In the coming days, the average, conscientious American will think about North Carolina for a few minutes–probably as coverage of Amendment One’s passage blips across their television screen or pops up on their smart phone. There will be the shaking of the head, the exasperated sigh, the usual and oft-overused phrases about the South being backwards. But then they’ll be next in line for their coffee, or American Idol will come on, and that’ll be that–kaput for civil rights in North Carolina, at least in their minds.
But for those of us grappling with the after-effects of this hateful legislation being translated into law, Amendment One is everywhere we look. It’s along the roads, it’s on bumpers, it’s in our workplaces. We can’t escape it. We have to listen to the bigoted commentary, the enthusiastic hoots from the bubbas next door about “those fucking faggots.” And we try not to scream.
At work this morning, my friend asked me why I didn’t just move. She emphasized that the best way to exercise civil disobedience is to take myself and my money to more tolerant locales. Sure, I thought about it well before the vote came back. But I told myself that I’ve felt disenfranchised before and have stayed rooted; hell, I grew up in Alabama (insert tired cliché here). Still, Amendment One’s passage was something new for me. What made me sob into my friends’ shoulders Tuesday night wasn’t the outcome, but rather the wide margin–the degree to which so much hateful ignorance still exists. It hurt. And it hurt worse than my hangover the next morning. It still hurts today. And will for a long time.
She waited. And I told her simply, “Raleigh is my home.” That it’s taken me so long to find somewhere that felt so comfortable. That I’ve built a life for myself of which I’m proud. That I’ve been immensely fortunate to have such a strong network of friends who are more than just “family”–they’re family. And I’m not leaving any of it. Or them. Because as strong as we each are on our own, we’re a tremendous force en masse. We laugh, we cry, we fight for what’s right against those who fight for what’s Reich.
And while it’s been a time for intensive introspective reflections, a time for mourning, it’s also a time to galvanize ourselves to reach out. To offer a hand to those who feel even more isolated and alienated than they’ve ever felt before; to the youth who thought this might be a turnaround, that they might see how things get better; to the elderly who thought they’d see that same turnaround. I have to remember that in this time of anger and upset, there’re so many more who are hurting more intensely, who are contemplating darker alternatives. We have to keep the fight alive and the momentum fierce.
Responding to my inquiry about how he’s been faring this week, my dear friend Norman–82 years young–said, “It’s been up and down. Just like an erection. But you just have to make the best of it.”
Phallocentric allusions aside, we all have to make the best of it. Even if there are a lot of pricks in the state.