It was like talking to a wall.

 

me_n_pat.jpg

I had a choice this morning. I could stand with protesters outside the Governor’s Western Residence in Asheville or I could try to get into the open house to address him personally.

I decided to try and get to him.

We started driving to the residence, but when we turned up Town Mountain Road, we were told we’d never get in unless we went to First Baptist Church and waited for the shuttle.

We waited for almost an hour. The event was supposed to start at 9:30, but we didn’t get onto the shuttle until 10:20. When we got to the house, we were told we had 15 minutes, so I went outside, where the governor was standing beside the fire pit.

I approached.

“Hi, I’m Pat,” he said.

“I’m Leslie,” I said and lifted up the photo of my late son. “This is Mike, who died after being denied access to care.”

He noticed a microphone on my collar. Robin Carter had placed it there in case she was able to video the encounter. She wasn’t allowed.

“I’m not talking to anyone who’s miked,” he said.

“Well, perhaps you’ll listen,” I answered.

I told him about Mike and about how five to seven people are dying every day in this state because he and his colleagues in the General Assembly have refused to expand Medicaid.

He countered that he tried to talk to President Obama about adding a work requirement, and I told him 70 percent of people who would be eligible for Medicaid work already, and virtually all of the rest are unable to work. I told him how hard a worker my son was, and that he was never looking for a handout, just someone who would be willing to help him stay alive.

“People who need Medicaid aren’t lazy, and they’re not greedy,” I said.

I didn’t add that the people who block access to health care are the takers. I was trying to be calm and polite.

“Well, Medicaid was a mess before I took office,” he said.

Yes it was, because in 2010, the Republicans took over the General Assembly and slashed funding so badly that the Republican secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services resigned rather than preside over such carnage. Before 2010, North Carolina’s Medicaid program was a national model.

But I didn’t have time to tell him that because he had already interrupted me to say he’s expanding access to Medicaid for people with autism.

I told him my benchmark is whether it would have given my son access to care, and adding in a few hundred people wouldn’t have done that. I also told him I don’t think privatizing Medicaid will work any better than privatizing mental health care a decade ago did.

He was happy to talk about the implosion of the state’s mental health system because that was done before he took office. I could see his eyes light up.

“Yes! That system is a mess, and so is treatment for addiction,” he said. “We really need to do something about that.”

But since the majority of people who have addiction don’t respond to treatment the first time, what should we do?

Prevention. That 14-year-old who had surgery probably doesn’t need opiates to deal with his pain, at least not for more than a few days, McCrory said. You give it to him for a month or more and you’ve created another addict.

Of course, this means we can’t have legalization of pot and the windfall of tax money that would come with it, but that’s an issue for another day.

My friends, Robin Carter and Matt Graunke wanted to talk about HB2, but we got the same answers he’s been giving to the media.

“I was on NPR,” he said, as though NPR only interviews reasonable people. He also said the law is about privacy, but when challenged about the privacy of a trans person who only wants to go into a stall and pee, that was different, of course.

He talked about wanting to protect women and both Robin and I said we had been assaulted or abused in places other than rest rooms by people our families knew and trusted, and that since we are adults now, we think women should have been consulted about whether we even think we need protection from trans people in bathrooms.

Frankly, I think we need protection from people like the governor and his friends in the General Assembly, because while they’re distracting us with talk about trans people in bathrooms, innocent people are dying — five to seven people every day, week in and week out, year after year.

When he said he felt sorry about how my son died, my question was whether he would be willing to say that to the 8,000 families of people who have died since he signed the law denying Medicaid expansion. Every one of those families is in just as much pain as mine.

But, hey, after many, many attempts to talk to him, after two arrests for “trespassing” on public property, after being locked out of the state house so he didn’t have to talk to me, I finally got some face time with him.

I only wish I had been able to make him see how his policies are killing innocent people.

At least he didn’t tell me he’s pro-life.

