1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown August 22-28 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear Internet:

There are segregated middle school class elections in Mississippi.  In 2010.

Here's Tendown 41.

First: The Simplest of Jacks

Glenn Beck's I Have a Dream Speech was yesterday; it's hard to get overly agitated by Beck; he seems so transparently craven.  If the American public wants to buy his John Birch society wine in new bottles, I suppose they can.

Except his aren't just simple arguments about American history; they're outright falsehoods, like the separation of church and state was a myth; I had a conversation with a student awhile ago who believed such, she offered quotes from Madison and Jefferson that didn't seem remotely plausible, and it turns out they're fabricated by David Barton, Glenn Beck's "historian".  The student disbelieved this, instead taking the position that my education at "secular schools" disabled my ability to see the truth. 

There is an agreement we need to make about facts; as members of an academic community, as citizens of a democracy, as thinking reeds; there have always been those on the fringe of American thought who wore tinfoil hats, now we put them on Fox News and call them real Americans. 

The guts of Beck's March on Reality yesterday are his stated claim that King didn't fight for economic justice; you can see over and over again Beck's argument that the entirety of the King legacy is about color blindness (and who better to deliver that message in 2010 than the man who said the first African-American President has a "deep seated hatred for white people").  This is just factually incorrect.  At the time of King's assassination (he was in Memphis supporting a garbage strike, a month before he spoke to 1300 striking sanitation workers, "Don’t go back on the job until the demands are met. “Never forget that freedom is not something that is voluntarily given by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed....If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it.) he was organizing the Poor People's Campaign:

King spent the last months of his life organizing a popular movement aimed at disrupting the machinery of the United States until the passage of an Economic Bill of Rights;
“The dispossessed of this nation—the poor, both white and Black—live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to lift the load of poverty.”

These are not King quotes that you would have heard from Beck's stage yesterday. 

The flaw is not entirely, or even largely, Beck's.  Our national consciousness has almost entirely erased King's economic radicalism, focusing only on the elements of his civil rights work now largely considered benign; King's a commodified, beatified marker for the notion that all men are created equal.  A notion that, when it comes to race, is accepted by even the most fact-free of the Simple Jack nation.

Except in Mississippi, that is, where the middle school class President has to be a white kid.

Like Muhammad Ali, King's had his edges dulled.  Our collective understanding of him has been limited to a greeting card, "gosh, wouldn't it be great if little black boys and little white boys could hang out together and stuff and there'd be no more fighting.  Boo on fighting!  I have a dream where people won't be mean anymore."

And we can all get behind that.  Corporations, elementary school teachers, Tea Partiers, Simple jack.  You.  Me.  We're all against mean people in the abstract.  Thanks, Dr. King.

But the guy who said:

 “It is a tragic mix-up when the United States spends $500,000 for every enemy soldier killed, and only $53 annually on the victims of poverty.”


The profit motive, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages a cutthroat competition and selfish ambition that inspires men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life.


A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.


True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.


Any religion which professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them, is a dry-as-dust religion.

That's a voice we could use more of in our national debate in 2010.  Not to mention in Mississippi middle schools and tea party rallies on the Washington mall.    

And in Tennessee - where they set fire to the mosque site last night. Probably though, Howard Dean will tell us that's due to good faith issues that good, well intentioned Americans have with the placement of a mosque Murfreesboro.  Where they've had a mosque.  For 30 years.  Without incident.  Until now. 
After the jump - the rest of Tendown 41

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