Recently there have been a raft of “religious freedom” bills throughout the South (and elsewhere, unfortunately). Most of these seem directly targeted against the Surpreme Court’s recent recognition of marriage equality, although now (e.g. in North Carolina) they seem to be targeting trans citizens. In my opinion, these bills have fuck-all to do with religious freedom and are simply a method in which bigotry can be re-enshrined in places where the courts have outlawed it. (To try to tell whether they’re really about “religious freedom”, look at a law and ask, “If this applied to blacks/Jews/Catholics/Asians/whatever, would it be discrimination?” and that should do it.)
I find this cynical and reprehensible, wildly hypocritical (“It’s all about religious freedom!”; no it ain’t, it’s all about being able to be prejudiced without being called on it), and quite frankly unChristian. How is it in line with the Golden Rule to want to discriminate against your neighbors? Obviously, it isn’t. But that’s not what I want to talk about.
Unsurprisingly, most of these bigoted laws have come out of the South, primarily states that were part of the former Confederacy. There have been laws in Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina to force trans citizens to use the bathroom of their birth sex rather than their gender. And usually people shake their heads at this stuff, say, “Yeah, that’s the South,” and move on. But something surprising is happening this time:
A bunch of businesses, organizations, and artists are saying they’re done.
In case you haven’t seen, the draconian North Carolina law has caused businesses like PayPal and Deutsche Bank and performers such as Bruce Springsteen and Cirque d’ Soliel to pull out of performing there. The NBA is also threatening to pull next year’s All Star game from there as well. As you may imagine, hard-right folks are calling the companies and performers everything from “bullies” to “child molester supporters”, and trying to pretend their happy Springsteen et. alia aren’t coming to their state. (Which wee all know is BS, but never mind.)
And it made me wonder.
It seems like we’ve been relighting the Civil war over various areas of bigotry and discrimination multiple times over the last 150 years. (I’m hardly the first to point this out.) There was the Civil Rights/anti-Jim Crow fights of the 60s; the battle over women’s rights and the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70s; the “Southern Strategy” of Richard Nixon; and the recent battle over marriage equality. A (depressingly) huge number of folks in the South seem to want to keep their region firmly in the 19th Century, and get angry and resentful any time they’re forced to confront their bigotry and prejudice. And now they’re actually being punished for it.
So I wondered if this isn’t sort of like a slow-moving, virtual secession. I mean, I don’t anticipate the South actually breaking off from the rest of the country legally, but what if the region were slowly but steadily to suffer the same fate staring North Carolina in the face? (A fate that caused the right-wingers to back down in Arizona and Indiana, by the way.) What if these states stood by their “principles”, and were cut off by banks, job-rich high tech firms, entertainers, sports leagues, and the like? What if the Titans were removed from the NFL, and the Predators from Nashville, the Hornets from Charlotte? No more visits from Taylor Swift or big rock acts or what RedState insists are “has beens”? What if the Federal government started denying Title IX funds because these states were breaking anti-discrimination laws? What if the amount of tax dollars that flow into these states? (“Red” states receive far more tax money than they contribute to the Federal government, while “blue” states pay in far more than they get back.)
Maybe “the South” wouldn’t be legally cut off from the rest of the U.S., but they kinda would be, wouldn’t they?
No, I don’t think it would actually happen. And if it did, I doubt the right-wingers would be particularly happy to finally get what they want (and they would blame the Left for their poverty, lack of jobs, increased infant mortality and teen pregnancy rates, etc.). But it seemed an interesting thing to think about. And I have to think it was fear of something like this—or at least a portion of it—that caused Jan Brewer of Arizona and Mike Pence of Indiana to step back from the brink.
I used to wonder how far to the right the right would have to go before the left finally got off their lazy butts and pushed back hard. Now we know. And it’s kind of satisfying, don’t you think?