I got a great walking workout this past Saturday in downtown Raleigh and I had a lot of company. I walked among tens of thousands of other people in the Moral March to protest the North Carolina legislature’s attack on its own citizens.
Though there have been many demonstrations large and small against our current legislature, I did not join the crowd until yesterday. I am not by nature a marcher or a demonstrator. I am a writer, an analyzer, a thinker, a strategizer, even a donator. I am something of an introvert and I generally prefer to make my voice heard in ways that do not involve being among large and loud crowds of people.
But sometimes things get so bad that even the quiet among us have to raise our voices. There are times when we have to take a walk on what may be for us at least – the “wild side.” (Don’t take me literally: the march was anything but wild. It was peaceful, positive, and inspiring.)
If you’re not in North Carolina maybe you’ve read or heard about us, because our current trajectory back into the dark ages has been the butt of many national media jokes. Demographics are changing and North Carolina is slowly trending more progressive, and our current GOP lawmakers are terrified. They are making what I dearly hope will be their last stand in this state right now. With a Republican Governor and massively conservative republican majority in the General Assembly, the old white guys have been giving it their best shot. And they’ve been causing pain, heartache, and hardship for many of the citizens they were elected to serve.
They’re been singularly focused on strategic redistricting and restricting voting rights, because they know if enough people actually are able to vote here in the next election they’ll lose. (But how crazy for elected officials to be anti-democracy). They’ve refused to expand Medicaid – because why would a wealthy country want to provide health care to its citizens with the most needs? They’ve made abortion more restrictive and refused to extend unemployment benefits during a devastating recession. The list goes on. But the most devastating thing, to my eyes and to many others of ALL political affiliations, is massive cuts to public education, from preschool on up to college.
My family moved to North Carolina from the Northeast less than ten years ago. If it did not at the time have a reputation for good public schools we would not have come here. Parts of North Carolina have seen unparalleled growth and prosperity in the last two or three decades due to companies locating and expanding here and workers moving here – many of them skilled and highly educated. They were attracted here, in part, because of North Carolina’s reputation for good schools. That will stop, if things don’t change, fast.
Most everyone can agree that good schools and education are the surest ticket out of poverty. And since this blog is about health, lets talk about the relationship between poverty and health for a brief minute: Poverty leads to ill health, and ill health leads to poverty. Why? The reasons are complex but boil down to a deadly combination of limited opportunity, few choices, physical and mental hardships, and stress. There is nothing more powerful you could do to reduce rates of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases in this country than reduce poverty.
I consider myself pretty mainstream, so could identify with The Raleigh News and Observer’s opinion page headline on Sunday that “Saturday’s big protest in Raleigh reflects mainstream, not fringe.” The crowd was huge, and certainly attracted many people, like me, who are not habitual rabble rousers. However, caring about people is not now nor I hope will ever be, a fringe belief. Because that was really what all the many different groups present on Saturday had in common.
How incredibly sad that our lawmakers do not seem to share that most basic human value. Until they do, this mainstream mama will march again, and I’ll be bringing more of my mainstream friends along with me.