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An Open Letter to the North Carolina Legislature

Friends in D.C. often greet me with, "What the hell is going on down in your home state?" I'm getting awfully tired of trying to defend the state as a whole by writing those in the legislature in Raleigh off as ideologues. It is getting harder and harder to do so.
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State Capitol of North Carolina, Raleigh
State Capitol of North Carolina, Raleigh

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I just want to get something off my chest. I love North Carolina. Truly I do. It took me a long time to get there, in part because moving to a new town when you're 10 is hard and I didn't want to allow myself to love this new place. But I do. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I have found that to be almost painfully true as someone who is no longer a resident of North Carolina. I find myself often longing for the cool mountain breezes, ice-cold creeks, sweet tea, and southern hospitality. I wear a pendant of the state around my neck, publicly displaying where my heart lies, and that while Washington, D.C. might be my home right now, it'll never actually be home.

Yes. I don't live in North Carolina anymore. I left for "greener pastures" so to speak. I come from an area that has some of the highest unemployment in the country and was just listed as the fifth most miserable metro area in the country. I needed to get out, and D.C. presented fantastic opportunities for a twenty-something girl, both professionally and personally. That being said, I've always thought North Carolina would someday become my "forever home." While I've grown to love my new city, I'm not sure it has the staying power in my heart North Carolina has. I'm not sure it's where I want to build a life with a partner and maybe, someday, have a few children.

You see, North Carolina has so much potential. When my parents moved my sister and me to the state it was due, in part, to an article listing our small town as one of the best places in the country to raise a family. Things weren't always easy (and I do wonder what metrics they used to make that determination), but I wouldn't trade that move for anything. North Carolina proved itself to be a fantastic place to raise a family, and the experiences I was able to take advantage of are incredible and the envy of some of my new D.C. friends. It is because of how great my childhood and adolescence were that makes me think about moving back to the state at some point.

However, my views and thoughts about moving back have changed significantly in the past few months. My heart breaks to see what you legislators are doing to my great state. It seems a day doesn't pass without me reading an article about another horrid piece of legislation you're trying to pass. You are letting your own personal ideological agendas get in the way of what is best for your constituents.

Take H.J.R. 494, for example. This resolution would establish a state religion in North Carolina. I think we all know what religion that implies. What a slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of people who reside within North Carolina's borders but do not identify as Christian. What a slap in the face to the people, like me, who would like to eventually move back (and there are more than a few of us young'uns who'd like to do so) who don't identify as Christian. What a slap in the face to companies, who don't discriminate based on religion in their hiring practices, who would like to setup shop in your state. Now, I know what you'll say. You'll say that this bill isn't discriminatory and all of that nonsense. I'm not stupid. Establishing Christianity as the religion of North Carolina is letting all of us non-Christians know exactly what you think of us. You may not "actively" discriminate against those who have different views of God than yours, but you are damn well doing it passive aggressively.

We could also look at the Racial Justice Act and how you all want to repeal it. Yes. You want to repeal a piece of legislation that was passed in order to protect defendants from racial bias during their trials. Something which has happened in the past and the Racial Justice Act has helped to right those wrongs. Michigan State University College of Law did a study that helped prompt this act, in which they showed racial bias being used in determining juries. Now, I'd like to believe race doesn't play a factor in anything anymore. But I'm not naïve, and I know it does and sadly probably will in some capacity for the rest of my life. It's really discouraging we need laws like these on the books, but studies have shown time and time again that this issue is a real issue. Repealing this is a slap in the face for not only all those who are not Caucasian but for anyone who wants to see our criminal justice system as fair and as efficient as possible.

Or we could look at HB 217, which would allow youth as young as 13 to enter into the adult criminal justice system and remove judicial oversight. If this bill were to pass, it would give prosecutors complete discretion over the future of North Carolina children (and yes, a 13-year-old is still considered a child) and strip juvenile court judges' of their decision making power, which is the only neutral and unbiased decision maker in transfer cases. Instead you could wind up with a juvenile offender, who desperately needs rehabilitation in a safe environment instead of incarceration, in an adult prison, which has actually been shown to increase the risk of recidivism, especially among young offenders. A recent exposé on Rock Center with Brian Williams delved into this issue. One consequence of this (out of the many) is the issue that a child in an adult correctional facility is not safe with adult inmates and is more likely to be put in solitary confinement. This is something that is emotionally and psychologically traumatic, and resulted in the child featured on Rock Center committing suicide. Is that what you all want? A bunch of children being put through something so psychologically damaging that they feel their only way out is to take their own lives. Outrageous.

We could also talk about the Dorothea Dix campus. That was a royal cluster, wasn't it? It must have really confused the business community (the ones who you say you have their backs). How are we supposed to attract new businesses to our state if you can just tear up leases because you don't agree with the people who came before you who put them into place? That has got to be all sorts of comforting to business leaders.

I could bring up the proposed Medicaid overhaul, charter schools no longer required to have licensed teachers, or the ridiculous IDs with the "fuchsia" (apparently that is distinctly different from pink, according to the McCrory administration) bars on them for "illegal immigrants" (your words, not mine). We could talk about the proposed two-year waiting period before filing for divorce, with mandatory counseling. I bet domestic violence victims really love that. We could also talk about how you're making it harder and harder for people in college to vote. Sounds like you'd really just prefer if my generation not vote at all, and I wouldn't be surprised if you tried to pass legislation saying that very thing. I could bring up how you're trying to ban coed apartments on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, because we know a coed dorm equals a bastion of sin. Or, not legislatively, the initial decision to hang the Confederate flag in the Capitol. That was a real classy move.

The damage you're inflicting right now will take years upon years to recover from. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it'll be to overturn the nonsense you're proposing when we actually have some people in Raleigh who are putting the citizens of the state first.

North Carolina is quickly becoming a national laughingstock, on par with some of the more, shall we say "backwards" states in our union. Friends in D.C. often greet me with, "What the hell is going on down in your home state?" I'm getting awfully tired of trying to defend the state as a whole by writing those in the legislature in Raleigh off as ideologues. It is getting harder and harder to do so.

In this "race to the bottom" my only hope is your utter disregard for what is good and right in the state helps bring people together to voice their outrage over what you're doing. So when the time comes we're mobilized to take our state back and out of the hands of the likes of all of you.

I know I'll be ready to take back the state I love dearly.


Jamison Doran

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