Letters From North Carolina

May 8 2012 @ 2:21pm

A reader writes:

Reporting from Black Mountain, NC. It didn't hit home until last night when my wife came back after seeing a vote Amendment One sign stuck on the corner of the street where our two friends and their two children live. I can't imagine how hurtful it is to have one of your direct neighbors advocating publicly that you can't marry the person you love. My first thought was to kick over the sign, or add a sign stating, "I am a prejudice bigot." Instead, my wife and I have been texting and calling our friends to make sure they are voting today. Not sure it will make a difference. 

I would like to add one thing to your discussion on gay marriage: I think you are missing some of the framing by people against gay marriage.

Here in rural North Carolina they have managed to convince themselves and their congregations that they are under attack, that they are the victims, that this is not about gay people as much as it is an attack on their culture, their churches, and their god by outsiders. The campaign against Amendment One has been poor in response – as opinion polls show that there is confusion about what people are exactly voting for. There have been some positive signs of religious coalitions speaking out against the amendment. Asheville is known as a progressive center for the Southeast. We have a large and open lesbian population, and for the first time last weekend I saw a male couple on the streets of Asheville being openly affectionate.

These battles against gay marriage will eventually be defeated, but they are very painful now, especially to our friends and neighbors and their children.

Another writes:

As a recent transplant to NC, I'm beyond devastated by the likely outcome of today's election.  But while the horrific Amendment likely will pass, it will not be because a majority of voters intended to "carve in large, bloody letters hatred into the Constitution," as your reader put it.  In fact, as you've noted earlier today, a majority of voters support civil unions, and would oppose the Amendment if they understood it.  Our failure (those of us opposing the Amendment) was in not clearly communicating the meaning of this Amendment, in not engaging enough with those "Christians" who think they're just voting to state their religious belief.  I talked to many of them while phone-banking last night, and some of them were genuinely surprised to understand what they were voting for.  

I may think there's no basis in the love of Jesus Christ to be against gay marriage, but that's not a helpful starting point for the conversation.  Instead, I can tell them about the 80,000 kids who will lose healthcare because their parents' domestic partnership (gay or straight) will no longer be permissibly recognized in the state.  I can tell them that the Amendment will undermine the moral bonds, the legal rights, and the safety of countless families in the state they call home.  And if in doing so, I can change or at least open a couple minds, then the dialogue served a purpose, even if we lose today.  

Yes, there was a campaign of hate and misinformation carried out by those who introduced the Amendment.  So what else is new?  We fight hate with love, misinformation and irrationality with reason.  We don't give up.  So the solution is not for fair-minded, forward-thinking individuals like the UNC professor, myself, and countless in others in this "purple" state to leave.  We stay, and we live to fight another day.  Because when liberals stay in liberal states, and the religious right and neo-cons stay in red states, everyone digs deeper into their own self-reaffirming trenches, reasonable dialogue ceases, and the whole country suffers.  We've got to work together to make changes where we can, not just retreat to the safety of a Boulder bubble, or some blue state enclave.  (How does your reader think Colorado went from solidly Bush to solidly Obama?) 

So I say to all those disheartened by a major step backward:  please, please don't abandon this beautiful state.

Another:

Are you trying to make me cry on a day wherein I already have cried?  I wish I could talk to the author of your Email of the Day.  I am a native North Carolinian.  I have never not lived in this great state.  My mother is from another country, my father's father was a Northerner, but my father's maternal family has been in the TarHeel state since the Revolutionary War.  I grew up in rural North Carolina, my father was the mayor of our small town, and I have raised my two daughters in an urban part of the state.  I went to public school here and graduated from UNC.  In other words, I bleed Carolina blue.  

Yes, this is a bad day.  This one hurts.  As someone who knows this state so well, I would beg that UNC professor to stay.  This is but the death rattle of an ugly discrimination which will be over in the near future.  The GOP Speaker of the State House said as much himself when he acknowledged that this amendment will pass only to be repealed in a generation.  (For whatever reason, he has no problem looking like a complete bigot by the next generation.)  To the professor, I say stay.  Be a part of what is coming next.  I recall as a child that I thought I had to be one of the only biracial kids in the state.  

Today, the cities and to some extent the rural areas of NC are more diverse than I ever imagined they would be.  Obama won this state in 2008.  If that is not a signal, I don't know what is. We are a state that always has believed in progress and education.  It has made us different and less afraid of change.  

Today, we go the way of Mississippi, Alabama, and the other Southern states.  We will be back on track soon though.  This won't last.  I know because I have children who do not understand why people are treating other people in this manner.  It is as unimaginable to them as Jim Crow was to us.  And, it isn't just the generations coming up that have changed.  

On our way to school this week, we have seen a little 80-something year old woman standing on the side of a busy road holding a homemade sign reading, "Vote NO!"  You simply would never have seen that at any other time in my life.  Today must mark the day when we liberals, moderates, and true conservatives say, "Enough."  This is the day when the rage and hatred of the last three years has been taken too far and become too ugly for open society.  North Carolina will be back.  I promise.

Another:

Please let your reader know that he and his husband do not have to leave North Carolina.  There are many of us ready to contribute resources towards a lawsuit to get Amendment 1, should it pass, overthrown in Federal court.  The amendment is so overreaching that I do not believe it could possibly withstand review.

Update from the Email of the Day reader:

Thank you for these letters. I am crying as I type this. I don't know what decision I will end up making, but these mean the world to me.