The moral thing to do

By: - February 4, 2014 6:12 am


Eight reasons to march this Saturday – rain or shine

This Saturday’s Moral March on Raleigh (also known as the “Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly” or “HKonJ”) is the eighth such event to take place since the movement was formally launched in February of 2007. Coming, as it does, on the heels of last year’s groundbreaking and nationally acclaimed Moral Mondays protests, it is also all but certain to be the largest and most important march yet.

There are dozens of excellent reasons to attend, but here are eight – four “big picture” reasons and four more practical, down-to-earth ones – that explain why it is essential for you to be a vocal and active participant:

The big picture

#1 – North Carolina is Ground Zero in the ideological contest over the nation’s future –America may be politically polarized at this moment in its history, but at some point in the foreseeable future, a combination of demographic, economic and, perhaps even environmental changes is going to help break the logjam. And while there are some encouraging indications that things will break in a progressive direction – the rapid progress in LGBT equality is perhaps the most obvious sign – this is anything but a sure thing, especially given the overwhelming financial resources at the disposal of the forces of reaction. Right now, no state in the union better exemplifies this sharp divide than deeply purple North Carolina. There is simply no more urgent time or better place to join the struggle.

#2 – North Carolina’s reactionary state leadership and its backward-looking policy agenda – Of course, a key reason for our state’s Ground Zero status is its current political leadership. After many years of moderate governance and painful, incremental progress, the state’s powers-that-be have lurched wildly right. Bolstered by a gerrymandered electoral map, unprecedented millions in outside corporate money and the go-for-broke, full-speed-in-reverse attitude, the state’s elected leaders are rolling back decades of progress faster than you can say “Tea Party.” At such a moment in history, it is simply essential that all caring and thinking people stand and be counted – especially at the state’s single most important protest demonstration in years.

#3 – The blood-boiling behavior of the state’s leaders – It’s one thing to enact a reactionary set of laws as long as your arm; it’s quite another to do it in the manner and with the contemptuous attitude that has been the hallmark of the McCrory administration and the current legislative leadership. Whether it’s the 180-degree flip-flops on campaign promises, blatant untruths about the substance and impacts of their actions, the outrageous and disingenuous manipulation of data and statistics, the repeated hiring and elevation of laughably-unqualified political cronies, the absurdity of a high public official personally funding the so-called “think tanks” that act as an echo chamber for his actions and proclamations, the contempt for government and the people it serves or the just plain meanness that runs through it all, these are unprecedented times.

#4 – The state (and nation’s) obscene inequality – In recent weeks it has come to light that the planet’s fast-growing inequality has reached almost unimaginable levels. According to the group Oxfam International, 85 individuals now possess as much wealth as the 3.5 billion souls who make up the bottom half of the world’s population. Meanwhile, in the state of North Carolina, good, honest families with children are going hungry because the state Department of Health and Human Services is so hopelessly and embarrassingly inept and underfunded that it cannot even get the pathetic sums in Food Stamps that it makes available to needy families properly processed.

The down-to-earth reasons

#5 – There’s nothing to be afraid of – For many people, the idea of protest and confrontation is scary. This sense of concern is only heightened when the arrests have occurred at some of the events leading up to the one in question. “What am I getting myself into?” goes the thinking. “Am I going to be in jeopardy, somehow?”

For such people, there is a simple message: Don’t worry. First off, there will be no arrests or civil disobedience this Saturday as that’s never been a part of HKonJ. More to the point, though, is the fact that the whole tenor of the event is one of peaceful solidarity and celebration. Downtown Raleigh is a friendly, safe, clean place. There are lots of places to park and eat and plenty of people affiliated with the march willing to help folks. The only real sacrifice asked of the marchers is a little of their time, energy and vocal chords. Click here for more information.

#6 – This is a big, doggone deal – HKonJ was a big deal right from the start, but in 2014, it has taken on a life of its own. The Moral Mondays movement has given the event a genuine national profile. Increasingly, the nation’s news media, progressive activists and politicians are turning their eyes and ears and microphones and cameras to our state. Indeed, groups of people are chartering buses from all along the east coast and from throughout North Carolina to come and be a part of the event. Given such a backdrop, how can any true North Carolina progressive sit at home this Saturday and miss out? A little cool weather? A little rain? Come on people, you won’t rust!

#7 – Rev. William Barber – Some people who only know Rev. William Barber, the head of the North Carolina NAACP, via brief snippets on TV or the web have mistaken and incomplete impressions of him and the movement he has helped spark. This is especially true of white progressives who have resisted the religious right and who find it awkward to join a movement led by an African-American preacher steeped in the language and cadences of the southern church.

To such people, once again the message must be this: Relax and come see for yourself. Sure, Barber prays in public, uses church language and premises many of his beliefs and arguments on his understanding of the teachings of his faith – he’s a preacher for Pete’s sake! But his policy messages, his organization and his objectives are thoroughly secular and open to all, whatever their beliefs or lack thereof when it comes to religion. No modern political movement is as diverse and open as this one.

#8 – The morality question – Finally, the discussion of Rev. Barber’s leadership serves to highlight another important issue, namely, the use of the word “moral” in the billing of “Moral Mondays” and the “Moral March on Raleigh.” Here too, some secular progressives object to the use of this kind of language because of its religious overtones. It sounds too much like Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority.

But of course by that logic, progressives couldn’t use words like “liberty” or “freedom” either. After all, both of those words have also been monopolized by the far right in recent years. Indeed, there’s a strong argument to be made that progressives have too often shied away from the use of such overarching language – thus ceding it without a fight to the right.

Put simply, there is nothing inherently religious in the word “moral”; it is a powerful and important word that’s plenty big enough to be of great use and profound meaning to secular and religious progressives alike. Those who get off their duffs to come to downtown Raleigh this Saturday will find out just how big and inclusive a word it can be.

See ya’ there!

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast.