My Country, North Carolina

All right, I’d like to take five to address the fact that North Carolina is considering another bill to limit the rights of our LGBT citizens to marry and stand up and be counted equals in the light of the sun. Obviously, I think this is monstrous. It’s ideologically motivated, and I don’t like ideologies. It’s cruel, and I don’t like cruelty. But that’s not brave of me to say, and it’s not revolutionary. It may be revolutionary for me to say as someone on the political right, but I don’t think of it as a thing requiring great courage or even an opinion of particular novelty. It’s the right course of action. So that is not why I am writing this. Rather, I am writing this because I have seen several people–both here and on Twitter–expressing their embarrassment and shame to be accounted citizens of this state which I love most of all those in our Union, and most of all the countries of Earth.

North Carolina is my home, and has been my entire life. I expect that it will always be my home, and expect that it will one day keep my bones, as it keeps the bones of my grandfather. Because of this, I feel a tremendous weight of fondness for this place, and for Raleigh most of all: City of Oaks and tangled highways.

Not too long ago, I was in New York City, explaining to my new and cosmopolitan friends there just what sort of place it was I come from. I felt for a moment that defensiveness, that sense of careful shame and safeguarding directed at protecting the creeks and suburban enclaves of my home. I felt a need to explain that we weren’t up to our eyeballs in Confederate battle flags and obsessed with bathroom regulations. Heavens, I account myself a conservative and you could not find two shoes less likely to fit my feet. It occurred to me then, as it occurs to me now, that I was then in the city that thought “stop and frisk” was an acceptable policy.

My point is this: no place is wholly good or evil, just as no person is wholly good or evil. Rather, each place is BOTH good AND evil. Every culture oppresses and constrains. That’s what a culture is for. It tells you how you have to live because you have to learn to live with one another, and we can’t share a roof or a city if we’re all so radically different we can’t communicate. That’s Babel. That’s what the patriarchy everyone harps on about IS: it’s culture’s tendency to shape the behavior of the people in it, whether they will or no. (We can talk another time about why culture is typed masculine in rhetorical and dramatic structures). But cultures also protect and define. Like our actual fathers, they give us structure, they teach us who we are, how to be, how to stand up as finished people and speak the truth. Sometimes they go too far. They make mistakes. They hurt. But we can change that.

This bill does not speak to the North Carolina I believe can be. It does not speak to the North Carolina I believe should be. Must be. But I will not be ashamed of my state because of it. The soil is innocent of the law, as are most of the people living under that law. We can be the change we want in the world, but we cannot do so from a place of shame, of disgust, of contempt. We cannot improve the world if we hate all that it is. If we are embarrassed by it. The lawmakers downtown are making a mistake. They are making a mistake from an ideological place, and I say again: I do not like ideologues. Left or right. They’re pathological and are acting from precisely the same place of shame as those of you who turn your eyes down and whisper “Yeah, I’m from North Carolina.” As if it were the outer vestibule of hell or some failed state half a world away, war torn and backwards.

You cannot believe that and embetter the world. You do nothing but drag your own pathologies into the light. You make the world meaner. If you fight for truth, for love, for justice–whatever you call it–you cannot do so meanly. Weakly. With shame. Be proud of the place you’re in, be proud of where you come from: not despite its flaws, not because it’s perfect (it’s not), but because you are here. And you can it better.

But you have to sort yourself out first.

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