A primer on HB2 and why it’s not going away

Anti-HB2 signs left in the doorway of NC Senate leader Phil Berger

Anti-HB2 signs left in the doorway of NC Senate leader Phil Berger after a rally to oppose the law.

On March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly met in special session to pass House Bill 2, or what would become known as the transgender bathroom law.

The outrage was immediate, as it should have been. Transgender people are being forced to use the bathroom assigned to the gender that they no longer identify with.

If you think you don’t know anyone who is transgender, you probably just don’t know who was born with a penis and who was not. You’ve been peeing with them for a long time, I assure you.

The media went wild with news of the bathroom bill. Companies, sports events, entertainers and tourists pledged to boycott North Carolina, costing the state tens of millions of dollars. That fueled even more media attention about this awful bathroom bill.

Except it isn’t a bathroom bill any more than the motorcycle bill of three years ago was about motorcycles (in case you don’t recall, that “motorcycle safety” law is chock full of restrictions on women’s reproductive rights).

Sure, Article One is all about hating transgender people and denying them the right to use the appropriate bathroom, and that’s just wrong on every level.

But read on.

The law goes on to deny people in North Carolina the right to sue for discrimination in state courts. Instead, we’re supposed to go to federal court, which is much more expensive, likely much farther away and has only one-sixth the statute of limitations (six months versus three years). Most people can’t do that.

The law also takes away the power of local governments to set their own discrimination policies or minimum wage. This, of course, helps keep people in poverty so those in power can criticize them as lazy.

But the bathroom part of the law is what’s making headlines and it has fired up the ultra-conservative base.

And this is exactly what the thugs in power planned.

The furor over the clearly unconstitutional bathroom part of the law has drawn attention away from the rest of the law, which is just as egregious.

The US Justice Department has informed the state that this piece of the bill is a violation of US Civil Rights Law. The state can fight that, and if it does, here’s what “leaders” are hoping for:

With a Republican candidate the base isn’t willing to support, the NC GOP puts the bathroom piece of the law on the November ballot. This will bring out their base, who may or may not vote for president, but will vote down-ticket for Richard Burr, Gov. McCrory, Republican candidates for Congress and these very legislators who crafted HB2.

Like Amendment One, which enshrined hatred into the state Constitution, they know this piece of the law is unconstitutional and will be overturned.

But they have what they want: Republicans elected and the rest of the law intact.

Even if they don’t fight the Justice Department decision, the NC GOP has most of what it wants because law has a clause that states if part of it is overturned or repealed, the rest survives.

And there you have it. HB2 is a naked power grab, fueled by hate and written by thugs.

Meanwhile, suicide hotlines are reporting an increase in the number of calls from transgender people. People are being dragged out of bathrooms because they’re not masculine or feminine enough to satisfy some bigot. Men are going into the women’s bathrooms at Target to check on people and “protect” women.

The worst part is that a majority of people who voted for this law are running unopposed for their seats this fall.

In other words, we’re likely to see a return of the thugs to power because no one wanted to get involved and run against them. We have the government we deserve.

 

Rick Bryson will represent we the people

Rick Bryson, candidate for Congress in North Carolina District 11.

Rick Bryson, candidate for Congress in North Carolina District 11.

This really is a first for me, announcing in public my support for a Congressional candidate.

I spent 30 years as a newspaper reporter, then six years running a nonprofit, so it was inappropriate for me to support candidates officially and openly.

But this year, I’m speaking up. We can’t allow the reign of the right-wing to continue, and Mark Meadows is about as far to the right as a person can get. Our option in 2014 was another candidate who stands far to the right on issues such as women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and true religious freedom (he is blatantly anti-Muslim).

This time, we have a chance to vote for someone who truly has decent human values. He believes, as I do, that anyone who works a 40-hour week should be able to pay their bills without government help. That means we need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. If we do that, we won’t need to pay for food stamps or rent subsidies for people who work full-time.

Bryson believes that access to quality health care should be a basic human right and that we can’t allow the Affordable Care Act to be diminished; instead we need to add to its protections by making access to care universal. He points out that the pharmaceutical industry has four lobbyists for each member of Congress. I don’t imagine the health insurance industry is far behind.

