Just say no to Glenn Beck

by Valerie Rose, Eat the State

After 25-plus years, I left Seattle for Mt. Vernon, the county seat of a rural area known for its annual Tulip festival and magnificent farmland. Moving here has been a series of culture shocks: from polite drivers yielding to me on my bicycle, to the stench of overt racism (as opposed to the often sublimated racism in Seattle.) I was unprepared to have many Euro-Americans assume that, because we share the same skin color, we share the same bigotry. This country's political pluralism is no longer an abstraction, it's now my neighborhood.

And now Mt Vernon is blighted by mayor Bud Norris' unilateral decision to give the "Key to the City" to the vituperative, racist hate-monger Glenn Beck. One of the frothing-heads on FOX "News," Beck was born in Mt. Vernon, though his family moved to nearby Bellingham before Glenn entered high school. Mayor Norris is a xenophobic loose cannon, a huge ego in a small town, and one of many people here who are dazzled by Beck's enormous audience and financial success. Edward R. Murrow, a real journalist, was also born in Skagit County--but he's dead, and not a raging hate-monger, so no special day for him.

A recent Mt. Vernon city council meeting opened with public comments ranging from applause for Beck's willingness to challenge the current government and "...ask important questions..." to those of us decrying his race-baiting and inflammatory lies. One brave city council member, Mike Urban, wrote a well-crafted letter to the editor of the Skagit Valley Herald, asking who has really made a contribution to the city: the divisive Glenn Beck, or the hundreds of volunteers who make tangible, essential contributions to the city.

Urban is not just an enlightened politician--he owns Consumer Rentals in Mt. Vernon, a business I've patronized before this fiasco, and will support even more now that the owner is taking a public stand for sanity. This would be an easy move in Seattle--but this is Mt. Vernon, far away from that cocoon of progressive thinking.

Many horrified local progressives are writing and calling the city, vowing to never shop here again if Beck's visit is not canceled. Their outrage helps demonstrate Beck's divisiveness, but Mt. Vernon businesses shouldn't be the target. Our (mostly independent) businesses have been "malled" by big-box stores in neighboring Burlington, then slammed by the present economic depression. A boycott could close businesses whose owners never wanted Beck to darken his hometown again.

Mayor Norris has declared Saturday, Sept. 26 to be "Glenn Beck Day." This is overshadowed by downtown Mt. Vernon's "Fall Fest," your chance to support independent businesses and Skagit agriculture. The Fest opens with our Farmers Market, 10 am-1 pm, then you can stay for music, food and brews. Carpool with friends, bring your bikes, and relish miles of flat, uncrowded roads--then at 5:30 pm come to the sidewalk in front of McIntyre Hall, Skagit Valley College (NE corner of College Way and Laventure Rd.) for a peaceful demonstration of disdain for Beck's lies and venom. A broad coalition of Skagit County's labor, religious and non-profit organizations welcome you to help demonstrate that "Hate is not a Skagit Value!" As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King observed, "Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can." Personally I struggle to act on the Buddhist practice of compassion for all, including Glenn Beck and his supporters, while challenging hatred and lies. Finding a good job in this economy is easy by comparison--but it's a heartfelt challenge I embrace.

The Young Democrats of Skagit County (YDSC) are organizing this demo. For a middle-aged semi-burnout like myself, it's deeply inspiring to see young people charging into this challenge! Contact the YDSC at ydskagitcounty@gmail.com. See you on the 26th!

article originally published at Eat the State.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey