Former DC Mayor Marion Barry's hagiographers were at it again yesterday on the anniversary of his death, and I am calling them on their bullshit.
When Marion was still with us I always maintained cordial dealings with him, because he was still an elected official. No good would have been served by burning that bridge, though he himself burned many. But that is behind us. We are strong enough, all of us, to confront the truth.
Marion was a smart and politically gifted man. But his utter lack of personal discipline brought discredit to the District and gave comfort to those bent on denying us self-determination. He saddled us with the Financial Control Board. He made racist statements about Asian shop owners. He so abused earmarks to reward his friends that the Council abolished them. He was the most piggish womanizer. He led an anti-gay chant at a rally organized by Bishop Harry Jackson. Just 28 months ago, this was the headline: "Marion Barry Fined And Censured By D.C.'s Ethics Board Over Gifts From Contractors."
He set himself up for a fourth "comeback" term as mayor by running against his most loyal ally on the Council, Mrs. Rolark. After his years as Ward 8 councilmember, it remains the poorest ward; but not a tiny shred of that is ever put on him by his hagiographers. That was his way--treating every bit of every failure as entirely other people's fault. If that is true, what did he keep running for? He used people.
He has been gone a year. Yet some people cling to fantasy nonsense about his greatness, largely based on things he did in the late 1970s and early 1980s and refusing to confront how he went off the rails. The denial is pathological. The pandering by others is pathetic. It is time to stop this nonsense. Marion did some good things. But the Mayor-for-Life glorification requires a highly selective memory. Who is helped by this? Nobody, certainly not his troubled son who was exploited by people who wanted to create a Barry dynasty. It is time to move on for the sake of all of the city, including and especially its most downtrodden.