The Ghost of Jesse Helms visited the North Carolina legislature this week. I guess we were moving too far along the Progressive path and he feared his legacy was about to be forgotten, so he had to come back for a visit.
Jesse Helms- or at least his memory and his followers- are still alive and well and living in North Carolina. I forget that sometimes….
I remember when I moved here from Virginia years ago. I didn’t change the tags on my car for as long as possible as I couldn’t stand the thought of North Carolina tags on my car and people seeing them and linking me to Jesse Helms. In those days, he was a universal symbol of all that was hateful, judgmental, mean and petty. Back then, Virginia seemed the more reasonable state.
In more recent years, the loonies have taken over again in Virginia and North Carolina seemed to be becoming a bastion of sanity. Or at least a Purple State. It seemed the old ways and the old days were about to be forgotten and a new era was coming. North Carolina voters supported a Black man in the last presidential election and elected a woman as governor. We have openly gay mayors and legislators. We seemed to have finally put the past behind us and been ready to lead the way into the 21st Century of tolerance and peaceful, non-judgmental coexistence.
I guess it was too much for old Jesse. We all knew he was spinning in his grave and secretly feared something would unleash his ghost.
And it did….
The Ghost of Jesse Helms visited the North Carolina Legislature this week where the remaining followers of Jesse are trying to roll back the clock and bring back legalized discrimination.
By pushing a ballot initiative to ban any sort of recognition for Gay Relationships- not just marriage, but Domestic Partnerships or Civil Unions- the legislature has taken a giant step backwards.
They are showing they are behind the times and fighting a battle that was lost long ago. But in a region that is still fighting the Civil War, how can we expect an easy surrender to Civil Marriage.
Let’s be clear: Marriage is a civil, legal contract. No matter how much the Religious Right carries on, Religion has nothing to do with it. Churches can choose who they marry, but legislators should not choose who to discriminate against. This amendment denies equal protection under the law.
Today, North Carolina moved past a decade of healing and pulled the scab off an old, hateful wound.
My hope is that the people of North Carolina prove that they have moved on, even if their “representatives” have not.
My hope is that they will vote down this mean-spirited attempt to legislate hate, divide people and deny basic legal protection to a class of people.
My hope is the people of North Carolina truly turn out to be the open-minded and open-hearted people I have come to know and love over the past 20 years.
I think they really might surprise those legislators in Raleigh and send Jesse’s ghost away for good.
I hope so….