Dear North Carolina Redux



I’ve written before about my deep love for North Carolina, where I spent three raucous literary years, not only writing memoir, elegy, love stories and creepy fiction but also learning unwieldily lessons about myself, the south, teaching and healing trauma and grief with the pen.  I was taken down a peg by thoughtful, slightly conservative farm boys who became some of my best friends, and I prevailed hard upon their senses to rethink some of what I perceived as assbackwards values.  I spent a lot of time as an infantile leftist in my college years and after, so the immersion in an old Southern city like Wilmington for graduate school and exposure to thoughtful opponents was very good for my  tolerance and moved me forward in being able to communicate respectfully instead of shout.  Of course, I couldn’t help but hope that North Carolina would bleed out of its bigoted, hateful history in time for the first black President.  Like many a guilty white boy, I had my eyes on race (also, it’s quite difficult not to focus on skin color given Wilmington’s particular history–see Philip Gerard’s Cape Fear Rising for a full account).  But last year when NC voted down gay marriage–or to “protect” traditional marriage–I was deeply saddened, out of proportion to my expectations that should have been low, I suppose.  I wrote a sad letter to North Carolina, published here.  What I failed to note in my writing then was that it was nothing less than a miracle that North Carolina came as close as it did to joining the progressive tide on the issue of gay rights.  I failed to see progress from another angle.  


I’ve heard snippets of newscasts over the last few days. In one, I was told the anecdote of Governor Pat McCrory delivering a plate of chocolate chip cookies to pro-choice protesters dressed as 50s housewives.  He insisted it was a “peace offering” (read: you can’t have abortion, but you can have cookies…peace!) without a trace of irony.  In another brief reading of some article between various tasks at my desk, I understand that North Carolina has made it legal to bring guns into bars, which makes sense, because, you know, drunk people are dangerous sometimes.  And in yet another blast of newsworthiness from NC, radically restrictive abortion regulations have sailed through as a rider on a motorcycle safety bill.  After all, motorcyclists need more protection just as the whores who get pregnant out of wedlock or because they’ve been raped (probably due to their own impure actions) need to know they’re not going to be able to just get rid of that baby “safely.”  So, in a way, it’s kind of poetic–you know, motorcycle “safety” and abortion danger.  


It’s really like a dystopian novel unfolding in a way, shit you just can’t make up.  


But I’m not going to make the mistake I made last year in writing a scornful, sad and dismissive letter to North Carolina.  Because I’ve grown up some more and had the great good fortune of insightful thinkers, both southerners and godless Pacific Northwesterners, to push my thinking around usefully.  North Carolina is flying a purple flag today; North Carolina is a battle ground; North Carolina is in the midst of a beautiful struggle and every single week dozens or hundreds of brave people put their bodies on the line in the effort to haul North Carolina–like an old school dredge that cut through old swamps of the state–into the bright future of progressive social values.  All of the brave people who populate the movements in North Carolina are defying history and defining the future and they deserve letters of encouragement and love, not disappointment and shortsightedness.  Here is mine for today.


(Oh, and if you want to know the whole political story, google “Art Pope.”)


(And if you want an encapsulated, hilarious version, read Dave Gessner’s cartoon)


  1. I’m holding hope that the right has finally started their path off the deep end. In my area at least it won’t be equal marriage or abortion that tips the balance, but budget cuts. This week the local teachers (generally a fairly convertible group if they want to keep their jobs here) gathered to rally against the huge cuts. We won’t change the minds of most of the current legistulature, but maybe we can find some different, slightly less asshole ones soon.

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