Ha-Ha-Ha. What a joke. Former city councilman in jail. Rev. Douglas Moore--you know, the one who bit the tow truck driver-- is behind bars because he wouldn't take a court-ordered psychiatric exam.
The joke is really on the District. Moore does not belong in D.C. jail. It serves no purpose to have him in jail but to waste $45 a day to overcrowd further the already overcrowded jail. So what if he refused to see a psychiatrist? Make him pay a fine. Make him do volunteer work.
In jail, Moore is convincing himself that he is Jesus come again, bearing the sins of racism in Washington. The 53-year-old man who was runnng for city council chairman three years ago (after four years as an at-large city councilman) is convinced that he is being persecuted by "establishment" Washington for being, he claims, the only black leader in town able to make whites give blacks a fair chance.
As evidence of his theory, Moore offers the time he challenged the license renewal of the city's major television stations, charging them with racial discrimination. The stations subsequently hired blacks like Jim Vance, Fred Thomas and Max Robinson. Moore also remembers that it was his opposition that helped to stop the bus company from raising the bus fares in 1971. The bus company lost millions that year, and Moore is convinced that "they, the establishment" never forgive or forget.
And Douglas Moore remembers compiling the numbers that argued that the United Givers Fund discriminated against blacks in the projects it funded. Moore helped to take away money and goodwill from UGF as he helped to start the United Black Fund.
"So why do they want Rev. Douglas Moore?" Moore asked in a long, angry monologue he gave at his sentencing. "They wanted him because he is a nasty nigger . . . (because) it took his people 200 years to produce him, (because) he has been to the best schools that they have, too--Boston, Yale, Harvard and the University of Grenoble. And yet because of those who expected him to defend their rights, he has never bowed to Caesar and in this case you (the judge) are Caesar."
The solid metal door to the jailhouse visiting room slides open and clanks in place. In walks Rev. Douglas Moore. He is dressed in a prison-issue dark blue jumpsuit and scruffy brown shoes without socks. As he sits down, he is asked why "they" should bother to go after a defeated politician who has been out of public view for three years.
Moore leaps at the question, laying out the results of a Washington Post poll on local politicians that found him to have a rating of 43 support in the city; Mayor Marion Barry had a rating of 47. But, Moore points out, "they" know that white voters in the city (about 40 percent of the voters) would never vote for Doug Moore. His support is all in the black community, and it is as solid as ever, he says. While the mayor may be black, Moore explains, the mayor is dependent on the white voters. On the other hand, Doug Moore, says Doug Moore, is the black leader, and as a result, he is a threat to "them."
"When the rumor was going around here that (Barry) had been shot," Moore says, "these people started having a party. . . . I was praying for the man but the rest of the cellblock was partyin'. They tell me he double- crossed and betrayed them. One kid who worked at Pride and in his campaign said Barry gives raises to his friends and business deals to the black businessmen, but he's doing nothing for the people. What could I say?"
In Moore's mind, there is no Washington where blacks have made advances in business and politics. Toying with his long, curved thumb nail, he speaks of the "utter powerlessness of so-called black leaders." He says they don't have control of the courts because they don't name the judges. The federal government does. And why, Moore asks, does the District have a higher percentage of people in jail than any other jurdisiction in the nation? And why are 98 percent of them black when the city is almost 25 percent white? As he asks these questions in his condemning voice, Moore lowers his glasses to look at you eye-to- eye.
The reverend is drawing up an indictment of outrage during his time in jail, building a case against "them." He is quick to note that "they" are not whites; his grandmother was white, he says. And some of the people who have fought him hardest have been "Tom black people," in his words. As in his railings in court, Moore goes on to say that the judge who sentenced him is tied to the CIA; that three-fourths of all judges in this mostly black city are white and that all but 10 percent of the prosecutors are white. Moore goes on and on, building his case against racism and explaining why "they" have put him in jail.
This is Doug Moore in full bloom, tilting at windmills like Don Quixote and bearing the cross of persecution like the son of God, at least in his own mind. The tow truck driver whom he bit never comes up. When asked about it, he waves his hand as if to clear away a bad smell and asks why no one ever says that he twice knocked down the "blond white boy half his age" before the scuffle started and he bit him. Then it's back to injustice and racism and why the great Doug Moore is in jail.
"The system is designed to flatten out Negroes," he says. "They've been trying to flatten me out but how can they teach me a lesson? I know what I'm about. I'm about black people. . . . One of Barry's people told me they don't want to hear the rhetoric of the '60s anymore. The Bible said there would come false prophets who would cry peace when there was no peace. There is no peace."
On and on he goes, thrashing at old editorials and campaign contributions to his opponents that may have caused him to lose his last election. He says he is now in the oil business, doing deals with African nations, but since he has been in jail his friends have had to hold a fund-raiser for him and his family at the Foxtrappe, a black nightclub. Moore refuses to discuss why the fund-raiser was necessary.
As he goes on and on, an air of sadness engulfs Doug Moore. He seems to have lost his moment, his momentum. He is still throwing punches but the other guy has been declared the winner and has already gone to the dressing room. Moore's celebrity now is limited to a few faithful followers and people who remember his face from the old days and stop him on downtown streets for a "What's happening, Doug?" Asked what he will do when he gets out of jail, Moore shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders. He does not know.
He may be out of touch with where District politics are headed, but that is no crime worthy of having the former councilman in jail. And neither is his failure to see a psychiatrist. He says, throwing one last punch, that the judge ordered the test only to humiliate him and to brand his children as the offspring of a crazy man. That is why he said to the judge: "I vow to God and all my great ancestors I will never, never, never obey your order." Moore said no, even if it meant staying in jail six months until Dec. 21.
The parole board, the judge, the prosecutors should all have seen through Doug Moore's peculiarly romantic, heroic brand of "madness" and been more accommodating. If he won't see a psychiatrist, let him do volunteer work with the energy he uses to vilify the world and honor himself. But even now Moore's parole is being delayed, although he was eligible on Aug. 21. The government has made its point and punished him. It would be the right thing for the city to free Doug Moore.