Bryson wants to see more support for public education, not less. He wants an intelligent electorate with decent critical-thinking skills. That’s not what Mark Meadows wants; he has supported privatizing education.

We have become very adept at blaming the victim in this country by labeling people who need help as “takers,” but these people are left behind by bad public policy, and the corporate shills who sit in Congress now are only too happy to take more away from working people and give it to the super-wealthy by privatizing public programs like Social Security and Medicaid.

The people here in Western North Carolina have suffered the loss of thousands of good manufacturing jobs, many of them with union protections, which have been replaced with low-wage jobs. The state has been able to force workers into these jobs by cutting unemployment compensation to the bone and shortening its duration.

Rick Bryson proposes a project similar to the Research Triangle, but sprinkling it across Western North Carolina. He calls the plan Generation NOW. It would bring higher wage telecommunications, clean energy, bio-medicine, agribusiness, computer modeling, recreation, design, and other similar jobs to the region.

Anyone who knows me knows my most passionate issue is health care, but we can’t fix health care and nothing else.

I find Rick Bryson’s stands on all the issues to be reasonable and kind. He is intelligent and articulate, and he loves these mountain communities because he has deep, deep roots here. His family has been here for generations (Bryson City is named for them).

I can’t think of anyone who would represent the people of District 11 better than he will.

The best way any of us can help is to turn out on June 7 (early voting starts May 26) and vote in the primary. We can do this if we work together, and if we don’t, we stand to lose a lot more than an election in November.

 

I’ll decide when I need your “protection”

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In Raleigh yesterday, more than 1,000 of us gathered to let the General Assembly and the governor know we do not approve of what I call Hate Bill 2, also known as the “Bathroom Bill.”

At least as many gathered behind the General Assembly Building to support it.

But a look at the two gatherings showed stark differences. The first was in the diversity of the crowds. The pro-bill folks were overwhelmingly white and mostly older. The anti-HB2 crowd was young and old, black, brown and white, gay and straight, male, female, gender-noncomforming, people of all faiths and people who have no professed religion.

We sang freedom songs, they sang Christian songs, the meanings of which they obviously didn’t understand.

Since I am a Christian, I can speak for what I believe, and I believe that Jesus, the leader whom I profess to follow, spoke not of hate and not even of tolerance; he spoke of love. He spoke of not judging others, and of standing up for “the least of these.”

The pro-HB2 crowd carried signs that claimed they want to protect women, but I don’t need or want their brand of protection. I can take care of my own protection, especially when you think you ought to “protect” me without my permission.

I am an adult. I will make my own decisions — including the decision of when and where to ask for anyone’s protection.

I have never felt threatened in a public bathroom, but I was not safe at my own grandfather’s house. Does this mean all grandfathers should be denied the chance to be alone with their granddaughters. Of course not; that would be absurd. And so is this law.

There are no incidences on record of a transgender person assaulting someone in a bathroom. In fact, most of them likely will tell you they often feel threatened. They certainly are far more likely to be harmed by cis-gender people in a public bathroom than they are to harm anyone.

They just want to go into a stall, close the door and do what they came to do.

The real problem is that the law has little to do with bathrooms; it is about a power grab, about denying local governments the ability to set their own policies, and about denying everyone the right to sue for discrimination in state courts.

We stood in Raleigh yesterday to demand repeal of the entire law, and then we sat down in the General Assembly Building to wait to be heard.

Of course, our legislative leaders had no desire to hear what we had to say, and instead of meeting with us had more than 50 of our people arrested.

We are not going away. We are not giving up. We are seeking justice for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and we will not stop until we get it

 

 

A little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, please

Here we are, about to go into Sen. Thom Tillis's office for some disrespect and verbal abuse.

Here we are, about to go into Sen. Thom Tillis’s office for some disrespect and verbal abuse.

I went to Washington, DC, for the final day of Democracy Awakening with the NC NAACP, and it was a glorious, frustrating, infuriating and affirming day.

