I ain’t marching anymore
As much as I can see a good point in observing the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march at which Martin Luther King delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” speech, I don’t think I’d participate in today’s commemorative march — even if it was convenient for me to do so, which it is not.
It’s a matter of me not wanting other people to co-opt my right of free speech and free assembly.
Back in the 1960s, when I was an angry young man, I took part in more than a few civil rights and antiwar demonstrations in New York, Washington, Chicago and numerous smaller cities and towns. My friends and I sometimes would drive all night to get to our protest destinations. We were brimming with idealism and a sense that we could make a difference in this world.
After a while, however, I became increasingly uncomfortable with some of the rhetoric spewed by speakers at these events or with some of the sentiments expressed in chants or on signs among my fellow marchers. I eventually came to the conclusion that the only good protest marches are those that are narrowly focused on specific causes and devoid of radical speechifying, sign-toting and mindless chanting.
Even if I were a right-winger who feels that taxes are way too high and the government way too large and socialistic, I would never participate in a Tea Party rally. I wouldn’t want to imply my agreement with some signs toted by idiots or speeches delivered by overwrought zealots.
With all this in mind, my favorite march was one in which I participated in my hometown of Freeport on April 7, 1968, three days after the assassination of Dr. King. A sizable group of white and black folks silently marched along the main drag from the city’s East Side to the steps of the Stephenson County Courthouse. There were no chants or signs — just the sounds of marching feet. At the courthouse, there were no radical speeches — just prayers from clergymen.
In the absence of some future opportunity like that one in Freeport 45 years ago, I ain’t marching anymore.