I’m not sure how many of you follow national or US politics, but good f***, the state I live in is going down the crapper. Literally. I’ve usually refrained from using LJ for RL life rants, but grumbling about this with A and select friends and getting disbelieving and sympathetic comments from my parents only goes so far. I’m so angry I can’t see straight, thus the political post to vent ALL THE FRUSTRATION in a safe, harmless way. If this isn’t your thing or if you’re a staunch tea party member stop reading now.
Still here? OK. Deep breath.
As some of you may or may not know, since January the state of North Carolina has a republican Governor, a republican-led House, and a republican-led Senate. Such party-affiliated power dominance hasn’t been seen since 1896 and for good reason. In about 7 months the government has managed to seriously impact and reverse a number of important and far-reaching laws that deal with fundamental rights and protections, economic security, and health care access that impact hundreds of thousands of people and unfairly strikes at the state’s poor, unemployed, people of color, elderly, women, and disabled while allowing businesses to escape without significant sacrifice (a brief discussion here).
In no particular order the NC Governor and General Assembly have (or, in the case of #6, will shortly have):
1. Repealed the Racial Justice Act, which allowed death-row inmates to challenge their sentences based on racial bias by the state prosecution. Racial bias that has been proven in a court of law and was the justification for North Carolina's Racial Justice Act passed in 2009, the first of its kind in the nation.
2. Limited abortion access by requiring “abortion clinics [to] adopt some of the regulations that apply to ambulatory surgery centers, require pregnant women to take an initial dose of abortion medication under a doctor’s supervision in a clinic, allow[ing] health-care providers to opt out of performing abortions if they object, eliminat[ing] abortion insurance coverage for city and county employees and bars state residents from paying for the coverage through state health exchange plans.”
3. Ended federal unemployment benefits for ~160,000 people. The maximum weekly benefit has been decreased from $535 to $350 and the number of weeks of aid has also been decreased. In addition, this disqualifies North Carolina for ~$700 million dollars of federal aid for the unemployed.
4. Refused to expand the Affordable Care Act, limiting heath care for ~500,000 low-income people and elderly and causing North Carolina to lose federal long-term benefits as well as indirect costs of 23,000 lost medical jobs and loss of preventative care savings for those now uninsured. It’s been projected that it will cost the state money to cover increased levels of uncompensated care. And even though we won’t be receiving benefits, North Carolinians will still by paying to support this program. Even from a fiscally conservative republican viewpoint, this makes no economic sense. The general consensus is that this wasn’t an economic decision but ideological (Obamacare = knee jerk reaction of nobaddonotwant).
5. Allowed concealed weapons to be carried in bars and restaurants where alcohol is served (even though the carrier isn’t supposed to be drinking) and, despite being opposed by all 17 police chiefs of the University of North Carolina college campuses, in cars on campus of public schools and universities. Gun purchase and permit records have been struck from public record. This, out of all the crazy, makes NO LOGICAL SENSE to me. Someone please enlighten me; I'm asking in all seriousness. Why would it be at all advantageous to allow handguns in cars in public school/university parking lots? So if there's someone marching around campus shooting people (god forbid), anyone can run to their car, get their gun, and shoot that person? How are multiple citizens shooting guns going to be any safer for anyone?
6. But most worrisome—because it affects the most direct, legitimate, recognized voice we have in the political process—is that Governor Pat McCrory is expected to sign into law this month a voting bill that includes but is not limited to: decreasing early voting from 17 days to 10, restricting Sunday voting, eliminating same-day voting, ending straight-ticket balloting, and removing the income tax deduction for families whose children attending university do not vote in their hometowns. The latter is an attempt to curtail the student democratic vote that’s prominent in university towns like Chapel Hill/Carrboro (UNC at Chapel Hill) and Durham (Duke University) in a state where 2/3 of voters under 30 voted democratic in 2012 presidential election.
In addition, this bill requires state-issued picture IDs (of course student IDs are not included, see previous paragraph regarding suppression of the democratic vote). For those who believe that this won’t significantly affect the voting public or argue that one of its affects doesn’t unequally targets minority voters: “According to state election officials, nearly 319,000 North Carolina voters—more than 40,000 in Mecklenburg County—lack a state-issued ID. Blacks make up 23% of voters and 34% of those without an ID.” The same article states that this law also “limits disclosure of outside campaign spending, ends public financing for judicial raises and no longer makes candidates take responsibility for their ads.”
And on a related note that demonstrates how insidious and discriminatory this government is: earlier this year, the North Carolina government proposed to have licenses of immigrants granted federal deferred status (those that were brought to the US as children) be marked with a giant pink stripe for no reason other than to identify them as non-citizens. What!? Can you imagine the outrage if bald white men were to have their licenses marked with a giant red stripe? Or maybe people born in Tennessee? How about left-handers? The pink stripe was struck on the grounds of blatant discrimination, but was replaced with "legal status no lawful presence" written at the top of the license in red letters (click on link above for a picture). Tomato or tomato?