The bus arrived in time for the rally at Columbus Circle, which was followed by a march to the U.S. Capitol, where about 300 or so people were arrested for standing on the steps of OUR building. While that was going on, the rest of the crowd of more than 1,000 people was pushed back 500 or so feet by the Capitol Police. It make the crowd look smaller when it was filmed by the few media outlets that were there to cover it.

I brought along a documentary film-maker, a 28-year-old student at UNC Asheville named Robin, who hasn’t done a lot of activism. She’ll do more if she continues to hang out with me.

After the rally, most of our group went to the Russell Senate Office Building, hoping to get some time with one or both of our senators, while Robin and I stayed to get some shots of Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, and Rev. Dr. Cornell Brooks, the national NAACP president, as they gave statements after being released from custody.

The purpose of all this is to try and get Big Money out of politics. Once we do that, we can begin to fix the mess the uber-wealthy have created for the rest of us.

When Robin and I finally made it to the Senate Cafeteria, we were just in time to join the group for an appointment at Sen. Thom Tillis’s office.

Now, Tillis doesn’t care for us Moral Monday folks. He literally ran away from us a number of times when he was Speaker of the House in North Carolina. As a Senator, he has refused delivery of petitions from us, having a staffer tell us to mail it in.

I don’t think he expected the NC NAACP delegation to join the Democracy Uprising people, although I can’t believe how he couldn’t figure out we would hook up.

But, there we were, about 25 of us, ushered into a conference room where we met with a low-level staffer.

She proceeded to roll her eyes a lot and ask insulting questions. One example was when she asked where we get the money for public campaign financing. Vicki Ryder, a Raging Granny, member of the NC NAACP and fellow Moral Monday activist, suggested we could shut down the building of outdated and unnecessary fighter jets or shut down a few of the 1,000-plus bases we have around the world, and this staffer looked incredulous as she said, “Defense? You’re talking about eliminating the defense budget?”

Of course she knew no one was talking about eliminating the Department of Defense or disbanding the military. She just didn’t know she was talking to people who are well informed and not easily intimidated.

She didn’t look at people who spoke to her and her facial expression was one of utter contempt for all of us. She rolled her eyes at everything we had to say.

When we started to talk about giving the president’s Supreme Court nominee a hearing, she said something about “let the people choose.” Four of us at once said, “The people have chosen.”

I mentioned that Tillis had said right after Antonin Scalia died that blocking a hearing would be obstructionist, and she denied he ever said it.

But of course, we do have recording devices in this day and age, and we all know he said it and then backed down, probably under pressure from party leaders.

Several people said they remembered him saying it and she said, “no he didn’t,” as though repeating her lie would somehow make us back down. It reminded me of the Monty Python skit in which people could pay John Cleese to argue with them. It was that ridiculous.

“Yes he did.”

“No he didn’t.”

“I could look it up. He said it.”

“No he didn’t.”

(But, in fact, you can hear him say just that on the Tom Cralle Show at http://soundcloud.com/tylercralle. Scroll down to the first Thom Tillis interview and listen. I didn’t link to it here here because it comes up as a huge photo of Cralle, but type or copy and paste it into your browser, and there you have it. )

I came thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to saying, “You’re a fucking liar and you know it.”

Rather than show as much disrespect to her as she was showing to us, I clenched my jaw, picked up my camera bag and said politely, “Excuse me, I have to leave now.”

I walked out of the room to find more Moral Monday friends from the NC Council of Churches in the waiting room and in the hallway. A few seconds later, Robin emerged from the meeting. We warned them to take several dep, cleansing breaths before going in because they were going to need it.

“I wasn’t as nice as you were,” Robin said to me. “I’m so mad I’m shaking. How can people be so disrespectful. She was utterly contemptuous.”

What made the experience even more surreal for her was the dead possum on the wall that she kept hitting with her head. I really wish I had gotten a picture of that before I was told to put down my camera.

Naturally, we weren’t allowed to record any of this because, as Tillis already knows, recordings can come back and bite you in the ass.

