North Carolina’s Race to the Bottom

There are events that make you wonder if you live where you thought you did or if you woke up in, say, Saudi Arabia. If not Saudi Arabia, then possibly a more conservative state like Texas or Mississippi. Or even Ohio.  Or maybe you still do live in the state but wonder if you’ve been transported back in time, and it is actually 1953 or 1933 and not 2013.

The War on Women has come to North Carolina.  I watched the hateful and horrifying attempts to limit women’s reproductive freedom in Ohio and Texas. I was disgusted by the personhood initiatives in Mississippi and other states. You always think it can’t happen in your state until it does. I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the new conservative majority in the NC General Assembly passed Amendment One and tried to establish a state religion. Last week, the General Assembly approved a bill that would force educators to spread false information about abortion. And, starting July 1, 70,000 North Carolinians, including military personnel, lost extended unemployment benefits thanks to a new law; another almost 100,000 will lose benefits once their time ends. The thought process is that the loss of the cushy benefits will encourage citizens to find work. That might work if there were jobs to be found.

But the General Assembly’s actions yesterday take the cake and bring home the seriousness of the changes in North Carolina. HB695 was a bill that would prohibit the application of foreign law in family court.  Late yesterday, the Senate decided to amend the bill to include major restrictions on abortion:

  • Doctors would be required to remain in the room whether it is a medical or surgical abortion
  • Abortion clinics must go through licensing procedures similar to outpatient surgical centers (there is one clinic that would qualify)
  • Clinics must have transfer agreements with local hospitals

The end result is that it will be extremely difficult for a woman to obtain a safe, legal abortion in North Carolina. Let me reiterate: a legal abortion.

The Senate hoped to avoid demonstrations and news coverage like Texas faced last week, but thanks to social media, that was impossible.  Protesters have rallied outside the General Assembly.  However, unlike Texas, we can’t filibuster this bill to death.

Y’all, I’m scared and anxious. This is not the North Carolina I grew up with. And I’m pissed and angry because I am fucking tired of old white men (and women) trying to decide my reproductive choices. Treating me as if I am not entitled or able to make medical decisions for myself. Deciding that the life of the unborn is more important than my own life; until that life gets here of course.  Then it’s every child for him or herself. Better hope your only option for pre-k isn’t the state’s program because chances are, you’re shit out of luck with this legislature. Better hope you can afford private school because this legislature hates the public school system too.

I’m tired of it. NC General Assembly: get out of my uterus and stay out. You are destroying my state and the progress we made over the last 60 years.  Maybe you should go read that Bible  you’re so fond of quoting; I think you might be surprised at what you find.


As expected, the bill passed the Senate and now returns to the House for a final vote.

For shame, North Carolina.

A Rant on Reproductive “Rights” and Horrible Daycares

I’ve read a few stories the past few days that are horrific.  They make me sick to my stomach and want to cry.  They also force me to conclude that there is not only a war against women (not that I was a doubter) but also that there is true disdain for being a poor woman.

I wonder if the right, the so-called conservatives or family-values brigade, realizes how contradictory its positions are.  Don’t have sex until marriage (the 1900s called and they want their values back), but if  you do and get pregnant, you better keep it.  If you are pregnant, that 8-celled embryo has more rights than you, but don’t expect us to help if the child you dutifully birth needs Head Start to prepare for school.  If you expect to get government assistance (AKA welfare) to subsist, you have to work; where and in what conditions you put those kids we begged you to have isn’t our concern.

Sure, I’m likely generalizing quite a bit and being a bit inflammatory, but honestly, I’m shocked and appalled at what is going on in this country lately when it comes to reproductive rights and then the lack of policies to help care for children from the self-named “family values party.”

