30 July 2013

Dancing On Their Graves

I flew back from North Carolina to Los Angeles on Sunday after spending a week with my family. It was a momentous time to be in Raleigh as the legislature concluded its session by passing the most restrictive Voter ID program in the nation and an abortion law snuck onto a bill about motorcycle safety.
Those were on top of a session that also gutted education by cutting more than 9,000 education jobs statewide and allowing for no raises for teachers for at least 2 years (a move that will lead to NC ranking dead last in teachers’ pay), drug testing for those who receive welfare, repealing the racial justice act, and ending federal unemployment benefits. About the only freedom the legislature decided to expand was, you guessed it, the places you can carry your concealed weapon. I know I feel better knowing that someone could be legally packing heat in a bar or funeral or PLAYGROUND.
I’m not the first to say it, as the story is now getting plenty of national attention, but it’s as if the legislature deliberately and with great spite and malice gleefully decided to hurt everyone they could who is in any way disenfranchised (i.e., not a white, middle-class male). And they did so with a meanness that included actually dancing to celebrate their “accomplishments," complete with a fiddle player brought in for the occasion. That adds new meaning to dancing on someone’s grave, doesn’t it?  Or a Wonkette put it, “North Carolina legislators celebrated their victories over voting, poverty and human decency...meanwhile, everyone who wasn’t in the North Carolina Capitol celebrated by dying of back alley abortions and starving because ‘poor’.” See the video here. 
The voting law is so draconian that the Justice Department will likely step in (for example, student IDs and government employee IDs are not valid forms of ID), but these laws will affect North Carolina and its progress for decades. The actions woke up a lot of folks, many of whom participated in weekly Moral Monday protests at the Capitol, but they will need to keep the fire alive through the 2014 elections  for Moral Monday to have meant anything. And, oh, the legislature gerrymandered many voting districts in the right wing’s favor, making it way, way harder for Democrats to win, so Democratic voters will have to come out in way larger numbers to win back some seats. Three Superior Court justices let the redistricting stand and the NC NAACP is now expected to appeal to the N.C. Supreme Court.
This is the first time Republicans have controlled both houses, as well as the governorship, since Reconstruction. But it sounds like all they’ve done is deconstruction to me. 
As I chatted with friends who had been active in Moral Monday, including my sister, there was a palpable sense of disbelief that this was actually happening; that these bills, which are so outwardly craven and blatant in their goal to hurt people, were sailing through and there seemed to be no way to stop it. My father, who has grown steadily more progressive over the years (in contrast to the usual pattern), expressed his frustration at not being able to do more than vote and financially support opposition candidates. 
On my flight back on Sunday, I sat beside an elderly black woman. We didn’t chat until we came very close to landing. Somehow the Voter ID law came up. We both shook our heads in sadness and shame that our beloved North Carolina had passed such an awful, awful thing. Part of me just wanted to grab her hand in a moment of silent solidarity, but I thought she might think me a little odd. 
Today’s $10 goes to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which fights for voting rights, human rights, criminal rights, immigrant rights and environmental justice. SCSJ estimates that the voter ID bill will affect around 319,000 North Carolina voters, including Alberta Currie, who has voted every year since 1956, but has no birth certificate since she was born at home. Without a birth certificate, she can’t get a photo ID, according to the new rule. See the video below from CBS News for more.

And if you don’t think this can happen in your state, think again. I would have NEVER believed it could happen in North Carolina, and it has. 

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