Richard Burr’s people were no more in agreement with us than Tillis’s automaton, but they were polite and respectful. The staffer who met with us took notes, handed out his card and said, “This isn’t my area of expertise, but I will pass on what you have to say here and you can e-mail or call me with any more questions.”

I left that office knowing I disagree with the senator, but a bit less angry and frustrated than I had been with Tillis.

I left Washington once again fired up to register people to vote, to fight voter suppression, to fight Big Money and to work for a more just society.

As we say in the Moral Monday Movement:

Forward together! Not one step back!

Too little, too late, Governor

Gov. Pat MccCrory waves at the camera after giving my friend, Jamie Sohn, a plate of cookies. I love the look on Jamie's face.

Gov. Pat MccCrory waves at the camera after giving my friend, Jamie Sohn, a plate of cookies. I love the look on Jamie’s face.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has issued a couple of executive orders this week that I’m sure he thinks will win him back some support.

Unfortunately, it’s far too little and way, way too late.

On Monday, he announced a limited “expansion” of Medicaid services, which would add people with autism, plus increase funding for substance abuse treatment.

He proposed increasing access to Naloxone, which reverses opioid and heroin overdoses, saying he wants to save lives.

Big deal, Governor. There’s still the prickly issue of that half million people with no access to health care, and up to 2,800 of them are estimated to die every year, or up to seven people every single day. Can you tell us why you don’t care about saving those lives?

The governor also said he has met with President Obama about a Medicaid waiver, which would let the state expand Medicaid with its own rules. Those rules would require Medicaid recipients to work to get coverage, and the president rejected that.

Now, the president doesn’t have the power to reject the provision on his own, but he certainly knows what would pass muster with the Center for Medicaid Services, and a work requirement won’t fly.

Thing is, most poor people do work. Many have more than one low-wage job and still live below the poverty level. Many can’t find full-time work because so many companies have stopped hiring full-time employees so they don’t have to offer health benefits. That’s why Medicaid expansion is so important.

The people who are dying are hard working. They’re not lazy, they’re not morally inferior, they’re just poor, and a big part of that is because the GOP has refused to increase the minimum wage to a living wage, which it was meant to be when it was enacted under Franklin Roosevelt.

That brings us to Hate Bill 2.

On Tuesday, the governor issued a video statement announcing he would seek to repeal a portion of the law, which was passed in a single day in a special session, and signed by him as soon as he could get it to his desk.

“I will immediately seek legislation in the upcoming short session to reinstate the right to sue for discrimination in North Carolina state courts,” he said.

But that doesn’t fix the power grab that denies towns and counties the ability to set their own minimum wage, among other things, and it leaves transgender people with no safe place to pee, and still doesn’t protect LGBT people or veterans.

They passed this abomination knowing there would be backlash, and I’m willing to bet they decided before it ever passed which parts of it they would be willing to sacrifice if things got too heated.

Sorry, Governor, but you won’t win back a whole lot of support with these feeble moves, and the lost business and the lost respect won’t be won back, either. You have made this once proud state a laughingstock, and you’re going home in November.

#OneTermPat.

 

NC’s Hate Bill 2 is worse that you thought

Rabbi Wolff Alterman at a demonstration in Asheville just after Hate Bill 2 was passed.

My friend Wolff Alterman at a demonstration in Asheville just after Hate Bill 2 was passed. The sign was approved by his 15-year-old daughter.

Thousands of North Carolinians have been out protesting the state’s new law, HB2, which codifies discrimination against transgender people by forcing them to use the public restroom of the gender into which they were born, not the gender they have become.

While that provision is backward, mean-spirited and ignorant, it is not the end of the abominable provisions in the law.

If you read Section 2, you’ll find the real reason the law was passed: a trip back in time to when discrimination was legal, whether it was based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

The law forbids local municipalities from setting their own minimum wage and discrimination policies. It also forbids discrimination lawsuits at the state level, meaning that people who have been discriminated against have to file in federal court — a very lengthy and expensive process that most people just can’t go through.

