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The risk of doing nothing

By D. G. Martin
Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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Chapel Hill, NC - “We will not be Intimidated or Coerced by Certain Alphabetical Organizations or Committees under the Disguise of ‘Betterment of Certain Groups or Races’.”

It reads like the reactions of some North Carolinians to the Moral Monday demonstrations at the North Carolina Legislative Building recently, doesn’t it?

Like Governor Pat McCrory, when he promised not to “back down” in the face of the demonstrations: “Outsiders are coming in and … they are going to come in and try to change the subject. And I’m not going to let them.”

Or like Republican State Senator Thom Goolsby from Wilmington, who called the demonstrations a circus, “complete with clowns, a carnival barker and a sideshow.”

Goolsby continued, “Never short on audacity, the Loony Left actually named their gathering ‘Moral Monday.’ Between the screaming, foot stomping and disjointed speeches, it appeared more like ‘Moron Monday.’ The gathering was supposed to influence legislators.”

McCrory’s and Goolsby’s comments about Moral Monday are contemporary. But this column’s opening paragraph is 50 years old. It was a June 12, 1963, ad posted in the window of Colonial Drug in Chapel Hill. It let its white customers know that it would not be intimidated by the “Loony Left” groups of the day that were demonstrating for equality and the opportunity to be served and seated at public eating establishments.

Goolsby is in tune with the sentiments of 50 years ago when he said, “Even Democrat pollsters say these protests are hurting their party and its long-term plan to recover power. Regular people, i.e. voters, tend to shy away from the real radical fringe.”

Some contemporary opponents of the Republican programs agree with Goolsby that the Moral Monday demonstrations could be driving away moderate potential allies.

And they worry that the demonstrations could provoke McCrory, Goosby, and others in control to take even harsher action.

Old timers point out, as did Raleigh lawyer and former UNC-Chapel Hill student body president, Bob Spearman, in an excellent talk earlier this year, that the marches and demonstrations of civil rights activists in Chapel Hill and Raleigh in 1963 prompted conservative lawmakers to retaliate by passing the Speaker Ban Law.

There is always a risk that demonstrations and civil disobedience can be counter-productive. Such actions always subject participants to derisive terms like those Goolsby used to describe the Moral Monday participants: “mostly white, angry, aged former hippies.”

On the other hand there is also a risk in doing nothing.

A cross-section of North Carolina religious leaders recognized that risk last week.

Top officials from the Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopalian churches explained their reasons for joining the Moral Monday effort, adopting language from Union Presbyterian Seminary Bible Professor Rodney Sadler, “The North Carolina General Assembly is passing bills that will remove 500,000 people from the Medicaid roles leaving them without health insurance; that will remove 170,000 people from unemployment when unemployment rates remain at historically high levels; that threaten to replace the graduated state income tax with a consumption tax that will adversely impact the poorest North Carolinians who will face increased prices on basic goods; that will force college students to return to their often distant homes to vote or cost their parents their $2,500 dependency deduction, that will take money away from the financially strapped North Carolina public schools to provide vouchers for private schools.”

“These and many other bills will adversely impact those who can least afford it and therefore demand a fervent response from people of faith!”

Their action and commitment will make the Moral Monday effort harder for the McCrorys and Goolsbys to ignore or deride. Their leadership could make Moral Monday the main rallying point for those disturbed by the direction of state government and give many others a way to avoid the risk of doing nothing.

— D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at

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