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The meaning of Glenn Beck's rally on the National Mall

Thursday, September 2, 2010; A22

I have heard and read numerous comments about Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally last weekend that specifically noted "the whitest" crowd, as Courtland Milloy described it in his Aug. 30 Metro column, "The only thing being restored by Beck is prejudice." I was there, and true, there were very few African Americans, Hispanics or other minorities. But why was the crowd mostly white? Did Mr. Beck invite only whites? Were minorities discouraged from attending? Was anyone forced to attend? I believe the answer to those last two questions is "No." The people who attended were there because they see the country going down the wrong path. Mr. Beck's message was overwhelmingly religious in tone but also emphasized the need for each individual to be responsible for his or her own decisions and destiny. Only those who choose to do so will turn it into a racial or political message. There was no more of an attempt to hijack the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s memory by Glenn Beck than there was by the Rev. Al Sharpton. No one can hijack Dr. King's message. They may be able to build upon it, but the "I Have a Dream" speech belongs only to Martin Luther King Jr.

Doug Frank, Ashburn

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My father marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and was there when he made his famous speech 47 years ago. Watching Glenn Beck's rally from a distance on Saturday, I observed banners and signs declaring his intentions to fight "injustice" and take back "rights," and Mr. Beck's audacious claim to be following in Dr. King's footsteps. Dr. King and those who worked with him fought long and hard for people whose basic rights had long been denied on statewide levels and who had been discriminated against for years. On the Mall, I observed mostly middle-class Americans claiming that health-care and environmental initiatives would raise their taxes.

Do Mr. Beck and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin truly believe their grievances are on the same level as those of the civil rights movement? Mr. Beck clearly doesn't know the meaning of the word "injustice."

William Craig, Washington

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Regarding the Aug. 30 news story "Beck challenges Obama's religious beliefs after rally in D.C.":

In assailing liberation theology and denouncing as "perversion" President Obama's understanding of Christianity, Glenn Beck demonstrated his ignorance of the Hebrew Bible as part of Christian scripture, where it functions as the "Old Testament."

Liberation theology, as Beck describes it, is "all about victims and victimhood; oppressors and the oppressed; reparations, not repentance; collectivism, not individual salvation. I don't know what that is, other than it's not Muslim, it's not Christian. It's a perversion." This is basically the theology of the Exodus, as championed by the prophets of Israel.

At the heart of the Torah's theology, the Exodus narrative is about the -- collective, not individual -- rescue of the Israelites from bondage under the oppressive pharaoh. Their salvation from slavery also involves reparations for victimhood.

To denigrate and delegitimize liberation theology is to denigrate and delegitimize the foundation story of the Jewish people and, indeed, the canonical status of the Hebrew Bible itself.

Stanley Cohen, Baltimore

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On behalf of myself, my family and several hundred thousand visitors to Washington last weekend, I want to thank the citizens of the city and surrounding communities for their hospitality and assistance. Metro employees, bus drivers, Park Service officers, hotel employees and many others were incredibly patient and helpful to the many visitors in town.

If not for the good cheer and helpful advice of so many people, this could have been a stressful event, considering the transportation issues we faced. We left feeling that this was really "our capital," the people's capital, and for that we thank the many who went out of their way to make us feel welcome. We did our best to leave the city as clean as we found it.

Sven Moller, South Salem, N.Y.

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Let's see if I get all of the joke here.

It was a nonpolitical rally, headlined by politician Sarah Palin and political commentator Glenn Beck.

It was not associated with Fox News, but the principal speakers are on Fox's payroll, and the event was lovingly covered by the network.

It wasn't a swipe at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but it was at the site and date of his most famous speech (ever hear of Google?).

And does the Tea Party really have a trademark on God and honor?

Poor Abe Lincoln. He couldn't look away.

John Jonas, Alexandria

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