So, while we demonstrate against the narrow-minded, unscientific, backward bathroom provisions; while we endure the fact that we are the laughingstock of the nation and the world, while we watch the state lose billions of dollars in business and in all probability, billions more in federal funding, most people have failed to notice that the second part of this law is even more damaging than the first.

This bunch of backward, dimwitted, ignorant clods has reinstated Jim Crow in North Carolina.

And what’s worse is that when the bathroom provision is overturned, as is inevitable because it us unconstitutional and unenforceable, the rest of the law stands, thanks to this provision:

PART IV. SEVERABILITY

31 SECTION 4. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, the

32 invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this act that can be given effect

33 without the invalid provisions or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are

34 severable. If any provision of this act is temporarily or permanently restrained or enjoined by

35 judicial order, this act shall be enforced as though such restrained or enjoined provisions had not

36 been adopted, provided that whenever such temporary or permanent restraining order or injunction

37 is stayed, dissolved, or otherwise ceases to have effect, such provisions shall have full force and

38 effect.

In other words, the real meat of the bill is the reinstatement of Jim Crow, and if we throw out the bathroom rules, we still have to sue to get rid of the rest if the law.

Stealing airports, water and other assets from local municipalities was only the beginning; we stand to lose the ability to make our own towns and cities better places to work and live.

Businesses with a conscience will flee the state like rats off a sinking ship, but abusive companies — those who want to be able to control their employees through fear and intimidation — will rush to set up shop. Workers’ rights have been set back 100 years, just what the Koch Brothers, Art Pope and ALEC wanted all along.

To the voters who stayed home in 2010 and allowed the Tea Party to take over our legislature: we’re now enduring life with the government you deserve. Taking it back will be difficult because 2010 was a census year and the new majority gerrymandered voting districts to such an advantage that it will be almost impossible to dislodge this crew of fools.

It will take at least a generation to fix what’s been broken in the last six years here. We can start by working for the opponents of these Tea Party darlings and then voting in November. If you don’t do that, you’re as guilty as those whose names are on this law.

 

 

 

 

 

Love will win — eventually

gay pride button

This morning it looks as though hate has won in North Carolina as the General Assembly met in special session to pass a bill that prevents local governments from banning discrimination against LGBT people.

The hate started flowing when Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing people to use the rest room of the gender with which they identify. Apparently some people worry that the person in the stall next to them either has or doesn’t have a penis. Somehow, they seem to think having someone whose gender isn’t what’s on their birth certificate in the next stall diminishes their bathroom experience.

And, in that vein, are we now going to have people at the doors of rest rooms across the state checking people’s birth certificates? “Hmmm, you look a little masculine to me. Let me see your proof of gender.”

Immediately after Charlotte passed its nondiscrimination ordinance, Gov. Pat McCrory decided to call the legislature into special session to overrule the ordinance. But the state legislature took it another step, making discrimination illegal on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex,” deliberately leaving out sexual orientation and gender identity and making it legal for businesses and others to discriminate against LGBT people.

In short, House Bill 2 is the most sweeping anti-LGBT law in the country.

Defenders of this abominable law claim it will protect people from sexual predators, but people intent on preying on others will still do so. What this law actually does is make it easier to flaunt prejudice against people who are “other.”

People who are transgender are not any more likely to be predators than anyone else. The middle-aged man in the men’s room is just as likely to prey on your son as the woman who identifies as a man — possibly more so.

In fact, the woman who identifies as male is probably more likely to keep to himself, fearing people’s reactions. That’s because he’s more likely than most other people to be harmed just because of who he is. (And yes, if someone identifies as female, it’s likely that person’s pronoun is “she,” whether you like it or not. Let’s say your name is Deborah, and you pronounce it the Biblical way — de-BOR-uh, but someone claims you can’t pronounce it that way and repeatedly, deliberately mispronounces it. Disrespectful, isn’t it? People who identify with the opposite gender deserve the respect of being addressed in their preferred way.)

