We are barreling down the Palmetto Expressway in Miami. I ask my husband, Paul:
- V: Can I go to Washington, D.C., for the Glenn Beck event on 8/28?
P: The what?
V: (Sigh) We’re going to pray for our country.
P: (Long silence)
I could see dollar signs flying out of his eyes. He actually has no idea how quickly I can spend money. Mascara, new lipstick (the other four tubes melted in the car), navy pashmina, frappaccino, hotel, taxi, plane tickets, Starburst, Sylvia Plath book, gossip magazines, acrylic nail replacement, (it flew off when I was packing), high-priced airport strawberry necklace for my friend who likes strawberries, etc. What he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him.
- V: Well?
P: (Long pause) … (reluctantly) … Our country needs prayer.
I took that as a yes.
I’m fumbling into my red, white and blue summer dress. It’s 5 a.m. I have to get to D.C. early because Glenn Beck’s website said there are free tickets available at the Kennedy Center, first come first serve, for a night-before event that will include religious leaders. I was dreaming that Billy or Franklin Graham would be there, or Charles Stanley. I pack light. It’s only two days. I’m not performing. No uke, no costume. Just wallet, flip-flops, camera and flag scarf.
At the gate I see one man with a “Faith, Hope, Charity” shirt. I have a button that says “I ‘heart’ Glenn Beck,” but haven’t pinned it to my dress yet. I’m torn between educating the masses and offending the opposition (uninformed). I want to love them to the truth, not “offend” them to the truth.
I fly and doze and jump in a cab to the Kennedy Center. My taxi driver is Muslim. He’s from Ethiopia and is here on a college scholarship. I wish I could have gotten a college scholarship. I had straight A’s. I wonder who is giving him the scholarship. I ask him what he thinks about the mosque being built at Ground Zero. He says, “It’s good.” Duh. I ask him if the Quran really says, “… kill the infidel.” He says, “No!” That’s funny because my dad has a copy of the Quran in English and it really does say it. I tell him this. He insists that Muslims don’t kill. I ask him why none of the peaceful Muslims go on TV and disassociate themselves from the Muslim terrorists. He says the media tell lies.
Tickets to the 8/27 night-before event are long gone. There are tickets available to a Japanese dance show. I see fellow Beck-ers in the Kennedy Center lobby looking hopeless and lost. We spent our retirement savings to come, and we are handed a Xerox that says we can watch the night-before event for free on our computers in our hotel rooms. That’s good with me. I can sip Chardonnay there. I pin my Glenn Beck button on my new navy pashmina.
I wander the streets trying to catch a vibe. Is this our generation’s Woodstock? I wish Bob Dylan would pop up and lead us in protest songs. He’s got to “get it.” I know lots of ’60s hippies who have converted to Beckism. Social awareness is social awareness. No one comments on my Beck button. No pro or con. Maybe D.C. has gone Orwellian. Maybe they are actually afraid to think for themselves. They are afraid to have opinions. I start to feel like the Thought Police are following me. I whip my head around.
A Radio Shack employee, a polite man from Africa named Ulo, helps me buy a cell phone charger.
My flip-flops are giving me toe blisters. I get my camera battery charged by a handsome Egyptian. I get a big, meaty salad and place the generous leftovers quietly near a black woman who is sleeping on the sidewalk with one shoe off.
I go to the Lincoln Memorial. I can’t wait until tomorrow. Lots of people are milling about. There is a voice doing a mic check and then the voice of Lyle Lovett on the giant speakers that reach from Lincoln all the way down to Washington. A black man is holding a sign with John 3:16 on it. He is angrily shouting Scripture, and the crowd around him is applauding as if to say, “We agree with you. We’re on the same side!” A small group of erect Navy troops in perfectly pressed uniforms with the cute little white sailor hats on their heads comes out of nowhere, does a perfect march and then sings “Anchors Away.” I assume this is rehearsal for the event tomorrow. People are camped out. A white man from Orange County, Calif., tells me, “We aren’t allowed to sleep.” So, they can get the best seats there on the lawn, but they aren’t allowed to sleep all night. That is devotion. They aren’t even high or drinking. Just waiting. Waiting to pray. To pray for our country. “Where two or more are gathered together …” Jesus said He will be there.
