I didn’t realize how proud I was of where I’m from until I moved away.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I suppose my pride started on the internet. I’m from North Carolina – more specifically, from a chain of islands off the coast of North Carolina. If you’ve been here awhile, you know this. If not, well, now you know. At any rate – I never often found other people from North Carolina on the internet. It just didn’t happen. In recent years I’ve heard of quite a few more people who live there, but still not nearly as many as I’ve met who live…say, up north. I guess because most people were too busy out working the farm or surfing or being hippies to use the internet. I don’t know.
A few months ago, Hurricane Irene hit. I lost contact with my family for 24 hours completely because a crucial strip of road that carried the electricity and phone lines to my parents island – which is only accessible by ferry – got washed out. No…this wasn’t a normal road wash out. A new inlet was cut through the sand. It took roads, electric poles, and parts of homes with it. For 24 hours, I was paralyzed with fear that I would never talk to my parents again.
When the lines came back up and the photos came in, it was terrible. Friends of mine were cleaning out their entire lives from their homes that had been flooded. Places I had played as a child were completely destroyed. My family was fine, of course, but one thing struck me – while all this was happening, the news was focused on New York. New Jersey. When they did get back to North Carolina, they skimmed over it and didn’t mention them at all. I begged, pleaded, sobbed at the television to show me something familiar. To show me home. To show people what had happened.
But they didn’t.
Now, it’s all eyes on us.
I still don’t consider myself a Wisconsin resident. I don’t know if I ever will. I’ve lived here for nearly two years and still carry my North Carolina ID, and it’s going to break my heart to turn it in when we move in a few weeks to get a Wisconsin license. I’ll probably be here for years more telling people “no, I’m from North Carolina.” They have my heart. My family is there. It’s Where I’m From.
Yesterday this amendment passed that…to be honest, I’m not surprised that it did so much as disappointed. It was being publicized as the “gay marriage amendment” – basically, that it would officially once-and-for-all state that marriage is between a man and a woman. Except it did worse.
It also took away the rights of long-term couples who aren’t married. Any kind of civil union or domestic partnership. It’s going to make life dangerous and uncomfortable for a lot of women in abusive relationships with men who are not their husband. It’s a very scary bill.
And it sucks, yes. But here’s what sucks more – the hate that followed.
It’s been very hard for me to be online since last night. The hatred, the animosity that’s been flowing in. People constantly talking about how bad North Carolina is as a whole, and how bad everyone there must be. Making jokes about how redneck and backwards our state is. And worse – threatening to boycott the state by not coming to vacation there.
Let me tell you a few things.
First and foremost – I have traveled the entire state of North Carolina. I know many people can’t say that about where they live, but I have. I’ve been up and down the whole coast, to the built-up city beaches of Emerald Isle to the homes built in the sand accessible only by 4-wheel drive in Carova. I’ve been so far west, through the mountains and the Nanthahalla Pass, that you could throw a stone and it’d land in Tennessee. I’ve been to the rolling hills of the Piedmont, to the wealthy cities (and less fortunate suburbs) of the Triangle, to Greensboro, to Charlotte, to Greenville, to Boone, to Ahoskie, to Kinston – I have seen North Carolina.
And, yes – we can be a little old school.
What saddens me is that when people stop to say how backwards our state is and how redneck or boondocks they don’t look at the larger problem. I have met a lot of people who genuinely believe that everything they see on the news is True. That means that if the news tells them that this amendment is going to protect families and if it isn’t passed that everyone is going to hell, yes, a lot of people are going to believe that. But that isn’t their fault. That doesn’t make them bigots. That makes them ill informed, and we need to work to inform these people better.
I will say it here and now: I did not realize that the news could lie to you until I moved to Wisconsin.
I didn’t. I just didn’t. I didn’t know why people hated Fox News so much, I didn’t know why the news was bad. Then I moved up here. I took part in a protest. And I watched them tear us apart on the news and straight up lie.
Meanwhile, people back home didn’t understand why I was at the protest - because they genuinely believed everything they saw on TV.
That is the real problem here. North Carolina is full of a lot of really great, really genuinely nice people. Many of them – maybe not the full 60% of voters who voted in favor of amendment one, but I’m going to guess a huge chunk – are just ill informed. I’m willing to bet that a ton of common law married couples or civil unions with straight folks voted to take away their own rights on top of gay marriage rights, without even realizing what they did.
We need to EDUCATE, not hate.
Lastly – to those of you that wish to boycott, STOP. Please. Yes, the North Carolina government relies heavily on tourism tax dollars. But you know who else does?
My parents, who work for vacation rental homes. If you don’t come on vacation, they are out of work. They cannot pay their bills. They cannot feed my cat, which would make me really sad.
My friends Ruth and Bob who own a restaurant on the tiny island of Ocracoke. The restaurant is only open from March to October. If you don’t come, they cannot survive for the winter.
If the rental homes do not get business, the restaurants will suffer. If the restaurants suffer, the local fishermen suffer. Eventually they’ll all have to pack up and move up somewhere else – bringing the pacifists, the hippies, the bigots, the liberals, the republicans, the democrats - EVERYBODY with them.
You aren’t going to be telling the government that they suck. The governmetn didn’t do this. A bunch of ill-informed people did this. A bunch of people who can be educated, who can be brought to see the light, who can be talked to and encouraged.
But you won’t be hurting the government. You’ll be hurting my parents. My friends. My cat. People who did nothing wrong – and many, many people who were even against Amendment One. In the days leading up to the vote on Facebook, I saw nothing but “VOTE AGAINST” messages from my friends. Good people are out there – they just didn’t win this time.
Think before you speak. This is my home. A lot of people made a really bad decision – I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Say what you want about the bad decisions, the politicians, the people who are genuinely bigots – but please don’t hate on my home state. North Carolina will always have my heart, and if I know North Carolinians the way I do – I can tell you that they aren’t going to take this laying down. We aren’t going to settle without a fight.