There are no villains in this post. Please note that fact before reading farther. I don't believe that the wonderful folks who are organizing the national march are evil or stupid, but I am worried that we could be marching ourselves right off a cliff.
I'll admit that I've never been a fan of this particular march. I wrote about my worries in Political IQ. I shared many of Bil's concerns. Today, I will also for the first time share his endorsement of the march, and I may well find myself in DC in October. I have to admit, though, that I can't give the wholehearted endorsement Bil makes.
My greatest concern right now is the way the debate over the march has taken shape. Too often I've heard march supporters argue that they endorse the march because they're tired of complacency and inaction.
Their pitch seems, at least to me, to be promoting the national march as the ONLY way LGBT America can fight for equality. In other words, you're either supporting this one event or you're satisfied to sit back and do nothing. One of my long-time heroes, David Mixner, has dubbed the march opposition the "Oh Lord, Not Now Movement."
With this kind of argument, we run the risk of thinking we've done our job by simply attending one march on one day. With this kind of argument, we run the risk of ignoring the kinds of tactics that will win equality because marching in Washington, DC, will not move Congress to vote for our rights.
Let me say that again: No Washington march. Will. Move. Congress.
Because representatives and senators don't represent the gaggle that will gather in DC on Oct. 10 and 11. Representatives and senators answer to the constituents in their districts and home states. Only one kind of activity is going to get their attention, and that is the grassroots organizing at home that can elect equality minded people to office and punish those who vote against us.
Fifty thousand or 100,000 people or hundreds of thousands marching for equality in Washington, DC., does make a statement - and it's a good one. But I ask you to imagine the sight of just 50,000 marching for equality in your home town. This is a particularly important exercise for those of us who live in flyover country.
Right now, I'm closing my eyes and imagining the impact of 20,000 people marching in anti-gay pastor Fred Phelps' hometown of Topeka, Kan. If we could get thousands on the street in red-state Kansas, we'd swing the Kansas vote in Congress. If that didn't happen today, it would happen quickly after because we would have the support we need to kick fools out of office and elect politicians who support equality.
I live 30 miles from Topeka, and I've spent more hours and shed my sweat and tears then I care to count in working for equality in Kansas. And no, I don't think it's a pipe dream to envision thousands of pro-LGBT marchers in Topeka.
Now imagine how much clout we would have in Congress if we held those kinds of marches - and did the kind of local organizing necessary to create massive turnouts - in hundreds of cities. The post-Proposition 8 marches were a great beginning, but that organizing effort hasn't gone far enough, at least not yet.
By the way, in case you think organizing rural America isn't important, think again. The Constitution tilts the center of power in the U.S. Senate toward rural states. In other words, it doesn't matter how many pro-equality senators are elected from New York and California. LGBT Americans won't win until we conquer rural America... but that's a topic for another day.