I walk up the steps and stare at the giant sculpture of Lincoln. I then realize I FORGOT MY SHORTS. This is the perfect occasion and place for a handstand photo for my collection, and I’m wearing a dress. I could kick up to a handstand and let my underwear show, but that would reflect badly on my tea party. I don’t want people to think we’re crazy. I slump. I ask the blond stranger next to me if he’ll take my photo. His name is Lloyd and he drove here from Minnesota in 20 hours. That is devotion. We share our mutual concern for our country and take each other’s pictures next to Lincoln, right side up, of course. I tell him that I’m gonna find some shorts and take a handstand photo tomorrow. He agrees to meet me after the event and take it for me.
My next cab driver is Muslim. He’s from Pakistan. I ask him about the killing thing. He says, “Muslims don’t kill. We don’t even kill a roach. You kill roaches, right?” I say, “Yes, but … don’t you guys kill your daughters and wives? Y’know, ‘honor killings’?” His voice rises, “No, no, no, that is the media. They tell lies.”
Back in my way-too-expensive hotel room, I sip Chardonnay and go online to see the Kennedy Center night-before event. I can’t get it. I click all sorts of buttons and links and nothing. Great. Maybe my husband is smarter than me. All we have to do is vote. Songs and meetings and speeches and rallies are just … expensive. Voting is the answer, and it’s free.
I’m starting to get mad at Glenn Beck. He never answers my e-mails, and now he stands me up. I get directions for the morning. I’m told to take the blue line to Largo train and get off at Arlington, not Foggy Bottom, and walk across a bridge to avoid the traffic jams. I’m missing my teenager’s first football game.
A 7 a.m. wake up call leads me to the sidewalk where I follow a small group to the public train. I gasp. Up on the platform are about 500 people, packed like sardines, wearing patriotic attire and waiting patiently. I meet a future president, 8-year-old Riley from Alabama and his sweet mom and grandpa. We stand together. Someone gets off the train shaking his head and tells us that “the blue line is out of service. ” Hmm. Interesting. None of these people know this. I should tell them, but instead I rush down the escalator and find a cab.
I lose my new best friends from Alabama by stopping to talk to other new best friends. People are everywhere. Quiet, polite people. As I’m trying to shuffle my way to the other side of Lincoln, hoping for a better spot, I run into a really cute guy who says he was a fan of mine “back in the day.” He offers me his press pass and I decline. He offers again and I snatch it. I wanted to perform my Commie song, but Glenn Beck hadn’t asked, so at least now I can hang out with the press and … maybe be closer to a bathroom or get a free cup of coffee or see the show better. I had kind of wanted to suffer with the crowd, but given the choice …
I approach the press table and nervously explain that I’m not on the list. Everyone is recognizing me by this point and asking for autographs, so the sweet young girl just lets me in. Well, actually I am press. I write for Big Hollywood.
I stand in the fenced-off press area and marvel at how good a spot I’ve been given. Close up and not crowded. I look out at my peeps crammed together now in the hot sun. Miles of them. Over a million people, I’d estimate. In every direction as far as the eye can see, shoulder to shoulder with their children, patiently and quietly standing, sweating and not complaining. There are no refreshment stands, vendors, posters or drinks. Just silent standing.
First, I hear “Amazing Grace” on the loudspeakers and I tear up. Everyone is singing it. I call my friend Brenda to share the moment and I wake her up. It’s 7 a.m. in L.A. During the opening montage, scenes from the Grand Canyon, oceans, the Twin Towers, a Mormon temple, city skylines; well, I miss a lot of it because the press people start recognizing me and interviewing me. I suddenly realize that I need a handstand photo right here and now to capture the excitement and historical nature of the moment. I still have no shorts. The last time this happened to me, at Johnny Crawford’s concert, a friend lent me a pair of shorts he had in his car. I look around and only see water bottles and cameras. I want to do this quick before the musical montage ends because I don’t want to disrespect any of the speakers. I also don’t want to accidentally have my underwear pop out and totally disrespect the whole event. But, I just have to get my photo, so I wrap my new navy pashmina around my thighs and dress and knot it. I ask a cameraman next to me to get the shot with my camera. He does well. I couldn’t stick my handstand because I was so nervous about my dress, so I kept kicking up and falling down. I was trying to kick up to a handstand with my legs glued together. Impossible. He got the shot, but my ego was bruised because the people nearby probably think I can’t “stick it.” Hey, ya gotta keep politics fun. It’s just soooo boring otherwise.
I notice there are mostly white people here. I wonder why there aren’t more Cubans, and Venezuelans, Koreans, Vietnamese, Russians, Egyptians, Africans, Pakistanis, Chinese and Colombians. Didn’t they come here to escape dictatorships and corrupt governments? Why aren’t they worried about this “fundamental transformation” that is making our country look like the one they left? Maybe they don’t speak English so they don’t watch Glenn Beck. Why aren’t some Muslims here? They are “Americans,” right? Aren’t they concerned about the state of our nation? The crashing economy? The socialist/communist agenda?
Beck introduces the great, great, great etc. grandchildren of the first Pilgrims and Indians. The Pilgrim descendent prays a fantastic prayer asking the God mentioned in all of our founding papers to forgive us and heal us. The Indian descendent mentions Christ. Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, delivers a wonderful Jesus-laden speech and introduces some very talented singers, including a Miss Something Brown. (I’m trying to find her name on the Internet.) Beck encourages us to start the “Faith, Hope and Charity” revolution at home within ourselves; pray on our knees, let our children see our humility before God. He encourages us to tithe 10 percent to our churches.
Our military heroes are honored, George Washington, the handsome Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell, one whose face was burned, one who lost his hands, one who was imprisoned and tortured for our freedom and one who gave his life. Baseball star Albert Pujols mentions Christ. Sarah Palin speaks as the mother of a soldier. Beck reminds us that the heroes we honor were just ordinary people. Honor begins with me. Beck manages to make the event not about him, even though we are all loving him for bringing us together.
Beck has a bunch of religious leaders join him onstage. Some great singers encourage us to “unify.” Though we all have different religious and political beliefs, we have one thing in common: We need God. Beck tells us the story of the song “Amazing Grace.” The author was a slave-ship owner who prayed to God in a storm and his life was transformed. Some bagpipes play “Amazing Grace” and some great singers sing it. The crowd joins in again.
The soldier with the burned face gives the closing prayer. He mentions Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He thanks God for Glenn Beck. I often pray for Beck and Palin’s safety. We are in a spiritual battle. I cry when he mentions David Barton, the founder of wallbuilders.com. David is a powerful force in the restoration of our country, but he is so humble.
Moments of the day keep flashing into my thoughts, even as time goes on. I think the message I got from it all was that we are at a very serious time in our nation’s history; we are balancing on a pinnacle and will fall toward tyranny or freedom on Nov. 2. We need God’s help, and it starts with the man in the mirror.
I am asked for my photograph in the restroom. I am drenched in sweat and this can’t be good for Facebook. But, who can be vain after seeing heroes who have lost faces, hands, limbs, friends and sons for me?
I am determined to get my Lincoln Memorial handstand photo for my collection, so I shuffle through the sweaty crowd up the stairs. My foot blisters are bright red and I wince with each step. I look for my new friend Minnesota Lloyd but can’t find him. So, I take out my navy pashmina and wrap it around my thighs again, tying knots here and there. I ask a stranger/friend to take my photo. When I am upside-down I can hear the uniformed cop saying, “That’s enough. That’s enough!” like we are doing something wrong. I think Abraham Lincoln would like me and my handstand.
