Monday, September 21, 2009

The Source of Glenn Beck's Woes May Be Mother's Suicide

I never knew this about Glenn Beck. It's almost certain that the apparent suicide of Beck's mother (Beck claims his mother's drowning was a suicide) and her battle with depression, plays a big role in his instability. Salon doesn't draw any conclusions, but you can draw your own.
Early one morning in May 1979, a 41-year-old divorcee named Mary Beck went boating in Washington's Puget Sound. Her companions on the expedition were a retired papermaker named Orean Carrol, whose boat she helped launch near the Tacoma suburb of Puyallup, and Carrol's pet dog. Exactly what happened next remains shrouded in morning mist, but among the crew, only the dog would survive the day. The boat was recovered late that afternoon adrift near Vashon Island, just north of Tacoma. It was empty but for two wallets and the frightened animal. Mary Beck's body was discovered floating fully clothed nearby. Carrol's corpse washed ashore at the Vashon ferry terminal the following morning.
The county coroner found no evidence of violence on either body. Police investigators told Tacoma's News Tribune that the double drowning appeared to be a classic man-overboard mishap -- a failed rescue attempt in which both parties perished.

At the time of Beck's death, she held custody of her 15-year-old son, Glenn, with whom she had moved to Puyallup. She had left her estranged husband William behind in Mt. Vernon, Wash., another small city 100 miles due north. After producing two daughters and a son, the Becks' marriage had collapsed in 1977 under the weight of Mary's chemical addictions and manic fits of depression. It was in the two years bridging this divorce and his mother's drowning that a teenage Glenn Beck launched one of the most bizarre and unlikely careers in the history of American broadcasting.
His sheltered upbringing:
The Becks were also active in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, whose day school Beck and his sisters attended. To this day, the face-to-face community of Mount Vernon and the watercolor backdrop of Skagit Valley remains the soft-focus template for Beck's evocations of idealized small-town "real" America. He has also pointed to the area's white demographic -- made up of descendants of Swedish, German and Dutch settlers -- as the source of his lingering discomfort around Jews and other ethnic minorities. "I'm the whitest guy you will ever meet," Beck never tires of saying. "The first time I saw an African-American, my dad had to tell me to stop staring."
Science of Mind? I find it hard to believe that Beck has anything to do with Science of Mind, which is more about spirituality (think A Course in Miracles) than religion. I know a bit about Science of Mind and it certainly doesn't profess hate, which proves a twisted mind can distort anything. But we already know that because we've seen what people do in the name of religion:
Religion is central to Beck's current identity, but he didn't grow up that way. Anticipating his own shotgun conversion to Mormonism, his father adopted Catholicism only because it was the precondition to sex and marriage with Mary. Before meeting his future wife, William Beck preferred a more modern form of spiritualism known as Religious Science. Developed by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes, the "science of mind" philosophy combined a Unitarian belief in god with a humanistic belief that man ultimately determines his own destiny through his thoughts and actions. Holmes is considered a proto-theorist of what would become the modern self-help movement, and his ideas early trickled down to the young Beck. Holmes has graced Beck's recommended reading lists, and Holmesian ideas appear just two pages into Beck's 2003 memoir cum manifesto, "The Real America," which begins with dime store science-of-mind. "I have found there are four steps to change," writes Beck. "1. You must want it. 2. You must believe it. 3. You must live it. 4. You will become it."
His mother's gift prompted him to go into radio:
But it wasn't a love of music that originally drew Beck to radio. Years before he got his first headphones and rocked out to Cheap Trick, Beck caught the radio bug from his mother's gift. Specifically, it was Orson Welles' infamous news-report rendering of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds," which he'd first heard on Mary's "Golden Years of Radio" albums, that launched Beck's imagination in the direction of radio.
Beck's radio beginnings:
Beck rolled into Texas in 1983 driving a blue two-seater Datsun 280Z sports coupe. On the bumper, a Reagan-Bush '84 reelection sticker. At his side, his wife, Claire. And taking form in Beck's mind, an invisible character named Clydie Clyde who would define the next 10 years of his career as a Top 40 morning DJ. Read it all.
Beck tries to sum up Obama. Perhaps Clydie Clyde is whispering in his ear: