NC Moral Monday: we are democratic citizens, not royal subjects

MM-plaza700This week I joined thousands of my fellow North Carolinians to protest the General Assembly’s extremely un-representative actions that are tearing apart the fabric of society in our state. People of all races and walks of life came together in support of voting rights, education, and economic justice. The NAACP-led coalition was truly a “big tent,” including preachers, doctors, mothers, farm workers, lawyers, elected officials, people looking for jobs, LGBT activists, Planned Parenthood, and more, all gathered to insist that the needs of all the people in our state be considered and represented by the General Assembly. About 1600 people joined in the rally, including 150 people were willing to be arrested as they expressed their opinions inside the General Assembly. The Raleigh News & Observer has extensive photo coverage online, which I highly recommend. It really hit home to me to see many of my friends arrested in this manner.

Amy Tiemann, Rep. Verla Insko, and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, who was later arrested at Moral Monday

Amy Tiemann, Rep. Verla Insko, and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, who was later arrested at Moral Monday

Since the Republicans gained control of the State Senate, State House and Governor’s Mansion, our elected officials have acted like the state is their plaything, for the amusement of their cronies and the very rich. I recently heard about a scientific discovery that haunts me as I think about the lack of representation we are getting right now. Scientist-historians at the Library of Congress have found a draft of the Declaration that shows the work in progress of creating a new kind of nation: Thomas Jefferson had written the word “subjects” to describe the people of the 13 colonies, but he then obliterated it and replaced “subjects” with the word “citizens.” This reminds me that our country really was a bold experiment that required courage and creativity. It was DIFFERENT to think that the power and legitimacy of a government came from the people, and existed to serve the people, rather than an all-powerful King. The Republican majority in North Carolina would like to act like the whims of the 110 Republicans in the state House and Senate plus Governor Pat McCrory and his “budget director,” conservative mastermind Art Pope, can dictate the future of 9.75 million North Carolinians with no consequence. The Moral Monday protests are showing otherwise, and are capturing the attention of citizens across the state and even the nation.

I am speaking as someone who technically might “benefit” on a very superficial level from Republican tax cuts. My tax bill might go down a little bit, but along with many people at Moral Monday, I see the well-being of the state of North Carolina as more than a slightly increased bank account balance. I certainly don’t want a tax cut for the well-off to be created on the backs of struggling families. What do I want to see? I want my child and all children to have a solid public education, as mandated by our NC State Constitution. The Republicans have cut vital Pre-K education for thousands of kids, eliminated a BILLION dollars from the education budget, and want to divert public school money to private school bills through vouchers.

I want families who are struggling economically to have a safety net to help them make it through this recession. The Republicans have slashed unemployment benefits as families are still struggling.

I want all children to grow up in healthy families. The Republicans want to kick pregnant women out of Medicaid, and rejected federally-funded Medicaid expansion to 500,000 North Carolinians who could have gained health care. I want my daughter to have medically-accurate sex education and access to reproductive health care as she grows into an adult. Republicans want to legislate medically-inaccurate, conservative political language into public school sex education; are putting up obstacles to health care access to teens (requiring notarized parental permission for STD screening or mental health care); and are attacking reproductive rights every chance they get. You may have heard more about the legally-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds in Virginia, but our lawmakers decided to stick it to women first here first in North Carolina.

Peaceful protesters on one side of the street....

Peaceful protesters on one side of the street….

...Police and prison buses on the other side of the street, outside the NC State Legislature.

…Police and prison buses on the other side of the street, outside the NC State Legislature.

Twelve years ago, my family was drawn to North Carolina from Silicon Valley by the dynamic software company Red Hat. We love it here. We plan to live and work here for the rest of our lives, but truly feel that the strength of our state is under attack right now. Businesspeople I talk to want to be able to hire people within, and recruit employees to North Carolina based on excellent public education, beautiful environment, and a healthy state. As a business owner myself, I am dismayed and embarrassed by the destruction being wrought by the Republican majority. 2014 is coming sooner than we think–and we need the citizens to stand up, demand to be heard, and turn back this tide as soon as possible.


“Why I’m being arrested” by Carol Teal

“North Carolina’s Tug-of-War” by Chris Kromm, Sue Sturgis, The American Prospect
What happens when a state becomes more progressive and more conservative at the same time?