Look, people are going to have sex.  They’ve had sex for hundreds of millions of years, and your declaration that sex outside of marriage (a fairly recent invention) is immoral isn’t making a difference.  Women want to have sex responsibly and be in charge of their own reproductive outcomes and seek contraception, yet there is a war on that.  Women get pregnant (because they didn’t have access to contraception) and decide to seek a legal (remember that fact?) abortion.  Unfortunately, for lower income women, it may be difficult to obtain one in the legally-allowed time frame due to cost.  As a result, they may have to seek one at type like Gosnell’s.  Do you think a woman wants to have a partial-birth abortion?  Do you really think a woman wakes up one day and says, “you know, I’m tired of this whole pregnancy thing. Think I’ll get a partial-birth abortion.” The woman who settles on a place like this clinic is desperate and poor.  She can’t afford earlier procedures or better conditions and puts her life in the hands of this so-called doctor.  It’s NOT a whim.

Let’s say the woman decides to have the baby and parent it.  That’s wonderful, right? Except for the fact that she will need to work to support her family and/or obtain any government assistance.  She has to do something with the child, right? Decent, regulated child care can be difficult to obtain at best and unaffordable at worst.  Do you think this mother wants to leave her beloved child in a situation that might cause unease? That might seem unsafe? Daycare is expensive.  Good daycare is VERY expensive.  How can you demand a mother work to receive any assistance, yet make it impossible for her to find decent care for her child?  And then when tragedy happens, you cluck that this is what happens when mothers enter the workforce, conveniently ignoring the fact that you have contributed to this Scylla and Charybdis.

You might be wondering what dog I have in this fight.  I admit that I am privileged.  I own it.  Jimmy and I are fortunate to be able to afford the best daycare for our son and any other services he might need. We have the ability to shop around and evaluate excellent facilities according to our whims. I’ve never worried how we were going to support our family.  Never worried about the toll an extra mouth to feed might take. Never had to fight for any type of contraception (and I write that with great irony given my particular conditions).  Hell, we were able to pay a lot of money to have a baby.  Conservatives, we are your people! Except for the fact that I loathe injustice.  I loathe children not being able to get a fair shake in life. I loathe children being placed in unsafe conditions due to a lack of government intervention.  I loathe women being treated as lower-class citizens.  I loathe feeling like my gender is denied intelligence in some political circles. And I also loathe being told what to do with my own body. And overall, I loathe unfairness.

I wonder what it says about a country that values upholding the right of its citizens to own guns–even guns that could almost be weapons of mass destruction–over valuing and caring for its youngest citizens. As Cohn’s article points out, government subsidy of childcare could have huge returns as far as reduced prison, health and special education costs and increased economic contributions.   To me, it seems a no-brainer. What am I missing?

After Newtown, I lost a friend on Twitter after I tweeted that the Republicans cared more about embryos and potential than actual children since they were reluctant to enact gun control measures.  I understand she was offended, but I stand by that sentiment, and nothing I have read has altered my stance.

The explanation often given is to let the free market decide.  Capitalism will decide. I don’t think so. When I was in high school and learning about different types of economic systems, my teacher pointed out that capitalism without restraints can be very harsh.  Capitalism is the “honey badger” of economic systems.  Unsafe conditions or too-low wages? Capitalism don’t care.  Read The Jungle and then tell me government intervention is  unnecessary. The programs FDR put in place and similar social programs were necessary to blunt the sharpness of Capitalism. Yet too many politicians seek to dismantle them. Why care for the elderly?  Why allow our citizens to feel like their country rewards them for any service? Hell, just let us die and then bulldoze over us to build the next monstrosity to profit (for a few!) Capitalism demands.

I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m furious that anyone, let alone any woman, any mother, regardless of financial status has to justify any decision she makes.  Has to jump through hoops to make pertinent decisions for herself, her body and her children or future children. Has to believe she has no other option than to go to a cut-rate abortion provider who doesn’t even clean up after prior procedures. Has to put her precious child in a situation that feels not quite right in order to earn money.

We live in the richest, most free country in the world, yet we’re content to let religion and dogma prevent us from doing what is ethical and what is right. Am I wrong to be bothered by that?


