#Vaginamotorcycle

Yep. I am writing this post mostly just to share this image, perhaps the most slam-dunk conclusive proof that “funny” goes with “progressive” like “tone-deaf” goes with “NC Republican.”

Image

On second thought, I can see how NC got confused on this one.

Seriously. I wish I could be this funny, but since I’m not, I’m just sharing it so that everybody can see it. Whoever created it (I got it from the usual beginningless forward chain), please tell me and I’ll sing your praises.

The context, of course, is the bill normal people have taken to calling the Motorcycle Vagina bill: SB 353, which took a not harmful motorcycle safety bill and dumped a whole lot of the anti-abortion language from HB 695, the anti-foreign law bill that they tricked out into an anti-abortion bill last week and that brought so much positive attention to our state. Both bills were sneak attacks, both are probably unconstitutional, and both represent everything abhorrent about conservative my-way-because-I-said-so bullying.

Anyhow, I couldn’t take another day to go protest some more, so now that the dumbasses have passed the stinking thing, I just wanted to say that though the dumbasses are winning in the legislature, the good guys are funnier. Way funnier.

So anyhow, there’s that.

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Stand Up, Miss Jean Louise

I’ll tell you the moment when I suddenly believed we were going to win.

ImageIt was probably around 6:15 or so. The Moral Monday speeches were still pattering on, we were chatting with various progressive folks around the big empty plaza among all the big boring state buildings, already thinking about dinner, when there was a gentle press towards the center of the crowd. A Moral Monday veteran, I quickly recognized what was happening: the march of those willing to be arrested had begun. People lined their path, applauding, cheering, chanting – doing everything but cast rose petals.

I didn’t think. I swept Louie, my eight-year-old, up in my arms as I had not done in years, lifted him until he sat on my shoulder, bouncing there as I ran to the edge of the crowd. “Look,” I told him. “Look! Those are people brave enough to go to jail for knowing what is right! This is why we are here – this is who we are supporting.” He watched. Once Louie had seen, up went Gus, age five, for his own look. I was moved, suddenly, almost to tears, so profound was my gratitude that those people were willing to march off to be arrested, to make the kind of noise that though the dumbasses causing the demonstrations won’t hear it still will reach the ears of the nation.

It’s not just those being jailed, of course – Moral Mondays are a product of the thousands Imageof us who come out every week “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” They’re the outcome of limitless effort by the NAACP. They’re the result of hundreds of leaders and thousands of people from dozens of organizations — religious, secular, political, community. The movement spreads because Rev. Barber constantly harps on it never becoming violent or disrespectful; it spreads because every time it meets, tone-deaf Governor McCrory refuses to address those grievances; it spreads because dumbasses like Tom Goolsby and Tom Apodoca put their feet further down their throats every time they even speak of it. It spreads because GOP attacks on women, on voting rights, on freedom of religion, on schools, on healthcare, on science are so shocking and barbaric.

Above all it spreads because the dopes were just too stupid to wait long enough: we are just this very summer hitting the fiftieth anniversary of the last time the people had to fight these fights, and there are too many people alive who fought too hard then. We haven’t forgotten yet. They’ve overplayed their hand.

But though that’s all thrilling, that wasn’t what gave me my chill, my sudden flash of hope. There was something about that moment – something about showing my kids the importance of the walk those brave citizens were making, something about showing those people our respect. That resonated with … something.

Later, at home, I figured it out and told my wife. It reminded me of the moment in To Kill a Mockingbird when Atticus Finch, having lost his case, exits the courtroom and Scout, seated in the balcony with the town’s black population, doesn’t notice the people around her have stood up. “Miss Jean Louise, stand up,” Reverend Sykes tells her. “Your father’s passin’.

And your hair stands on end.

It’s much like the moment when Huck Finn decides to go to hell rather than allow Jim to be captured: a tiny but decisive moment, the kind of detail literature exists to underscore. Examples of what it means to care enough to be truly human. Examples of what courage looks like, and how we should respond to it.

We can’t all of us be Huck, we mostly lack the guts, and we can’t all be Atticus – we mostly lack the skill. But we can all try to show courage, and we can all certainly stand in respect of those Hucks and Atticuses among us, and I can’t think of anything more important to teach our children.

ImageAnd, to be sure, our children are learning. Louie and Gus, who have shown some reluctance to attend boring old speechifying Moral Mondays, today bent to make signs, and urged us to go to jail for our beliefs. We might. We got lots of loves from passersby, praising us for bringing our children. When the volunteer helping us remember to leave signs behind as we headed for the legislature said “Welcome home! This is your house!” people praised us for explaining what would happen if the legislature tried to lock the doors (“we would get a judge to make them open them back up”).

We explained what would happen if our protests succeeded (“everyone would be allowed to easily vote; everyone could see a doctor; women could make their own medical decisions; everyone would get to go to a good school; if you lost your job, we would help you; we would take care of our planet”), what would happen if their mom or I did get arrested (“we would be home later that night”). Louie said that if we did get arrested, in solidarity he would not sleep that night until we got home.

And it’s all beautiful and wonderful. I’m proud of our little sign-making boys and their Imageenormous hearts (“but why would someone want to make it so other people can’t vote?”). And I’m happy enough that each week this festival of resistance grows stronger and more fierce.

But I’m thrilled to say that for the first time in years I believe. When you’re standing up for the same things that Huck and Atticus stood for? You can be fairly sure you’re in the right. I know that in 2012, like Atticus, we lost a rigged case to a crooked jury. And I know that despite these appalling steps backwards gerrymandering and institutionalized wickedness will hamper all attempts to win on appeal. But I also feel swept up: the appeals will continue. We’ll stand as our Atticuses go by, one after another, until there are enough of us standing that the Apodocas and Goolsbys and McCrorys will eventually, in shame, sit down.

