On Monday, over 1,000 people attended the Mega Moral Monday rally at the Halifax Mall outside the legislative building in Raleigh. Today, we are sharing one citizen’s story of why she chose to join the 150 people arrested inside the building, the largest mass arrest since the NAACP began the civil disobedience actions in late April. You can view powerful photos from the rally and arrests here.
Why I’m Being Arrested BY CAROL TEAL
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.
So why? Would 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.
So 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.
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.
So what are the decisions this General Assembly has made that I find so horrible that I am willing to stand in front of the chamber doors blocking their way?
I recently tried to come up with the top ten things that trouble me the most and I had trouble narrowing the list. So 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. This decision to turn our backs on so many of our fellow citizens troubles me greatly. This will cause damage that can’t be undone.
- 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. He now fortunately 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 so of necessity will mean a reduction in services and will shift the tax burden to working families and give those of us who are better able to shoulder the tax burden a break. I spent many years working as an accountant doing individual tax returns. This let me see tax policy on ground level. 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. In the perfect world all citizens would educate themselves about what’s at stake and VOTE! We should do everything in our power to encourage people to vote and make it easier to vote. We can do this by expanding early voting not cutting 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 assistant in elementary grades. My undergraduate major was elementary education. I remember being in a classroom with 30 first graders in the 1970’s. I ultimately chose another career path but this experience deepened my admiration, appreciation and empathy for public school teachers. We should do everything we can to support them so they can do the best job possible educating our future citizens.
- In the 1960’s birth control became widely available to women in this country. Women having sovereignty over their lives by controlling their reproductive lives 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.
So these and many other reasons are why I feel so compelled to act as a citizen and engage in this non-violent act of 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, and the child who will be in a crowded classroom and all the people waiting in long lines, unnecessarily, to exercise their most basic responsibility of citizenship – voting.
And whether you like it or not – we are all in this together. We breathe the same air literally and figuratively. Our human destinies are bound together. We do have responsibilities to each other and we do better as individuals when we all collectively prosper.
Having a child makes you care more about the world because you realize on a very visceral level that your child has to live in the world we create.
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. Let’s make sure all our children have a quality education and all our citizens have access to quality affordable healthcare.
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 talking about how we are damaging our state and what we need to do to make it great again.
This is why I’m being arrested.
Carol Teal, citizen