Great Writing Requires Only Dedication?

I’m a big fan of The Rumpus. If you follow me on Twitter and the stuff I tweet in the wee hours of the morning when I’m in denial that I need to get up and get ready, you probably know this.  I take it as a compliment that a few people have said they enjoy and appreciate the links I tweet.  I’m a mad tweeter and enjoy sharing the interesting articles I find.

The Rumpus is one of my favorite sites for its eclectic articles and points of view. There is a decidedly big-city mindset that is a little foreign to my tiny NC experience.  I signed up for the email notification of new content (please, everyone enable email notification for your content.  Please.) and I like how the editor-in-chief Stephen Elliott doesn’t just link the new stuff but provides explication and reaction to some of the stuff linked.  Last weekend, a lot of the email was taken up by the reaction to the NYT article on Lindsay Lohan’s behavior in The Canyons, a low-budget film with high pedigree based on its actors, director, producers and writers.

The article’s author had been on set during the 3 weeks of filming, and the article is jaw-dropping.  Elliott wrote a long comment in the weekend comment notification about his thoughts on the piece and talent:

There was another article, based on the NYT article, an essay really in Jezebel. It’s supposed to be a takedown of Lindsay, which seems like a soft target. And yet Jezebel gets most everything wrong. In particular, this statement: You don’t have to be a genius to be a working actress, but to be a working actress, you have to be able to recognize that you’re paid to say other people’s words and express other people’s thoughts, not your own.
Actually, to be a great actor you probably do need to be genius, and to be a working actor you probably have to be pretty close to a great actor, unless you have some other special skill. Classes don’t hurt, I’m sure, and dedication, but in truth acting is the one art that clearly requires talent. By that, I mean I’ve never met a natural writer, a talented writer, someone who could just sit down and start writing brilliant prose. If you were to teach a writing class or lead a workshop you would never know who was actually going to develop into a good writer ten years down the line. Almost certainly not who you thought. With writing, what we think of as talent is really just the urge and/or dedication to write everyday. Most anyone who writes everyday will develop into a very good writer eventually. It’s more a question of where you put your energy.

Acting isn’t like that. Some people just have something. And you do have to be smart to be a good actor. You have to be able to interpret a character, as well as inhabit them. You can’t play a character you don’t understand. A really good actor will know the character better than the writer or the director, and always show you something you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. An actor that only does what you tell them, trying to follow instructions like a robot, isn’t worth anything. Further, they don’t trust you, and they’re uncomfortable, and they don’t feel safe. No director wants that

I was surprised that Elliott believes that writing talent can be reduced to urge and/or dedication.  Good writers, amazing writers always had something in their writing that set them apart from the rest.  Yes, of course, they likely took classes to hone the skill of writing and improve it and of course, dedication to writing every day will improve the technique of writing.  However, I do not believe that writing every day or taking a writing class will grow a great writer from a mediocre one.

I tutored a lot of students while I was in college and have read a lot of great, mediocre and downright appalling writing.  It’s even evident in the fan fiction sites I frequent: there is something that sets apart talented writers from less-talented.  It’s more than just a well-crafted sentence and good grammar.  It’s a world view.  It’s the ability to harness a thought and idea and put words to it, to make the words bend to your will.  Perhaps if I were a better, more talented writer, I could better express what I mean!  The bottom line is that it is clear to me that talented writers have something that no class can teach and no amount of time can create.

Conversely, while I agree that there is a natural talent that separates great actors from competent or mediocre actors, I’ve seldom seen any actor who could harness that talent instantly and well without some sort of training and practice.  After all, isn’t that what a director and rehearsals are?  Isn’t the director somewhat analogous to the teacher in the writing class?  Aren’t rehearsals like writing every day?

To me, great acting and writing both require effort and talent. You can be competent through effort alone, but greatness requires talent.

What do you think of Elliott’s opinion? Are there any arts that require less talent than others?  What do you think is required to make a great writer vs a competent one?