I am haunted by the sight of Glenn Beck on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial exhorting his followers to “turn back to God.” It is clear which God he means – the one that mainstream Christian faiths pray to. His vision of returning to the old days leaves little room for Jews, Blacks, Asians, Latinos, gays, and immigrants. I don’t doubt for a moment that the thousands of white people hailing his vision of “the good old days” over the weekend believe that America was a better country 40 or 50 years ago. Perhaps it was for their families.
But I recall seeing a billboard on the interstate highway at the border of North and South Carolina that said, “Welcome to Klan Country” in the late 1960s. I don’t want to return to those days. There were swimming pools and clubs that my family wasn’t allowed to join because we were Jewish. I don’t want to return to those days. Marian Anderson was denied a chance to sing to an integrated audience at Constitution Hall and so stood on the very spot which Glenn Beck commandeered to sing to more than 75,000 people on Easter Sunday 1939. I don’t want to go back to those days.
America has grown great because of its progress, because we are forward thinkers. Our gift to our children and our grandchildren is to offer them a world that is better than the one we were given. Glenn Beck is preying on the fears and paranoia of millions of people who are much more willing to longingly look back with nostalgia than ahead with hope. Shame on him. One of his followers carried a sign that read, “I want an America that my dad remembers.” My dad, at 81, wants a world that has learned from the one he remembers and is even better. It’s a shame that Glenn Beck is stuck on rewind and is urging so many to remain stuck with him.