Two very different dreams, striving for very different mountaintops

TWO VERY DIFFERENT DREAMS, STRIVING FOR VERY DIFFERENT MOUNTAINTOPS…. I have a meeting this morning that’s going to delay my Saturday posting schedule a bit, but in the meantime, as throngs of anti-government zealots assemble at the Lincoln Memorial, I thought I’d take a moment to consider the word “we.”

“We,” Glenn Beck recently told his minions, will “reclaim the civil rights movement.” “We,” he added, are “on the right side of history.” After all, it was “we” who launched the civil rights movement “in the first place.”

It’s not altogether clear who counts as part of “we,” though presumably it’s limited to those who share Beck’s twisted view of reality.

Leonard Pitts Jr. explained this week that this isn’t just shameless nonsense: “It is obscene. It is theft of legacy. It is robbery of martyr’s graves.”

Beck was part of the “we” who founded the civil rights movement!? No. Here’s who “we” is.

“We” is Emmett Till, tied to a cotton gin fan in the murky waters of the Tallahatchie River. “We” is Rosa Parks telling the bus driver no. “We” is Diane Nash on a sleepless night waiting for missing Freedom Riders to check in. “We” is Charles Sherrod, husband of Shirley, gingerly testing desegregation compliance in an Albany, Ga., bus station. “We” is a sharecropper making his X on a form held by a white college student from the North. “We” is celebrities like Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando and Pernell Roberts of Bonanza, lending their names, their wealth and their labor to the cause of freedom.

“We” is Medgar Evers, Michael Schwerner, Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, Viola Liuzzo, Cynthia Wesley, Andrew Goodman, Denise McNair, James Chaney, Addie Mae Collins and Carole Robertson, shot, beaten and blown to death for that cause.

“We” is Lyndon Johnson, building a legislative coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats to defeat intransigent Southern Democratic conservatives and enshrine that cause into law.

And “we” is Martin Luther King, giving voice and moral clarity to the cause — and paying for it with his life.

The we to which Glenn Beck belongs is the we that said no, the we that cried “socialism!” “communism!” “tyranny!” whenever black people and their allies cried freedom.

The fatuous and dishonorable attempt to posit conservatives as the prime engine of civil rights depends for success on the ignorance of the American people… This, then, is to serve notice as Beck and his tea party faithful gather in Lincoln’s shadow to claim the mantle of King: Some of us are not ignorant. Some of us remember. Some of us know very well who “we” is.

And, who “we” is not.

Beck and his confused followers are claiming a legacy they don’t understand. They’re trying to lift a mantle that doesn’t fit on their shoulders. They’re adding their names to the same scroll they tried and failed to destroy.

Beck and his minions don’t quite appreciate why they’re an embarrassment to themselves, and that’s a shame. They can’t comprehend why King was a giant, and Beck is a small, sad cynic. They have no idea why America is so much better and stronger than their hate-filled demagoguery.

But as Eugene Robinson explained, “Saturday night, when the event is done, the Lincoln Memorial will still be the place where King gave one of the most memorable speeches of the 20th century. People who came to the rally in search of answers will still be looking. And Glenn Beck will still be a legend in his own mind.”