7. I’m not even going to touch the tax situation and the state of public education (in particular an approved budget that doesn’t give raises for public school teachers and eliminates tenure rights and salary increases for those with masters degrees) because I value what’s left of my sanity. That whole tangle could be a series of posts alone.
So in half a year, North Carolina government has managed to screw over the minorities in the criminal justice system who may already have been screwed over where racial bias has been proven to exist, women, the unemployed, the elderly, the economically disadvantaged, those in the medical industry, and teachers. And then on top of that, they’re adding students, minorities, and democrats to the list with the voting bill, immigrants, and basically the middle class with taxes. Good grief, who hasn’t been touched in this giant pile of steaming dog s***? That was rhetorical, BTW (psstt … big business, the wealthy, large swaths of the republican voting demographic, and those that want to carry concealed weapons in bars, restaurants, and public schools/universities).
This isn’t just me waving my flag of *rage*. Since early May thousands of people—up to 5,000 at a time—have been protesting at the capitol on what’s been coined “Moral Mondays”. Since then, over 900 people have been arrested for protesting, including the Mayor of Carrboro and a Chapel Hill town council member as well as prominent University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty members (as well as other universities such as Duke, East Carolina, and North Carolina Central). The Governor calls the protestors “outsiders” despite polls indicating 98.4% live in North Carolina.
What’s the response from the Governor’s mansion? Not any sort of productive dialogue or non-dismissive comments. Nope. McCrory gives a women protesting the abortion law outside his mansion a plate of cookies. If that doesn’t speak volumes for his antiquated, demeaning, condescending view of women I don’t know what does. When I read this article, my face pretty much looked like the woman’s holding the cookies (OMGWTF?!) only with more anger (imagine fangs).
This is not the state I want to raise my children in. This is not the kind of world I want them to grown up in. It’s not acceptable to have laws that not only legally justify but also legitimize the view that “the others” (minorities, the economically disadvantaged, the LGTB community, women, the elderly, the disabled)—which combined probably approximate a majority (oh, the irony)—are somehow not entailed the same fundamental rights and protections that those with “invisible” privilege have (by invisible I mean privilege that is so taken for granted by those that have it that they can’t imagine not having it being of any consequence).
I was raised in a family that, in the 80’s, went to gay pride parades at Loring Park in Minneapolis. Where I remember as an 8-year old asking why two men were holding hands, my mom said, “Because they love each other” and I understood on a very fundamental level what that meant in terms of the most basic human right to be able to love whomever you want and to show that in public. As a teenager I remember going to Paul Wellstone rallies with my friends where my parents were very involved. I remember the sea of people surging toward the podium and the contagious energy that filled the conference center and understanding in a very real way that contributing to the political process, regardless of party affiliation, was important. I remember the first time I voted.
It’s important for a functional community to support each other, for those of us who have the privilege of voting to do so, not only to let our needs/wants be known but to protect those that do not or cannot or are too young to vote. But what cuts me the deepest, and based on the laws that have been passed or will be passed shortly, is the undermining of the idea that it’s a community’s responsibility to take care of its members to the best of its ability. All of its members. Not just the ones who vote or the ones who hold the power. And once narrow self-interest and short sightedness begin to supersede the basic human principles of community and fundamental aspects of respect and human decency through laws that provide protection, safety, and recognition, it’s not hard to imagine what we’re teaching our children through example and what that means for the future. Passing laws that disenfranchise large segments of the population tells our children and those that fall into those groups—from no mistake of their own—that they don’t matter. We’re showing that they’re invisible; that what they think and what they need is inconsequential. We’re saying that what matters aren’t “others” but “mine”. And invariably someday most of us will become “the others” and then what?
It’s going to be grim times in North Carolina for quite a while. I worry for that future.
This post isn’t intended to stir up controversy or impose a moral view (even though that may be the perception), this is my frustration and outrage at the extreme changes made by state government based mostly on ideology with little discourse or investigation of the long-term ramifications. If you take anything away from this beyond "North Carolina is f***ed!" may it be that protecting the right for all people to participate in the democratic process is important, which is why I find the voting bill so incredibly disheartening and alarming. And while I’m dissatisfied and dismayed with all of the other bills outlined above, I feel that limiting voting access to thousands of people is the most offensive and worrisome of all the bills that have passed, but, most of all, symptomatic of the general attitude of the current republican-lead government which does not speak for nor protect the people in our community who need it most. Yes, it is a moral responsibility, one that we should expect of ourselves and expect of our government.
Whew. If you’re still reading … wow and thank you. Hopefully this will be the first and last political post that ever shows up here.
And to leave on a positive, hopeful note here are some beautiful pictures of families celebrating Minnesota’s first day of legal same-sex marriage earlier this week (last year North Carolina passed a law banning same-sex marriage). I love that even the mayor kept getting emotional. Go Minnesota! Lead by example.
If you don’t hear from me for a while don’t be surprised if it’s because I’ve been arrested at a Moral Monday protest. I can’t tell if I’m joking or not.