If you've been following any of the news in North Carolina, you're likely aware of 'Moral Monday' protests that have been occurring in Raleigh, the state's capitol. During these protests many many who have found the Republican-controlled legislature's policies to be harmful for the poor and marginalized have been arrested, not because of their opinions about the state's politicians, but because of their geographical choices about where to protest. The police have been arresting protestor after protestor who refused to leave the General Assembly's quarters. You can read the account of these arrests, including his, of a former professor of mine, Willie Jennings, here. He was also featured on All Things Considered this weekend.
In short, those protesting predict that the conservative, repressive, and regressive policies regarding education, taxes, and health care being pushed by the state's leadership are harmful for the poor (and often African Americans). When asked on NPR why he was protesting, specifically what policies he was opposed to, Jennings responded:
At the heart of it is the lack of consideration of how their policies and bills affect people with little or no resources. For example, July 1 of this year, 70,000 North Carolinians will be without unemployment insurance. Here are people who are trying to find jobs, caring for their children, caring for elderly. And in July 1, they will have nothing.
Displayed against Jennings' interview was one of the Republicans at the center of this issue, Thom Goolsby. his portion of the NPR special struck me far more than anything else regarding these demonstrations thus far. A portion of his interview:
LYDEN: Senator Goolsby, you recently wrote an op-ed in a local journal that called the Moral Monday protests, as they've been described, Moron Monday. And you referred to some of the activists as old hippies. Can you explain to us what you meant? Some people have taken issue with your comments.
GOOLSBY: For those who read my weekly columns, they know that I'm quite colorful in those. And the recent polls show that about 60-plus percent of all the people that show up are older white folks. That is true. There were a lot of puppets there last week, big 20-foot tall puppets with arms that people were manipulating. There's a really nice Christian theme to what they say that I very much appreciate, a lot of good prayer.
To be completely fair, Goolsby's interview was far nicer and fairer than one who has read his op-eds might expect. His op-eds are downright derogatory at times and while he did maintain fairness in his NPR interview, to paint his comment as simply "colorful" is an atrocious rebranding of reality.
That rebranding of reality is exactly what's happening with Goolsby and his colleagues these days. After coming out of a financial disaster the Republican-controlled legislature in North Carolina has done literally anything to recover. This includes but is not limited to the seemingly racist and despicable things the Republicans were suggesting happen to our schools to save money. This was happening even when I moved to North Carolina three years ago.
Countries and societies struggle with this constantly. How do we maintain our care for those within our grasp and those who we claim responsibility for while being fiscally responsible? It's a difficult and nearly impossible question to answer. What the Republicans in North Carolina are apparently so bad at doing is seeing reality for what it is; this means seeing the faces of those who become oppressed by your policies as simple consequences (but not significant enough consequences to matter) instead of what they are: people.
Goolsby looks out on the demonstrators and attempts comedy when that's exactly the opposite of what he's supposed to be doing. He's supposed to be looking out on the demonstrators, talking to them, asking them questions, conversing with them, and using their ideas to help nuance his. Instead he write op-eds to the paper calling the protestors "morons" and claiming that they're creating jobs and that we should all just let the "old hippies" be as they were.
But the truth is that there are still tens of thousands without jobs. The truth is that 70,000 will be without health insurance in a week. The truth is that many of the protestors have advanced degrees and some teach at prestigious universities. The truth is that over 40% of the protestors are not old white folks. The truth is that Goolsby's comments weren't "colorful," they were hateful...just like his policies.
The truth is that Goolsby has little grip on reality.