Planned Parenthood’s “Mad Men” protest. “We like watching Mad Men, but don’t want to live in it.”

Legislation to Watch list by NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina

[I plan to add additional links and photos later but want to share my impressions now as a work in progress.]

President Obama stands up for women’s rights

I was so heartened by President Obama’s recent message standing up for women’s rights. A must-watch video.

Why I can’t afford to have another baby as a member of the sandwich generation

This week I am truly seething just thinking about the efforts to restrict women’s access to contraception. Wasn’t this a battle we fought and won almost 50 years ago? Who are old white men to dictate a woman’s reproductive choices? The talking heads, pundits, policymakers and Bishops sure don’t appear to have many women among them.

As for policy I would say emphatically that if you are in a position of providing health care or health insurance, you must provide all of the safe and legal reproductive health care that a woman or man would need. For women in particular, reproductive health care is often our main need for health care and the issue that gets us into the doctor’s office on a regular basis. The truth is that women have all sorts of reasons for their reproductive choices, and I believe firmly that none of these decisions should be anyone else’s business besides a woman and her doctor and any family and friends she chooses to involve.

You would think that at age 43 and married for 15 years, this might be a hypothetical issue for me, or one that I would only be worried about for my daughter’s generation, but it’s not. In my case, it has been incredibly clear to me lately that I cannot afford to have another child. Not for financial reasons, but because of where I am in my life and the incredible pressures I have been under. For the past two years, I have been not a “stay-at-home Mom” but rather practically a “stay-at-home-adult-caregiving daughter.” Starting in March 2010, my life as I knew it started to fall apart. My father fell ill suddenly and needed intense attention (especially since my parents were divorced and I am an only child), then immediately after I had gotten him moved and settled, my mother got critically ill and lived only seven weeks before passing away. I took care of my mother for those intense seven weeks, which was both an honor and a sad, immense life milestone. Some days, I feel like I will always divide my life into Before and After losing my mother, who was my confidante, support system and my best friend. And, in addition to the emotional transitions, a year and a half later, I am still finishing up my work as the executor of her estate. And now, my husband is learning what it means to be a sandwich-generation son averting a crisis by finding care for his mother and helping her relocate nearby.

All the caregiving energy I have is going into my family members including my father and mother-in-law, as well as my daughter. I cannot afford the stress, physical demands, or sleep loss of mothering another child. I am 43 and I am moving on to another stage of my life, and I am thrilled to be the mother of an almost-teenager. I can’t imagine starting all over with another baby until I am ready to be a grandma, a decade or more from now. And ironically, my husband and I would have welcomed a second child with open arms up until I turned 40, but we were apparently suffering from “secondary infertility,” which means that we had no trouble getting pregnant the first time (3 months of trying), but were never able to get pregnant a second time (5 years of trying). I say ironically, because the medical consensus is that even if we were probably infertile and could not count on having more children, there was always a chance that I could become pregnant, so if we decided that our family was complete, we would need to use birth control. Because of additional medical benefits, I chose a contraceptive that was both expensive and would be outlawed by “personhood” laws that have been backed by conservatives including two Presidential contenders, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Santorum has very specifically, directly opposed contraception even for married couples. All of which makes me ask, what country am I living in? What year? What planet? Of course if people don’t want to use birth control that is their personal decision but where do they get off telling other people what to do? I feel like we have lost all sense of what responsibility and accountability means when employers talk about offering birth control as part of an insurance plan as an infringement of their own religious beliefs. No one has to use birth control and offering heath insurance does not mean that you endorse the personal choices that people make under that health care plan–again, important health care decisions of all kinds are not anybody’s business except a patient and her/his doctor.

Why am I telling you these personal details? Because life is complicated, and women are smart and thoughtful people who deserve to be trusted. Because I am angry and outraged that anyone would try to come between me and my health care in such a personal, imperative part of my life. Because it is absolutely essential that women to keep speaking up–the Susan Komen-Planned Parenthood funding backlash shows that a spark is there, that women will speak up against the War on Women [see also NY Times] which has really gotten out of control. Because the media coverage of the latest controversies about birth control has lacked the personal, grassroots voices that bubbled up so effectively and suddenly in response to the Komen controversy. Real women with real-life concerns need to reclaim our stories and stand up for what we need, every day. What do you have to say?