The streets are blocked off. It’s 100 degrees. My sweaty body limps and winces for a couple miles toward the underground train. I’m also carrying three big bags and a laptop. I am a bag lady. I go down the stairs and see hundreds of sweaty people waiting, so I bound up the broken escalator back to the fresh air and heat and start lunging toward a street that looks operational. I wave frantically until a taxi stops. The driver is Muslim. I ask him if the Muslims are trying to take over the world. He says, “No!” I say, “Well, why not? If it is the truth, why don’t you want everyone to have the truth?” I say, “Christianity wants the world to know about Jesus. But we aren’t told to kill the unbelievers; we are told to “Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you” ( Matthew 5:44). He is speechless. I give him a good tip.
Exhausted, waiting for the hotel elevator, I push the button and ask the white couple near me if the elevator is working. It was turned off for a fire alarm. Fire trucks are outside. The attractive, young woman responds, “It’s working now. So, what are you here for?”
“Here for? ” I point to my “I ‘heart’ Glenn Beck” button and say, “I’m a fan of Glenn Beck. I’ll follow him anywhere. Don’t you just love him?”
She looks shaken for a second and says, “Actually, no. I don’t like Glenn Beck.”
“Wh … Why?” Now I am realizing she is from the real press. The liars. I stutter passionately, “He’s the only one telling us the truth. The media don’t tell the truth. They didn’t tell us that Obama was appointing communists like Van Jones and giving them positions of power. People we did not vote for. Strangely, Van Jones quietly disappeared when he was outed. The president is a communist! Communism hates Christianity.”
She makes a patronizing face, “How do you know that?”
“His whole childhood was Marxism.”
“Have you ever read Marx?” she says arrogantly.
“No. Oh, you’re saying church people are stupid?”
“No …” The man with her looks embarrassed about our public quarrel.
“Communism doesn’t work. It didn’t work in Russia, or China, or Cuba …”
“Marx had some good ideas. …”
Her ignorance angers me. She is obviously one of the brainwashed 20-somethings who had liberalism shoved down their throats at university. The amount I’ve read of Marx is the amount she’s read of the Bible. She is lost and very self-important about it.
The elevator sucks her into it and I stand there frustrated near a tea-party family who mumble a few liberal jokes. I was feeling kind of hopeful about America, but now have a bad taste in my mouth. Truth. Why can’t we all just learn it, share it and know it. Some people choose not to see the Truth. It’s standing right there in front of them. Isn’t anyone open-minded enough to just listen? I’ll listen to Marx, but from the little I’ve read of him, he hates God, and “the fool has said in his heart there is no God.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” so why waste my time reading the thoughts of fools? If I got a Master’s degree in Marxism, I’d still think it is wrong that he and Engels are responsible for murdering the most people in the 20th century.
I am reading C.S. Lewis’ book about his conversion from atheism to Christianity, “Surprised by Joy.” Arrogant Press Lady should read that. She may have an awakening.
As I open my hotel room door to pack for my flight back home, I hear the chorus of “Amazing Grace” waft through my head – “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
In the airport I run into a stranger/best friend for life, from the event. I ask Theresa what her favorite part of the event was. She thinks and then says, “The people.” I’d have to agree. I’ve never been in a crowd that was so polite and kind and respectful and non-littering. Theresa says something about not having power or influence, but that if all she could do was be one more body standing there, representing the cause … I interrupted, “Yes! Me too. If I could just be one more dot in the helicopter photograph, that would bring attention to this crucial point in our country’s history. If one more vote could be cast on Nov. 2 that would turn this sinking ship toward freedom …”
I get home and call my dad. “Dad, would you find that verse in the Quran about killing the infidel?”
Dad calls me back the next day. Surah 9:5: “… fight and slay the pagans (infidels/unbelievers) wherever you find them.”
9:29: “… kill Jews and Christians if they do not convert to Islam or refuse to pay Jizya tax.”
5:33: “… maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam.”
47:4: “… do not hanker for peace with the infidels; behead them when you catch them.”
Victoria Jackson was a “Saturday Night Live” cast member from 1986 to 1992. She is a mother and soon-to-be grandmother whose website is victoriajackson.com.