Movements are about something real

MOVEMENTS ARE ABOUT SOMETHING REAL…. I tried to keep up on today’s festivities at the Lincoln Memorial, but as the dust settles, I find myself confused.

For a year and a half, we’ve seen rallies and town-hall shouting and attack ads and Fox News special reports. But I still haven’t the foggiest idea what these folks actually want, other than to see like-minded Republicans winning elections. To be sure, I admire their passion, and I applaud their willingness to get involved in public affairs. If more Americans chose to take a more active role in the political process, the country would be better off and our democracy would be more vibrant.

But that doesn’t actually tell us what these throngs of Americans are fighting for, exactly. I’m not oblivious to their cries; I’m at a loss to appreciate those cries on anything more than a superficial level.

This is about “freedom.”

Well, I’m certainly pro-freedom, and as far as I can tell, the anti-freedom crowd struggles to win votes on Election Day. But can they be a little more specific? How about the freedom for same-sex couples to get married? No, we’re told, not that kind of freedom.

This is about a fight for American “liberties.”

That sounds great, too. Who’s against American “liberties”? But I’m still looking for some details. Might this include law-abiding American Muslims exercising their liberties and converting a closed-down clothing store into a community center? No, we’re told, not those kinds of liberties.

This is about giving Americans who work hard and play by the rules more opportunities.

I’m all for that, too. But would these opportunities include the chance for hard-working Americans to bring their kids to the doctor if they get sick, even if the family can’t afford insurance? No, we’re told, not those kinds of opportunities.

This is about the values of the Founding Fathers.

I’m a big fan of the framers’ generation, who created an extraordinary nation. But if we’re honoring their values, would this include their steadfast commitment to the separation of church and state? No, we’re told, not those values.

This is about patriotic Americans willing to make sacrifices for the good of their country.

That sounds reasonable; sacrifices can be honorable. But if we’re talking about patriots willing to sacrifice, does that mean millionaires and billionaires can go back to paying ’90s-era tax rates (you know, when the economy was strong)? No, we’re told, not those kinds of sacrifices.

This is about a public that, at long last, wants to hear the truth from those who speak in their name.

What a great idea. Maybe that means we can hear the truth about global warming? About the fact that health care reform wasn’t a socialized government takeover? About Social Security not going bankrupt? About how every court ruling conservatives don’t like doesn’t necessarily constitute “liberal judicial activism”? No, we’re told, not those truths.

Movements — real movements that make a difference and stand the test of time — are about more than buzz words, television personalities, and self-aggrandizement. Change — transformational change that sets nations on new courses — is more than vague, shallow promises about “freedom.”

Labor unions created a movement. Women’s suffrage was a movement. The fight for civil rights is a movement. The ongoing struggle for equality for gays and lesbians is a movement. In each case, the grievance was as clear as the solution. There was no mystery as to what these patriots were fighting for. Their struggles and successes made the nation stronger, better, and more perfect.

The folks who gathered in D.C. today were awfully excited about something. The fact that it’s not altogether obvious what that might be probably isn’t a good sign.