Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NOW IT'S THE VOTERS' TURN ON THE STATUS OF ABORTION: Those in power in North Carolina’s legislature pledge to do the opposite of what the people they represent want. State Senate Leader Phil Berger said the legislature will take “immediate action” to further restrict the state’s current abortion laws. Those current laws include requirements that patients undergo an ultrasound examination and receive information designed to discourage abortions and a 72-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion. House Speaker Tim Moore explicitly promised further abortion restrictions. “Pro-life protections to be a top priority of the legislature when we return to our normal legislative session in January,” Moore said. It is no exaggeration to say that “Roe is on the ballot.” North Carolina voters will elect members of the state legislature, U.S. House of Representatives and a U.S. senator along with key judges on the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. We need to make sure that when January rolls around, BergerMoore simply won't have any viable options to further restrict abortions in North Carolina. That means paying close attention to the 170 General Assembly seats in play, as well as the appellate court seats being fought over. I have not forgotten the Federal races; I just wanted to make sure readers don't forget how critical our state races are. Now more than ever.

PROUD BOYS SHOWED UP TO A PRIDE STORY TIME IN NC. WHY WERE THEY ALLOWED IN? Intimidation is exactly the reason that they and other protesters showed up to a Wilmington library on Tuesday to protest an LGBTQ-themed story hour for kids — no drag queens involved, just books about children with two parents. The “Official Cape Fear Proud Boys” later posted about the protest on the messaging app Telegram, suggesting others do this to “let them know you’re watching.” The mother of a 17-month-old recounted her feelings to The Wilmington Star-News, saying that “I certainly felt like I was in danger when they entered the building,” and saying that library officials asked the families to stay in the locked room after the stories were over. The event was geared toward children seven and under. The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office was called to the event and said that the protesters were allowed in, per library bylaws, because the library is “open to the public.” They said that the “participants left the library with no incident,” something that witnesses and video footage and photos from the day say is untrue. The county’s Office of Diversity and Equity also said that the families “were not in danger at any time.” The outlet also confirmed with a sheriff’s lieutenant that an argument between a protester and counter-protester resulted in the use of pepper spray, some of which hit a library staff member. Kahney also said that the Proud Boys appeared to be escorted in by the sheriff’s office, something that the office’s spokesperson said was “100% incorrect.” The county’s failure to recognize that as law enforcement and diversity officers is a failure to take the threat of a legitimate hate group seriously. Would the outcomes have been different if they were in white robes, instead of t-shirts? Would they be given the same opportunity to go into the library? Here is an excerpt from a Snopes fact-check: "Rather, he said, an NHSO supervisor had endeavored to walk ahead of the crowd of protesters and make sure they could not enter the room where the Pride reading time event was taking place. According to Brewer, while the protesters were legally permitted to enter the main library building, they would have needed to be properly registered, and accompanied by children, in order to attend the event itself." In other words, they actually *were* escorted into the library and right outside the door to the reading event. Knowing they were there to protest, the sheriff's people should have kept them outside of the library, at a spot where they wouldn't impede library patrons. Allowing them inside was at best a monumental fuck-up, and at worst the intentional facilitation of intimidation by a known violent organization. Either of those demands a probe from the NC SBI.

BE READY, NORTH CAROLINA. THE SUPREME COURT IS COMING AFTER MORE THAN ABORTION: But the most chilling line in the ruling spoke to new steps the court might take on other rights that no longer appear to be safe, either. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion that the court should now revisit other decisions that, like Roe v. Wade, are rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment. He explicitly referenced Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges, which confer the right to contraception, same-sex sexual activity and same-sex marriage, respectively. Overruling these decisions, he said, would “correct the error” that was made in establishing such precedent. The court’s liberal justices, who co-authored a sorrowful dissent, issued a similar warning, writing that the decision not only robs Americans of their reproductive freedom, but also “places in jeopardy other rights, from contraception to same-sex intimacy and marriage.” Abortion is also still legal in North Carolina — for now. Unlike other states, North Carolina doesn’t have a “trigger law” that automatically bans abortion once Roe is overturned. There are still a barriers to access for many people — it’s expensive, clinics are scarce, there’s a lot of red tape — but it will still be possible to legally obtain an abortion in our state. There is, as the court has signaled, a larger battle ahead. It’s one to preserve an even larger group of rights — fundamental ones like the right to privacy, and the right to live and love how we please. State elections will be more important than ever, as the court has declared states the arbiters of abortion and perhaps so much more. That’s what will be on the ballot this November. That’s what North Carolina voters will decide. Looking at the broad canvas, NC citizens have relied on several factors to keep our GOP majority in line. Democratic Governor, Liberal state Supreme Court, and a relatively moderate U.S. Supreme Court, up until a few years ago. Much of what they forced through when they had a Supermajority was enjoined by the courts, including Amendment One that banned same-sex marriage here in NC. But a large portion of that canvas has been splattered with blood, and it won't wash off. Vote like your freedom depends on it, because it surely does.

