Some have called this summer, “America’s summer of racial division”. I would have to agree. But, politics, charges of racism and reverse-racism, Shirley Sherrod, the NAACP, and The Tea Party aside, I am now convinced of one stinging truth: I live in two very different Americas.
One America, which is majority Caucasian believes America has lost her way, is in need of restoration, new governance, less taxation, and even repentance to God for our collective sins. This America believes our president is a Muslim, or according to polls one in four Americans believe this. However, for conservative Republicans that number increases to 34 percent according to a recent Pew Center Poll. Forty-three percent of Americans in the same poll say they do not know what religion the president is despite the fact that he is a vocal and practicing Christian himself.
This America questions whether he was even born in this country and is actually eligible under the Constitution to be president. Many of these Americans are tired of being labeled “racist” when they vocally oppose President Obama or do not like his policies. Many of them are simply fed-up with a government that in their opinion has become increasingly “socialist” and “appeasing” of those abroad who would do us harm around the world.
WATCH SOPHIA NELSON DISCUSS TWO AMERICAS ON MSNBC
Many of these Americans gathered this past Saturday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to express their desire to see America “restored” (to what one might ask) and to pay honor and homage to our nation’s troops in a rally led by Fox News host Glenn Beck and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. I had a chance to sneak down to the mall and listen to some of the speeches as well as Beck’s speech and I viewed the Rev. Al Sharpton’s counter rally/march.
What I took away from Saturday is this: The “other America” of which I speak believes that America is, perhaps, not all she should be, but that she is faring better under President Obama. These people, who are mostly people of color and progressive democrats, believe that we need more government intervention to address our nation’s problems. They support repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and massive health care reform. They support the stimulus championed by President Obama. They believe that America is a nation still divided by race and racism, and that diplomacy not military might is the way to ensure peace and justice in the world.
These Americans overwhelmingly reject the legitimacy of the Tea Party movement and they despise Beck, Palin, Fox News, and the conservative forces of evil that they believe has set this country back socially and economically now for decades.
And so there it is America—we are a house divided against ourselves and in this we cannot long stand. So as an American who fits in neither camp (I am one of those moderate centrists that the right hates and the left tolerates) here is what I think about Beck, Palin, Sharpton, et al:
America is not weak. America is not lost. But America does need to revisit, seriously who we are and who we want to be as we move forward into this new century. I love our founders, and I love this country. I love our Constitution, which at its inception denied my maternal great-great-great-grandmother (an African slave) her God given rights as a human being. I love that this nation has been brave enough to face itself and correct itself time and time again when we have erred. To me that is what the American “experience” is all about.
E Pluribus Unum: Out of many we are one!Glenn Beck’s rally if you take it at “face value” (and many of you do not) was a very positive, very spiritual, very pro-God and country rally. Not a negative word I could hear was said about President Obama, the Democrats, or about Civil Rights.
Likewise, the Rev. Sharpton and his supporters were simply saying 47 years after Dr. King’s “I Have Dream Speech” that we as a black people, still have much farther to go and that despite all of our progress, many have been left behind.
All Americans can and should embrace both men and these principles if not the men themselves. Glenn Beck in my humble opinion is a confused fellow — who like us all is trying to work out his own salvation (both with God and politically) and find his way in this difficult journey called life. That was vividly apparent on Saturday.
I think what hurts Beck badly in all of this is that he called the president a “racist” last year (something he has apologized for on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace) and has been known to stoke the fires of fear and division. Just as Rev. Sharpton has in the minds of many if we are going to be fair. But both men, I hope are evolving with time, maturity, and forgiveness in their hearts. And that my fellow Americans is a good thing.
The key take away for me from yesterday’s Beck rally is not Sarah Palin’s speech or the tens of thousands of people who came to support the rally. The key take away is that there are a lot of Americans who believe for whatever reason that this country is headed in the wrong direction. I disagree with columnists like Bob Herbert of the New York Times and others who have made the Beck rally about race. To do so makes fools of us all because in our country the people have a right to assemble, make petition, and express grievance against their government; even on special days like the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington That is who we really are at our core and we should never forget it lest we stray from our founding principles and become something else entirely.