Forward Together! Not One Step Back!

Moral Monday 29June2013-photo credit Rick GrissomI had a new experience Monday, when I participated in the Moral Monday Social Justice Interfaith March and Rally in Raleigh. I have never participated in an event like that before. But, this time, I felt absolutely compelled to be there.

Anyone who knows me knows, by now, how thrilled I am to be back in North Carolina. I call NC “the home of my heart.” I have lived in six states and, by far, most successfully “transplanted” here. Everything about the size, pace, and “feel” of the Triangle area just seems to be the right fit for me.

There is just one BIG disappointment with coming back home; and that is the political landscape to which I have returned. Oh. My. God. What in the world has come over the NC State Legislature? You can read, in the news, the particulars of what they have been up to, so I won’t go through all of it here. Suffice it to say that this legislature has not missed many opportunities to turn back the hands of time in NC and decimate the progressive political advances of the last fifty years or so.

So when the call went out for clergy of all faiths to join the final Moral Monday rally before the recent legislative session was adjourned, I felt a deep conviction that I should be present; and not just for myself, but as a representative of Imani and of the Metropolitan Community Church. It didn’t matter that only the few people who drove and marched together would know I was there. Sometimes it’s just about showing up. I needed to show up.

Fortunately, so did a lot of other people. The crowd was diverse across all demographic spectrums - race, age, religious affiliation or lack thereof, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression - we were all there to show the powers that be (for now) that we do not want to go back to where they are determined to take us. In fact, the motto for the day, the chant that the crowd did most often was, “Forward together! Not one step back!”

It was a time of mixed emotions for me; in part, because I couldn’t help seeing the irony of so many people gathered together demanding government guided by principles of morality and justice (as opposed to religion) yet just last year the majority of voters here approved Amendment One. If only the concern about justice had been as great and widespread then!

The good news is that it’s not too late for all of us to learn the lesson that we’ve heard, in various forms, from many great historical figures – “No one is free until everyone is free.” The days are gone (if they ever existed) when we can afford to care only for our own causes and interests. I hope those who voted for Amendment One are beginning to see that as well. Either we will support oppressive government or we must refuse to tolerate it - no matter who the targets may be.

By the end of the legislative session the legislature had dealt serious, even debilitating, blows in several areas of life in this state from public education to unemployment to women’s reproductive choice to voting and more. National news media are talking about the “decline” of North Carolina and how the state which was formerly the progressive bright spot in the south is devolving. Over the last 13 weeks, increasing large crowds have gathered to protest their actions. They have responded, if at all, with condescension and insults. And, as thousands mourned the rights and benefits that this legislature stripped away, here is how our lawmakers closed out this devastating session:

NC Lawmakers Dancing frame from CNN iReport

The spirit of the crowd at the rally Monday gives me hope that the people of NC, as a whole, probably do not want to move backwards. I hope that a lot of folks will reevaluate the voting decisions - including decisions not to vote at all - which gave control of our state government to the current legislature, now that they see what they are doing with that power and how many people, besides LGBT’s, are vulnerable to their abuse of it.