Do I Have to Do EVERYTHING Around Here?

Look, people. I am on deadline — deadlineS. I have work to do. I have things to get done to keep the mortgage paid and my kids’ mouths full of peanut butter, of macaroni and cheese. So I don’t really have time to write the column that the News & Observer failed to write this morning.

But since they didn’t, I will.

At least the smart and funny people are on the right side.

At least the smart and funny people are on the right side.

Here’s the story. As you well know, the dumbass Republicans in the NC House introduced the dumbass HB 695, which basically protects North Carolina citizens from foreign laws. Because, you know, in between taking over local school districts and municipal water systems, the party of small government needs to protect us from the government of, say, Ecuador deciding to come in and, I don’t know, retest us on our driving licenses or something. The bill, by the way, has been called the “anti-Sharia law,”  because it’s based on a template by anti-Sharia activists, and Republican legislators genuinely do appear to believe that somehow Sharia law can be forced on you right here in North Carolina.

That’s so stupid I won’t even begin to discuss it. There’s nothing real in this world the bill would actually protect us from, but it doesn’t restrict any meaningful rights either, so the remaining normals in the legislature didn’t worry much about it and just planned to debate it when it came up. It was a two-page piece of dumbassery. These guys love dumbassery, and it didn’t look like much more than the usual mischief.

It passed the House. Big deal. Then it moved to the Senate. Big deal. Except! Then late in the day on July 2, NC Senate Republicans amended it to within an inch of its life, filling it full of crap limiting abortion rights, especially language forcing abortion clinics to follow the same rules as surgical clinics, which would force virtually all of them to shut down. Now it’s called the Family, Faith, and Freedom act, because nothing says “dumbassery” like alliteration.

It’s standard sneak attack stuff — as a sign among the hundreds protesting this morning

This rather says it all, does it not?

This rather says it all, does it not?

said, “if you can’t be right, be sneaky.” It’s also, of course, cowardice. If the bill is good law — it’s obviously not; leaving out the health effects and other things we’ve just debated to death, it’s flat-out unconstitutional — introduce it, debate it, defend it, pass it. Hell, Republicans have the numbers to pass any damn thing they want — as they’ve demonstrated. If it’s not good law, wait around until you can think of a good law, then pass that. But seriously: “Slip it in when nobody’s around”? That’s your political philosophy? That’s what you teach your kids? Wait around until you think people who disagree with you aren’t looking, and then run something unspeakable by them? The great justification for your reactionary rewriting of the state’s law book is “because we can”? That’s your response to what you call — with plenty of justification — years of Democratic mismanagement?

Shame on you all.

Now — again. The thing is unconstitutional, as courts have upheld, so the whole farce is basically an enormously expensive practical joke played by the party of fiscal responsibility. And look, if we have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars — or more — to fight the thing all the way to the Supreme Court to hear them tell you that you’re not allowed to limit women’s access to health care like this, we’ll do that. It’s expensive and stupid and a waste of time, but expensive stupid wastes of time seem to be what Republican legislators like. Remember the bill against sea-level rise? Remember the one in favor of state-sponsored religion?

The arc of history bends towards justice. Because people like this push it that way.

The arc of history bends towards justice. Because people like this push it that way.

So last night, after watching Josh Stein’s impassioned defense of our rights, I messaged to a friend that I wondered what the chances were that the News & Observer would have something on its editorial page — whether by columnist or editorial staff — addressing this outrage in today’s paper. He felt sure someone would. I doubted it — back in the day, the paper used to have columnists who would drive back to the paper if they heard about this kind of thing going on just to get a word in the next day’s paper. The paper’s editorial staff is down in the thirties now.

Guess what — I was right! Even though a columnist or editorial writer would have to go no further than his or her desk to make an addition to the print or online product, nobody stepped up. Those days are gone. The N&O had a front-page story on the GOP sneakery, but nothing on the editorial page. I’m sure they will tomorrow. But guess what? The vote was today. Bad guys won. The moment for taking a stand before the final vote has passed.

I went down to stand with the protesters, of course. This kind of madness ruins lives, destroys communities, makes North Carolina look like a backwater full of madpersons. It makes the state much less attractive to business, by the way, which one would think would interest the supposedly pro-business Republican party, but it appears that when up to the mischief of limiting women’s rights and creating bad law that hits the badness trifecta — it’s bad for health, it’s bad law, and it’s embarrassing to the state — nothing stops these guys.

And, oh, yeah — the whole irony of stuffing provisions treating women like property and restricting their rights into a bill supposedly against Sharia law, which is perceived as treating women like property and limiting their rights? The irony there is so extreme I’m not even going to bother.s

To sum up though. This law is indefensible on a health basis (limiting abortions only causes abortions to be less safe, not less in number), on a legal basis (bills like it have been challenged, blocked, and overturned), and an ethical basis (go ahead, I beg you — try to defend the position that a blastocyst has the same ethical standing as Governor McCrory, that your preteen daughter, pregnant from rape, is carrying a being with the same rights as hers; if you don’t, then you’re prochoice — you just think you get to make the choice, not each individual woman).

Each senator — and state rep — who voted for this bill is either ignorant, stupid, or wicked. It’s that simple. And people who are ignorant, stupid, and wicked are in charge. That’s why I was out there this morning. And that’s why I spent the rest of the morning writing this instead of doing my job.

So. I’m going back to work now. I went out to protest, because as a citizen what less could I do? I did the News & Observer’s job because, as a writer, what less could I do? Now, as a businessperson, I have to meet deadlines and do my work. Because … well, you know. And okay — meet “-ish” those deadlines now.

But seriously: what are our options?