Walter Fauntroy has a dream that one day, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. As long as their parents aren’t gay.
Fauntroy is a hero of the civil rights movement and a tireless advocate for D.C. voting rights. He helped plan Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 march on Washington, led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the District, and spent 20 years as D.C.’s delegate to Congress. In 1972, he even won the D.C. Democratic presidential primary.
So it is no surprise that D.C. Vote recruited Fauntroy for recorded telephone calls to its supporters, urging them to turn out for the “Reclaim The Dream” rally and march on Saturday, the 47th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The event is meant to counter populist broadcaster Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally scheduled for the same day at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of King’s famous address.
In the recorded message, Fauntroy says he and King stood up for “inclusion” while Beck’s supporters call for “exclusion.”
The trouble is, this same Walter Fauntroy spoke just two weeks ago at an anti-gay marriage event on Capitol Hill, where he praised attendees’ “noble efforts to preserve the sanctity of marriage” and said “the institution of marriage between a man and a woman is acknowledged by the majority of people on this planet.” (It wasn’t all that long ago that the racial inferiority of blacks was “acknowledged by the majority of people” in the U.S., but Fauntroy didn’t comment on that.)
He went on to make the puzzling assertion to his “gay brothers and sisters” that they are being “used by the greedy powers that be,” and suggested that they don’t really want to get married. Openly gay D.C. Councilmember David Catania is among those who would disagree.
As for Beck, he makes the dubious claim that he did not realize when he scheduled the event that he was placing it on the date of the King anniversary. That’s about as likely as a relative showing up at your door with an empty stomach and only then realizing that it’s Thanksgiving.
Beck is a strange sort of political animal. Though he’s often labeled a conservative, he really operates more in the “paranoid style” as first detected by historian Richard Hofstadter in the mid-1960s. Beck is less in the tradition of Barry Goldwater than of another 1960s politician, George Wallace. In his book “Glenn Beck’s Common Sense,” he writes that Americans “know that SOMETHING JUST DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT, but they don’t know how to describe it or, more importantly, how to stop it.”
Like Wallace, Beck trashes big business and wealthy elites, once telling viewers, “Wall Street owns our government. Our government and these gigantic corporations have merged.” He once went so far as to replace the stars on an American flag with corporate logos, in the style of the anti-corporate Adbusters Media Foundation. Sometimes Beck comes off like a skinnier Michael Moore.
Beck, a former drive-time radio host, is an entertainer, but he is quite sincere about his politics. However, those politics are rather conflicted. On one day, he will issue a heartfelt plea for the nation to return to the unity and resolve we felt on the day after 9/11. On another, he’ll call President Obama a racist and run footage of goose-stepping Nazis in the background as he discusses Democratic policies.
It’s also unclear just what Beck hopes to accomplish. For residents of Washington, where rallies on the Mall are now little more than a traffic annoyance, it can be hard to remember that marching on Washington once meant something. John and Robert Kennedy pleaded with King to call off the 1963 march, fearing its impact. Protests against the war in Vietnam all but shut the city down.
But these days, buses full of activists, right and left, pour into the city on a regular basis, in a sort of political tourism. They listen to a few speeches, shout a few slogans, and buy a bunch of T-shirts. Then they get on the buses, and go back home.
It reminds me of a King Missile song from my college days -- when I was one of those bused-in protesters.
“Whatever happened to protesting nothing in particular,” the band sang, “just protesting ‘cause it’s Saturday, and there’s nothing else to do?”
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GETTING THERE: Rallies, Marches Mean Weekend Street Closures