Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Be careful, the children are watching.


Two of my favorite flags fly above the ferry named Ocracoke, as it crosses the Pamlico Sound on the Outer Banks of my beloved home state of North Carolina. My recent visit reminded me how much I truly love North Carolina. From the deep green mountains to her sandy dunes and crystal waters on the coast, North Carolina is a beautiful state. I have always been proud to come from the state where the first colonists began to live in this country. After leading the way some 429 years ago in settling a new home for people escaping political, religious, and class persecution, I would hope to see North Carolina lead the way in the recognition of basic human rights of all it's citizens.
Recently the legislature of NC voted to place a proposed Amendment to the state constitution on a ballot in May of 2012 that will prohibit state recognition or validation of “domestic legal unions” except marriage between one man and one woman. There are plenty of places to find out the nuts and bolts of this amendment, http://equalitync.org/ is a great place to start. Equality NC has done a great job of pointing out how detrimental this amendment would be to all of NC's citizens, not just the LGBT community that is obviously the target of this attack. What I want to talk about is the children.

"How do you say to your child in the night?
                                           Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white
How do you say it will all be all right
When you know that it might not be true?
What do you do?
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say 'Listen to me'
Children will listen" 
(from: "Into the Woods")

How do those people who are pushing this bill reconcile telling a child that they are considered a second-class citizen in the state they live in? How do they plan to keep the bullies from using this amendment as an excuse to ridicule and berate a classmate for being born different from them? After all, if the adults think that the LGBT community is not worthy of recognition then why should they learn tolerance. It wasn't too many years ago when the same arguments were used against the black community in NC. I remember desegregation and the unrest we all lived through. I also remember my parents teaching us to judge others by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. What are these people teaching their children? 
Two kinds of lessons can be taught here. One of bigotry and hypocrisy, where people who believe differently than you are to be looked upon as less than human with no right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's not just the LGBT community, but all un-"married" couples lose rights under this bill. So if Johnny happens to be the son of two people who chose to have a civil union and not a marriage, even if they are man and woman, his family will lose all rights pertaining only to "married" couples. It teaches children that the "separation of church and state," they learn about in school, is just another rule adults ignore. They learn that it's okay to call someone an "abomination," when that person has no more control over their sexuality than the color of their skin. It teaches children to hate based on nothing more than what they've heard repeated by adults with agendas. This is blatantly illustrated by the fact the vote will take place during the NC Republican primary. If that's not stacking the deck and an obvious ploy to rile up the conservative voter, then I have some land I'd like to sell you in the Everglades. 
The other lesson that could be taught here is one of tolerance and acceptance of people who are different from you. Watch a group of very young children play. Unless someone points out the differences, they usually don't notice. They learn to belittle and bully by watching adults. Teaching a child to form opinions of others based on character and not some preconceived notion of an entire group of people is a valuable lesson. One could also teach a child that standing up for other peoples' rights, and in some cases their own, is an honorable thing to do. No one is free until we all are free. Isn't that what this country was supposed to represent?
If I am going to be a second class citizen in the state I love, how do I tell a child that it gets better? It's getting worse. Outright hate speech is the norm now in the political arena. What are the proponents of this bill teaching the children? People say don't bully. In my opinion, that is just what the supporters of the amendment are doing. They are following the bully code: 1) degrade the person publicly. 2) Make up  lies about the person and then make sure you spread the lies thoroughly. 3) Separate the person from any allies through fear and intimidation. 4) If you get caught bullying then say it's the other person who is too sensitive. After all, you are not really doing anything wrong, right?
I sincerely hope the people of NC do the right thing and show up at the polls to vote this amendment down. Be leaders once again and show the nation that you are a progressive state. Show the children that this is truly a country and a state where all citizens are created equal with the same inalienable rights.  Teach them that love not hate is the way it will get better for all of us. 

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