terrific themes in that movie. Dare I even say it? Terrific progressive themes. So I was curious how Beck was going to claim this movie for his own.
Well, according to Beck, it’s because Wilmington has spurned all federal and state assistance money. To deal with the crushing unemployment rate and the fact that few jobs remain in this section of the Rust Belt, Beck says the people of Wilmington have developed an economic recovery plan based solely on prayer. By the way, Beck is totally full of it on his assertion that the town refused to take government money. According to Media Matters, the city and the surrounding Clinton County have taken $6 million from the 2009 stimulus bill.
So, why don’t the people of Wilmington want any government assistance? Because, Beck claims they said, “God will provide.”
According to Beck, in the otherwise abandoned Main Street, the churches have banded together and are using one of the empty storefronts to use as a prayer center. At the soup kitchen, there are lines that snake around the block, Beck says, but those who run the kitchen refuse to take state and federal money. Instead, they come in and put their hands on empty shelves of the pantry and pray for God’s intervention, “Lord, help us fill these shelves.”
And because of that, he says the people are trying to be like Bedford Falls.
Did he and I watch the same movie? Because I don’t recall the government being the villain in the movie. No, as a matter of fact, it seemed pretty clear that the villain was Mr. Potter, a greedy and corrupt banker who referred to the working class as “a discontented lazy rabble.” (Wow. Sound familiar to anyone else?)
And while the movie features a strong element of divine intervention, it is only of the most passive kind. As you may recall, Clarence the Angel’s only accomplishment is to point out George Bailey’s lifetime of good works and active commitment to “social justice,” something that Beck has said are code words for Communism and Nazism.
Look, Frank Capra wasn’t exactly known for his subtle messages. Yet, somehow, Beck manages to reinterpret the movie through an unregulated free-market ideological Ayn Rand prism and message of Christian conservatism. For real? Either Beck has never watched the movie, or he’s so conservatively deluded that he thinks Mr. Potter is the hero. Check out Jimmy Stewart’s take down of Potter here:
And, what was Pottersville, this place that Beck thinks Wilmington would become if they accepted government aid?
The clips are long, but gosh darn it, they’re so worth watching—again. And at homes around the country during the holidays, it was always so nice knowing that we can all lug our full bellies over to the couch and watch something that everyone can enjoy, one that won’t cause a heated debate. But just like the non-existent war on Christmas that Beck and his far-right cohorts are so fond of using to foment divisiveness in this country, he wants to hijack It’s a Wonderful Life too.
Happy holidays, folks.