I’ve had the good fortune of traveling to and through 45 of the 50 states in the course of my education, work, and personal life. From the interstates to the back roads, vast cities to small towns, deserts to swamplands, mountains to beaches, woodlands to prairies, farmlands to factories. I walked on volcano-fresh lava in Hawaii, ate ocean-fresh lobsters on the coast of Maine; I swam with dolphins in the Florida Keys and walked the beaches of northern California. I’ve watched the sunrise over alfalfa fields in Alabama, camped in the rain at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, blown a tire on a trip in Texas and made enough money in a casino in Oklahoma to cover the cost of the replacement; no such luck at the casinos in Louisiana, but I didn't mind supporting the local economy after Katrina.
I bought quartz and amethyst crystals from an old man in Arkansas, visited the boy I sponsored on an Indian reservation in Nevada, collected fish fossils in Wyoming, toured coal mines in North Dakota, Colorado, and Pennsylvania and factories up and down the east coast. I’ve ridden through much of the country in the dead of night, across Texas in an ice storm, along the Gulf Coast through severe thunderstorms and looming tornados, and commuted thousands of miles in New England winters. I’ve eaten at many of the Waffle Houses along I-10 and I-20 in my trips across the Gulf Coast between Texas and North Carolina.
In the course of my travels, I’ve met all sorts of people from panhandlers to multi-millionaires, waitresses, contractors, attorneys, business owners, factory workers, parents, grandparents, children, commercial fishermen, farmers, mechanics, carpenters, professors, students, retirees, musicians, government officials, protestors, clergy, social workers, politicians, entrepreneurs, real estate developers, scientists, engineers, teachers, car dealers, retail workers, athletes, and many other folk.
I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve encountered who were overtly racist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful.
Most of the people I've met are – surprise – just like you, just like me. They get up early to go to their jobs. They raise their kids and make sacrifices to provide them with a good home and an education. They look after their elderly parents. They love their pets. They worry about family members in war zones. They wonder whether their kids will be able to live their own American dream.
So I read with alarm last night the diaries and comments crying out for a boycott of the State of North Carolina as retribution for their votes on Amendment One. An economic boycott sounds like a great idea for a few minutes. With wallet as weapon, you can send a clear message to them that they sure screwed up this time. If this is the sort of state they want, then they can kiss your tourism dollars and other financial investments and contributions goodbye. That’ll show ‘em. They’ll change their ways, or suffer your continued financial cold shoulder.
The first problem with this scenario is that You Cannot Enlighten the Unconscious. Think about it: how likely is it that the hateful, paranoid, bigoted Right-wing knuckle-draggers will grasp your message, and if they do, what do you imagine they can do in the extremely unlikely event that you have enlightened them?
Meanwhile, as your war of error rages on, you also send a clear and painful message to the fine folks – including some of our hardworking Kossacks - who toiled in the trenches to oppose Amendment One that they’re now on your shit list, for the simple rookie mistake of living in a state with some people who don’t share your enlightened view. Collateral damage, I guess you’d say. It’s unfortunate, but North Carolina has to pay a price for failing to vote “your” way.
As “cassandracarolina”, the “Carolina” part looms large in my life. My husband and I built our eventual retirement home in North Carolina in 2009-10 during the height of the recession. In the course of our time there, we’ve have consulted with, contracted with, and purchased goods and services from many wonderful people in addition to many of our new neighbor.
Building a home connected us with dozens and dozens of great people, each of whom brought their creativity, problem solving skills, attention to detail, craftsmanship, and work ethic to the project. From the designer and builder and site foreman and the individuals and crews who handled the site prep, permitting, surveying, drafting, foundations, masonry, carpentry, roofing, drywall, electrical, plumbing, painting, flooring, woodwork, HVAC, windows and doors, cabinets, and landscaping, to the folks at the design centers and stores where we bought our appliances, lights, fans, plumbing fixtures, carpeting, wood flooring, tile, granite, sound and security systems, landscape plants and trees, locally-made North Carolina brick and all of the other elements of our home, it took a village to build a home.
Many of these people are sole practitioners or owners or employees of small businesses. The recession hit them hard, as many of their would-be customers faced their own financial problems, and even those with good jobs and solid credit found themselves unable to borrow from cash-rich banks fearful that building contractors would go out of business. I’d like to think that our home-building project helped to sustain some of these individuals and small businesses through the tough times.
These are the very sorts of folks who, still trying to recover and rebuild their own situations after some very difficult years, would be hit by your boycott. Eddie. Bill. Ann. Phil. Jessica. Dennis. Harry. Cam. Lucinda. Leslie. Jimmy. John. Jackie. Brad. Buddy. Brent. Jeff. Nice people. Hard workers. Just like us, they have bills to pay, families to support, ambitions of expanding their business. From my dealings with them, I can assure you that they’re not hateful, paranoid, bigoted Right-wing knuckle-draggers.
There’s a wonderful little restaurant in my small North Carolina town that’s full of Obama memorabilia, including photos of the owner with Obama during the campaign, posters, paintings, drawings, newspaper clippings, and a framed invitation to the inauguration. Nowhere in my travels have I walked into a place so overtly and joyously celebrating our president. It’s a small main-street business bursting at the seams with customers waiting in line for the wonderful home-cooked food and the positive vibe that pervades the place.
This is the North Carolina I love. It’s also been the long-time home state of my Dad’s half brother who shared over half a century in a committed relationship with his male partner until that beloved partner passed away a few years ago. They were married in every sense of the concept other than the legal protections. A defeat of Amendment One would have paid homage to this extraordinary union of souls.
It didn’t happen last night, but the tide is turning, and North Carolina’s time will come. In the mean time, remember that there are many wonderful people who will need our help in embracing this new day. Don’t tar us all with the Tarheel boycott brush.