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Beck v. Sharpton: What's to reclaim?

On Aug. 28, I found myself in Washington, D.C. on the date of Fox News host and self-described “rodeo clown” Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. Naturally, out of morbid curiosity, I decided to amble over to the Lincoln Memorial just to see what I would find. With all of the feigned outrage at Beck’s decision to host his rally on the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, I was half-expecting to see a rabid mob of crazed neo-segregationists brandishing signs decrying President Obama’s plan for white slavery and lamenting how “the zoo has an African lion and the White House has a lyin’ African.” The reality, of course, was far more mundane.

Nevertheless, a wide cohort of liberal personalities has condemned the timing of Beck’s rally for its insensitivity, alleging that the occurrence of such an event on such an important day for African Americans was sacrilegious. The words of the reliably indignant Rev. Al Sharpton at his lightly-attended “Reclaim the Dream” counter-rally, for example, demonstrated as much. “This is our day, and we ain’t giving it away,” Sharpton blustered. “They want to disgrace this day.”

This notion, that the right to venerate King is exclusive to, one must assume, African Americans and likeminded liberals, is odious, far more odious than Glenn Beck’s desire to “reclaim the civil rights movement.” King is and ought to be an icon who transcends ideological divisions, and the execrable politicization of his legacy by the left must be repudiated.


The idea that sharing King’s liberal ideology is a prerequisite to honoring him at the site of, and on the anniversary of, his speech is preposterous, for King’s political beliefs are quite irrelevant to why he is considered significant. King’s contribution to America was his championing of civil rights for ethnic minorities, not his less successful efforts to fight poverty and end the conflict in Vietnam.

Read the full column at the Harvard Crimson.

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