Saturday, August 28, 2010

Talking Without Saying Anything

Today, 8/28-10, Glenn Beck sponsored and hosted a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he called "Restoring Honor". As the CNN story commented it was more a revival than a political rally. Beck looked and sounded more like a televangelist than a TV pundit. I listened to some of it this morning and read about some of it online and so I will fully admit that I am commenting without seeing the whole thing.

Beck made an interesting statement during his speech, "America today begins to turn back to God. For too long, this country has wandered in darkness." Also, Sarah Palin stated "We must restore America and restore her honor." I have heard similar statements over the last few months from a lot of conservative minded people, statements like "we need to take back America for God," or "we need to restore America," or something to that affect. Now there are a lot of theological unpacking that should be done from those statements, but what I would like to discuss here is the intentional vagueness of these statements. And don't worry my conservative friends, those on the Left are guilty of same kind of vagueness, but for this post I will focus on these statements from the Beck Rally. You hear a lot of that kind of talk during an election year. I am wondering, what do they mean by these statements? Where or when are we taking America back to? What are we restoring American to and for what purpose? You never get answers to these questions. But people eat that kind of talk up. Politicians and preachers have made careers on very energetic and yet completely vague rhetoric.

Both of these statements, "restoring America" and "bringing America back to God" indicate a return to the past or in other words, bringing back the good ol' days. What are the good ol' days? When were the good ol' days? One video that I did see at the Beck rally was a clip from the 1950s, think Leave It to Beaver. Is this the example of America we should return to? It seems good on the surface. Families sitting down to dinner. Dad with his pipe and Mom in her apron working to put dinner on the table. Sounds good, unless of course you are a single mom or a person who believes that women belong in places other than the kitchen. And you might notice that there aren't any black families in those 1950s clips. That might be because Jim Crow laws were still on the books and segregation was the norm, not only in the South but all over America. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they do not mean that we should return to our segregationist past. But the vagueness of these statements leaves a lot of room for the imagination. Do they mean that American should return to Republican rule, like we had from 2000-2006? Where is the point of restoration?

The answer is they don't know. Because when details of reality come in, those kind of vague statements lose their luster. Those kind of statements become harder to swallow. People begin to hear things they don't like. People like pie in the sky and Pollyanna America, but they don't like the harshness of reality. The truth is that we cannot and we should not go back to any point in American history. We can and should only go forward. Reminiscing on the past is fine and good, but lingering on some false memory of when times were perfect is not only pointless, but also dangerous. This false sense of a perfect past can become an idol to be worshiped.

Returning to my original point, we should demand more from our leaders than just vague "red meat" statements. We can no longer afford for both political parties to simply exist by spouting vague statements and accusations at one another.

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