This is not a decision I made lightly but in the end it’s one I made without hesitation. Before getting to the essence of why, I had to attend to some practical matters. Did I have the support of my family? – yes. Would it affect my job? – no. Could I post bail? – yes.
It’s easier for me to do this than most people. I’m almost 60 years old, nearing the end of my career. I won’t lose my job. This is not a brave thing for me to do – just a necessary thing.
Why is it necessary? Will this likely have an impact on the legislators making the decisions that I think are so harmful – probably not. Shouldn’t I honor the process of the last election that put all these people in office – absolutely. I do.
The real reason I’m doing this is I need to be a citizen today – in the most profound way possible. And I need to honor Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Jesus and do it in a serious nonviolent way.
What are the decisions this General Assembly has made that I find so troubling that I am willing to stand in front of the chamber doors blocking their way?
There are too many to enumerate here. For now, I want to just share a few that are personal to me.
- Denying access to healthcare to half a million North Carolina citizens. When our governor and legislators turned their backs on Medicaid expansion, this is exactly what they did. This is personal to me because last year my son had a serious blood infection that lodged in his spine and crippled him. He is perfectly healthy today and just finished his first year in college because he had access to quality healthcare. If he had not – he might not even be here today. Denying people access to healthcare is WRONG – on every level and it will cost people’s lives.
- One of the first things this General Assembly did was drastically cut unemployment benefit at a time when so many in North Carolina are hurting and our unemployment rate is so high. My brother, an Iraq war veteran was unemployed for a long time. Fortunately he now has a job in another state – but I know how hard this was for him and his family. We can’t turn our backs on people who through no fault of their own are out of work and want nothing more than to find a job to support themselves and their families.
- Another thing I find very troubling is the proposal for “tax reform” that will bring in less revenue and cause a reduction in services while shifting the tax burden to working families and giving those of us who are better able to shoulder the tax burden a break. I can’t believe we are “reforming” our tax policy so working families pay more and millionaires pay less.
- The strength of a democracy depends in large part to the extent to which we all participate in the process – primarily by voting. We should do everything in our power to encourage people to vote and make it easier to vote. We should expand early voting — not cut it. We should make it easy to register to vote and not impose unnecessary barriers to voting.
- Another pillar of a strong democracy is educated citizens. Our NC Constitution is clear about our responsibility to provide a quality education. Almost everyone in my father’s family is a public school teacher. They work hard, don’t make a lot of money and know how important their work is. I admire them greatly for their dedication to the common good. We need to do everything we can to strengthen public education – not take money away from it by providing vouchers to attend private schools. And I really can’t believe we are talking about increasing class sizes and eliminating teacher assistants in elementary grades.
- In the 1960’s, birth control became widely available to women in this country. We know that women gain sovereignty over their lives by controlling their reproductive lives: this is one of the most important advances in the history of civilization. Really it is. If women can’t control this aspect of their lives, they have no control. I never thought we would be trying to deny access to birth control in 2013. Women should be able to make their own personal decisions about their bodies and reproductive health. Period.
These are the actions of the General Assembly — among many others — that compel me to act as a citizen and engage in non-violent civil disobedience. It is a simple thing that one individual can do and I am proud to stand with my fellow citizens to say this to the General Assembly:
You have gone too far. The things you are doing are hurting our citizens and the damage can’t be easily undone. Think about the mother being denied healthcare, the father whose unemployment benefits are cut, the child lost in a crowded classroom and all the people waiting in long lines, unnecessarily, to exercise their most basic responsibility of citizenship – voting.
I implore our legislators to care about all the citizens of the great state of North Carolina. Let’s do everything we can to make sure everyone can reach their highest potential as a human being.
And I promise my fellow citizens that I will do everything I can to honor this great country that I have the privilege to live in by standing up against the damage being done to our state and advocating for what we need to do to make it great again.
This is why I’m being arrested.