THE NC GOP'S COPYCAT CRUSADE AGAINST VOTING RIGHTS: It’s a familiar childhood scene – perhaps even from your own. A group of cool, older kids engages in some kind of rebellious action or expresses a shared opinion on an issue of perceived import and soon thereafter, a younger sibling or friend, trying hard to keep up, attempts to mimic their behavior or statements. The younger kid never gets it quite right, or often, even fully grasps the substance of the subject matter, and their behavior will likely be barely acknowledged by the older ones, but the exercise nonetheless makes them feel as if they are at least nominally a part of the gang and helps reenforce household/neighborhood attitudes and pecking orders. For a modern, adult world example of this phenomenon in action, check out the ongoing efforts of North Carolina Republicans in the field of voting rights and “election security.” The weird thing about all this is that it’s hard to say what the real-world impetus for it could be. For more than a decade now, Republicans have prevailed in numerous statewide elections, gerrymandered their way to significant majorities in the state’s congressional and legislative elections, and watched as one of their own operatives – the late and infamous McCrae Dowless – committed one of the few incidents of significant voter fraud in modern state history. Actual incidents of fraud – save for the aforementioned GOP-authored scandal – have been essentially non-existent. Nonetheless, to hear the conservative advocates for these restrictions talk, our state stands constantly on the precipice of electoral disaster – with large numbers of vulnerable immigrants and low-income people of color just champing at the bit to risk prosecution and jail by committing voter fraud felonies. In many ways, the GOP crusade feels like a kind of copycat exercise. It’s as if North Carolina Republicans listen to their de facto leader, Donald Trump, blather on with his big lie about the 2020 election, and watch as their allies in Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere pursue relentless campaigns to seize control of vote counting in their states and, think “we need to get in on this action!” The bottom line: In an era in which extravagant fantasies about election conspiracies have become the stock-in-trade of so many conservative politicians, advocates and TV talking heads, it’s perhaps understandable that North Carolina Republicans would try to mimic their perceived leaders and peers. Let’s hope, however, that election officials (and, if need be, the courts) recognize that such a desire is in no way an adequate basis on which to restrict a precious constitutional right. It is weird. Logic would dictate that you don't screw around with a system that has benefited you, placed you in power. There are a lot of metaphors (changing the horse in the middle of the race) based on such logic, and literally none based on the opposite. But this illogical crusade also reveals something else: the GOP doesn't believe their base has the capacity to recognize the logical disconnect. If fraud was actually rampant, they (elected Republicans) themselves are not legitimate. It boggles the mind.

THE RADICAL REIGN OF CLARENCE THOMAS: Women’s rights had to take a back seat to Trump’s ego and ambition and McConnell’s desire for a conservative court that would pull back the reach of the government, denying protections to Americans who need or value them. They pushed through three conservative justices — one had to defend himself against sexual assault charges and one was in a weird “Handmaid’s Tale”-style sect — and that was checkmate for Roe. Neil Gorsuch and another Trump appointee, Brett Kavanaugh, are now facing accusations from senators that they dissembled to get on the court and played down their intentions to throw out Roe. “I am a don’t-rock-the-boat kind of judge,” Kavanaugh told Susan Collins, according to The New York Times’ Carl Hulse. Thomas’ concurring opinion to the fanatical Samuel Alito’s majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade chillingly warned that he would apply the same rationale to contraception, same-sex marriage and same-sex consensual relations. Back when Thomas’ nomination ran into resistance, the Bush administration sold him as a sterling example of a Black man who had pulled himself up from rough beginnings. That day in Kennebunkport, Thomas talked about being raised by his grandparents, sharecroppers from rural Georgia. But on the court he has been cruel, pushing opinions that would grind down the poor and underprivileged. While his wife ran around helping Trump with his coup, Thomas was the senior firebrand in a coup of extremists on the court. They yanked power away from John Roberts and are defying the majority will in this country in ways that are terrifying. The court is out of control. We feel powerless to do anything about it. Clarence Thomas, of all people, has helped lead us to where we are, with unaccountable extremists dictating how we live. And that is revolting. This is the moment Clarence Thomas has been waiting for since he was recklessly seated. For a long time he's been mostly quiet as a church mouse, because he knew his views were a distinct minority on the Court. But now that he has pliable minions, his time machine is operational, and he intends to use it regularly.


SARAH BALDWIN: I AM NOT A SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN: It’s a dark day in this country now that women, non-binary people and trans men are second-class citizens and have no right to control our bodies and determine whether we wish to carry a pregnancy to term. We must stand up to Republicans and the tyranny of the minority. The only recourse we have left is to vote, protest and demand accountability. I fear for our future as a democracy, but I’m not without hope that together we are stronger than the arrogant fools trying to keep us down. What Sarah said.

ELEANOR KINNAIRD: FOR EVERY ACTION THERE'S A REACTION: Now that a constitutional right to abortion has been overturned, every state where it is illegal should provide free contraception to every person of child-bearing age. The truth is, the Patriarchy depends/relies on unwanted pregnancies to perpetuate itself. Like BergerMoore, surrendering power to others is anathema for the Patriarchy, so they will come up with some other reason to deny/reject free contraception. But forcing them to do that exposes their hypocrisy, so I second this emotion.

KIM CARLYLE: DELUSION TRUMPS TRUTH: Of all the troubling revelations from testimony and video presented in the Jan. 6 House committee hearings, a portion of Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling’s testimony from the fourth hearing was the most troubling. He expressed frustration, feeling “like a shovel trying to empty the ocean,” as he tried to explain the truth to people, against the barrage of Trump’s lies on his “social media megaphone.” As an example, he related taking an attorney step by step, refuting lie after lie about election fraud. Sterling recounted their dialogue, “This wasn’t true. OK, I get that. This wasn’t true. OK, I get that. This wasn’t — five or six things. But at the end (the attorney) goes, I just know in my heart they cheated.” It’s troubling that so many folks let their hearts override their brains. I recall Leo Tolstoy’s words: “Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but … where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless.” The “land of the free” has a freethinking deficit! That discussion needs to continue. Not so much to change people's minds, but to expose their extremely poor judgment. If they actually believe that insane nonsense Trump is still promoting, best we know about it so we can keep them out of positions of responsibility.



Let us not be fractured...

There is a lot of righteous anger out there right now among Liberals and Progressives, so much so that gender is emerging as a focal point of that anger. Not ideology or policy positions, but biology. Let me say upfront that I understand the frustration driving this; white males have controlled the lives of women for so long we are naturally suspect. Our deeper motives are suspect, and just speaking out in support of women is easily seen as exercising privilege. What I'm writing right now could be seen as that.

But whether it originated from a position of privilege or not, I simply cannot be silent in the face of right-wing attacks on women. I won't be. Because that silence has, in my opinion, fertilized the ground that has spawned these attacks. People like Clarence Thomas are counting on such silence, as they slowly chip away at the rights of women. And minorities. And LGBTQ folks. And the list goes on.

But it is incumbent on people like me (white males) to read the damn room. With that privilege comes responsibility. We need to understand that when people are hurting and angry, it's probably not the best time to praise our favorite sportsball team. As innocent as we may think that is, it feels (to many) like a smack in the face. I'm not speculating here; women are telling us this right now.

I am speculating with this: I believe they feel like we're diverting the conversation. Maybe not intentionally? But that could be worse. That we could subconsciously divert the conversation they want to have into areas on which we would prefer to focus. And the more trivial it is, the more frustrating it is, for them.

Be aware guys, and temper your observations accordingly. And if you catch yourself rationalizing the need to interject trivia here and there, be aware of that, too. Because part of you knows it's probably not appropriate, and you need to listen to that part.