The new law nullified nondiscrimination ordinances in 17 municipalities, according to Equality NC, an LGBT advocacy group.

I looked at the Facebook feeds of a few of my friends this morning and my heart broke at the hurt they’re feeling right now. I can’t imagine how defeated and broken they must feel today.

Imagine if something about you, something beyond your control, became OK to hate, OK to discriminate against. What’s next? Will it become OK to hurt people we consider “other?”

Eleven Democrats voted for the bill — the rest of the Democratic caucus walked out in disgust and held a news conference to talk about their stand against hate.

I will fight this law any way I can. I might not be able to make a huge difference, but I will boycott any business that discriminates against LGBT people. I will let business owners know why I won’t patronize them anymore, and I will spread the word.

It’s been about 10 years since an anti-gay group took out a double-page ad in the Citizen-Times, signed by hundreds of people and businesses. I still have the ad and I refer to it before doing business with someone. Anyone who signed that ad lost my business permanently. I don’t have a lot of money, but I will not let a penny of it go to a bigot if I can help it.

I will join any protest of this law I can because I am compelled to speak out against hate and bigotry.

I’m not alone in my disgust — national organizations are looking at boycotting North Carolina. The NCAA, which has playoff games scheduled in the state in the next two years has said it is monitoring the situation here. American Airlines, Wells Fargo, Apple and Microsoft were among corporations that issued a statement against House Bill 2.

This will not be good for the state’s economy; hate rarely is.

“Corporate leaders are speaking out against bills that could allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and other minorities – versions of which are actively being considered in states across the country,” the statement said. “This proposed legislation is bad for business.” (Read more here:)

Perhaps this latest national embarrassment will motivate voters to get rid of these hatemongers and elect people who really do care about all of the people of North Carolina.

 

 

 

 

Kindness matters, as does your vote

Keshia Thomas, one of the marshals in America's Journey for Justice. She walked from Selma, Ala., to Washington, DC.

Keshia Thomas, one of the marshals in America’s Journey for Justice. She walked from Selma, Ala., to Washington, DC.

I met Keshia Thomas in the heat of summer, walking along roads in eastern North Carolina with America’s Journey for Justice, a march from Selma, Ala., to Washington, DC. I was impressed immediately with her kindness and wit, and not at all surprised to learn about her “15 minutes” of fame.

Keshia was just 18 when she put her life on the line to protect a white supremacist who was being beaten by an angry mob.

She covered this man with her own body to protect him from the mob, even though she knew he hated her because of the color of her skin.

A human life is a human life, she says, and no one should have to suffer violence.

Today, Keshia travels the country and abroad, speaking about kindness and respect, doing what she can to help bring about peace and justice.

“I’ve always believed in justice,” she says. “I’ve always just wanted to be of service. Anybody can do it; you don’t need a PhD, just a desire to be of service in any way you can, large or small, every day. It’s the foundation of everything.”

In Baltimore, during the unrest after Freddie Gray died in police custody, she took a young man by the hand and told him not to throw the rock he was holding. She taught him how to protest peacefully and encouraged him to shake hands with the police.

“I left behind a young man who will work for justice in the right way, a young man who has no police record to hinder him,” she says.

So it came as no surprise when we were talking politics that she’s supporting Bernie Sanders in this presidential election.

“Bernie’s one of us,” she says. “When he says, ‘not me but us,’ I believe he means it. This isn’t about Bernie’s ego, this is about what we can all do together to bring about change.”

When Sanders was asked about fracking, his simple answer was, “No.” He knew the damage fracking can cause because he consulted scientists.

“He didn’t consult the DNC to ask about Democratic policy, he talked to scientists and made up his own mind.”

Of course, a vote for president is just one piece of every American’s responsibility, Keshia says.

“It’s about Congress and it’s especially about your vote in local elections,” she says. “The way the Tea Party gained power was to start in local elections — school boards, town councils — and work their way up. That’s what we have to do now if we want to see things change.”

