By Chad Nance
“Well maybe I’m the faggot America.
I’m not a part of a redneck agenda.
Now everybody do the propaganda.
And sing along to the age of paranoia.”
– American Idiot, Billie Joe Armstrong
“Go home, tell your friends and family who had to work today what this is all about and how hard we must fight to keep our state straight.”
– NC State Senator Buck Newton, running for NC Attorney General
There is a mean kind of atavistic and primitive poetry in the air these days in North Carolina- the kind of electric atmosphere that follows the unloading of a chamber full of double-aught buckshot. I’m talking about that moment just after the boomstick has spoken and right before the admittedly satisfying schlack-clack of the forestock being brought back and slamming a new shell in the chamber. HB2 was passed like a thief in the night and now my home state has a better part of America coming at us hammer and tongs because our leadership has decided to create the biggest wedge they possibly could and then drive its blunt and pitted edge directly into the heart of North Carolina. What I am getting at here, sir, is things have gotten nasty down here and while the attention you’ve been giving to the possibility that the United Kingdom might leave the European Union is understandable, we the level-headed people of North Carolina are living in a state lead by a very ugly and very vocal minority who are trying to drag us kicking and screaming through the kind of historical moment that would have given George Wallace pause.
Yeah, I wrote “George Wallace”. Pat McCrory, Buck Newton, Phil Berger, and the rest of their Good ‘Ol Boys and Girls Club make up not only one of the most nakedly corrupt and venal groups of human beings to ever hold power in Raleigh, North Carolina, there is no low they will not reach for with all dedication and diligence. They have been shamelessly been stirring the most base and primal instincts in a way that the legendary segregationist would have recognized. None of them are as eloquent as Wallace could be in his most hateful prime. There is no poet of hatred and rage in the NCGOP press shops even operating on the fire belching level of Asa Earl Carter. Instead we get Governor McCrory whining about outside agitators while A.G. candidate Sen. Buck Newton comes across like a half-witted frat boy 9 beers into a Thursday night bender. He followed up by telling WRAL that HB2 was about keeping “men out of the bathroom with little girls.” Of course this is utter gibberish, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.
This the Wallace playbook, though. The lessons from the master have been watered down a bit as they passed through Nixon, Reagan, and down to George W. Bush, and the target has changed from African Americans to LGBT citizens. These people don’t care who they pick on anyway. The identity doesn’t matter as long as it is somehow contrary to their narrow white, protestant, Baby Boomer constituency. Stoke the fires of hate and reap the electoral whirlwind in November. We’ve been here before.
President Obama, you and I both know this has nothing to do with bathrooms. I’d like to dump that notion right away and then move on to some hard realities. There are no reports of transexuals assaulting women in bathrooms. The only public restroom assaults I’ve been able to find have been committed by straight men, and most of those are sexual assaults on boys in men’s rooms. You and I both know that if a straight male predator (which one presumes HB2 should be targeting because they are the only people on record as being sexual predators in bathrooms) walked into a lady’s room dressed as a woman he would not only be recognized as a man immediately, the nearest red blooded men of all political stripes and belief systems would probably kick his brains in within 1.5 seconds of the jig being up. Some problems are just self correcting and don’t need the gleefully authoritarian hand of government, bubba.
An estimated 1,200 of my North Carolina brothers and sisters went to Raleigh yesterday to publicly push back against this nonsense and about 50 of them were arrested. We are not this, Mr. President, and the majority among us did not ask for this schoolyard level political scrap.
The total number of North Carolina voters registered unaffiliated, Libertarian and Democrat totals 4,566,799. Only 2,004,323 North Carolinians register to vote or self identify as Republicans. That means that more than half of those registered to vote do not side with the GOP. A flood of corporate money from polluters and others like Duke Energy, Art Pope, and the Koch Brothers along with a weak slate of Democratic candidates (with a history of corruption themselves) brought this down on the people of North Carolina. The subsequent gerrymandering and voter suppression created a political playing field where a small and very vocal minority has a hammer lock on the state legislature and they have brought an authoritarian approach to social controls that leans hard toward the Evangelical base to which they clearly feel the need to pander.
HB2 is simply brown-nosing. You’d think that even many of the more intelligent Republican voters would notice that the only time Republican politicians turn their laser sights onto the gay and trans community it is an important election year. In 2004 when the GOP desperately needed Ohio to retain the White House for W. Bush, they used gay marriage as an issue to drive out their base vote while at the same time pounding in a wedge between Democratic candidates and African American church members. In 2012, the NCGOP made sure that Amendment One was on the table in order to do the same. Now in 2016 we have HB2 and the puppet theater Republicans like Pat McCrory and Buck Newton are playing in order to prove that they have not forgotten how to foster hate in the darkest corners of North Carolina’s soul. It shames me that some of our people are such total cowards that they fall for this garbage. Supporters of HB2 are not brave people willing to stand up against the rising tide of multi-culturalism and overt, flamboyant gayness. They are timid weaklings afraid of non-existent threats. Your yellow bellies are showing, pilgrims, and it ain’t pretty.
What I’m trying to get at, Mr. President, in my usually obtuse and caustic manner, is that we could seriously use a little federal intervention and oversight. Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower stepped in in Little Rock and President Kennedy had to send people to deal with Wallace in Tuscaloosa. The people of North Carolina are bleeding, sir. From the open attack on our ability to educate our children to the invasion of citizen’s bodies with coal ash, restrictions on women’s health, not expanding medicaid and refusing to appropriately participate in the Affordable Healthcare Act, this state government is simply out of control. We could really use some help from the outside to right this ship once more before we all go down in a swampy mess that is beginning to look like a cross between Mississippi and the worst of Florida. Like I said, I understand that the Brits have you a little worried, but right here at home we are suffering. Authoritarianism is running rampant and the iron fist of this state government is sucking the fun out of life.
I know there isn’t really much you can do, Mr. President. I dig that you have a lot on your plate with planning your December 2016 seizure of power from President Elect Trump and preparing the FEMA camps for your political opponents while planning that handover of the Department of Education to ISIS. That can keep a brother busy, no doubt. It feels good to just get behind the keyboard and let it rip a bit so I appreciate you listening.
I reckon it is left up to us back here in Carolina. (The good one.) We made this mess and we are going to have to clean it up ourselves. As for myself I figured I’d sit 2016 out and try to get my blood pressure down, but these thugs aren’t going to allow that to happen. North Carolina is just going to have to pick itself up out of the dirt, dust ourselves off and move on to November and an opportunity to vote out everyone currently in office (at least the ones that we have viable alternate candidates for.) Maybe by December we can all breathe a little easier knowing that no one in state government will be sweating how we love one another, how we exercise our most basic human rights and obtain health care, or how we educate our kids. Maybe they’ll step in and protect us from polluters and profiteering financial predators. It won’t happen unless the majority of us step up and out-vote this increasingly nasty minority who hold a monopoly on political power.
Time to be engaged friends and neighbors. The time for slumber has long ended. All power to the people and in the end we say amen.
This column is dedicated to my dear friend Randy Gillis and all of North Carolina’s LGBT citizens. What the Republicans don’t realize is if they run all of you away with their vile crudity then all they’ll have left is me.