In short, Keshia works for the peace and justice she wants to see in the world. Sometimes that means helping one person in a small way; sometimes it means supporting a candidate in whom she sees her own ideals.

Change can be large or small, and often big change comes in small increments. You can change one person’s view on one issue, and if you do that one day, and again the next and the next and the next, that kindness and respect will spread like ripples on a pond from a single pebble dropped into the water.

Another person on the Journey for Justice, the late Middle Passage, was a perfect example of spreading love one person at a time. M.P. often chest-bumped or hugged police officers, knowing their positive encounter with him might change the way they see black men.

Donald Trump’s nasty rhetoric is contagious, but so is kindness. We can combat vitriol with small acts of kindness, and with a vote for a kind and sensible man.

Instead of walking away from Trump’s mean-spiritedness, we can find something in common with everyone we encounter and build on that. In fact, that might be the only way we will bring about positive change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vote because your Democracy depends on it

Ms. Rosanell Eaton arrives at a Moral Monday event with Charles Cook.

Ms. Rosanell Eaton arrives at a Moral Monday event with Charles Cook.

It looks like North Carolina has had a record turnout for early voting for this year’s primary election. I hope those who didn’t get to the polls early will do so tomorrow.

The NC General Assembly, dominated by Tea Party Republicans, has done its best to reduce voter turnout because they generally do better when fewer people vote; if they didn’t, then they wouldn’t be trying to keep people from the polls.

The new law, passed as soon as the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, became known as the Voter ID law, although a lot more was done than to require an ID.

For example, early voting days were cut, and the polls were closed on Sundays. Before the new law was passed, churches across the state took thousands of voters to the polls after Sunday services, and most of those were African-American churches.

Polling places were moved — and many were moved from low-income neighborhoods and along bus routes to places with no nearby bus stops, making it more difficult for people who don’t drive to get to their polling places.

And of course, the new law made people get a photo ID, and not just any ID; it has to be state-approved.

Now, there’s one thing you need to know if you’ve had a problem getting an ID: You can still vote. That’s right, you can use a provisional ballot. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sen. Richard Burr couldn’t find his license last week and voted using a provisional ballot. You just have to sign a statement saying there was “reasonable impediment,” and cast your ballot. The General Assembly added that provision three weeks before the lawsuit challenging the new law went to court.

For people who don’t have a driver’s license, getting an ID might not be an easy task.

Look at Ms Rosanell Eaton, one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state challenging these new laws.

I met Ms Eaton at the Moral Monday protests in Raleigh. In 2013, when she was 92, she went into the General Assembly Building to try to address lawmakers about her concerns. They had her arrested. Last year, she said 94 is too old to be arrested again, but not too old to sue the people who would take away her ability to vote.

When Ms Eaton registered to vote in the 1940s, she had to recite the Preamble to the US Constitution from memory. Now, to get her state ID, she had to make 11 trips to various state agencies to gather the documents she needed. That is one tough task for a 94-year-old woman who doesn’t drive.

I have gotten to know Ms Eaton. I can tell you she is one determined woman, and the focus of her determination is to make sure everyone has access to the polls.

People have struggled and died for the right to vote — women, African-Americans, Native Americans and more. This is not something we should ever take lightly. Our vote is precious and it is a serious responsibility.

When you stay home, that gives greater weight to the votes of others — who might not have your best interests at heart.

When you stay home, we all have to endure having the government you deserve.

This administration has cut voting rights, cut funding for education, allowed big polluters to get away with poisoning the environment, slashed unemployment compensation at a time when jobs are increasingly difficult to find, refused to expand access to health care for people in poverty, cut food stamps, slashed taxes on the rich and increased the tax burden on the poor, politicized higher education, cut access to health services for women and more.

And they were elected by a minority of registered voters.

Now, if you aren’t registered to vote, you’ll have to wait until the general election in the fall to vote (although there’s still time to register for the Congressional primary in June).

But if you are registered and you don’t vote tomorrow, you ought to be ashamed. Frankly, I’m tired of having to live with the government you deserve.

 

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