Kristine Kaiser: Progressives must speak up

Aug. 16, 2013 @ 06:33 PM

I’ve been particularly pleased with recent Opinion page letters. It seems like local progressives are speaking out, voicing their thoughts on issues of the day. While the High Point Enterprise’s audience is predominantly conservative, there are liberals who are waiting to make their own viewpoints known to the readership. That fact encourages me.
Some people hesitate to share opinions because they fear criticism. A person always risks rebuke when one offers a progressive viewpoint on the opinion page. I recall the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  The great sage writes: “I hate to be defended in a newspaper. As long as all that is said is said against me, I feel a certain assurance of success. But as soon as the honeyed words of praise are spoken for me, I feel as one who lies unprotected. … Every evil to which we do not succumb is a benefactor.” Our critics serve a purpose and should never stop us from sharing a strong thought or an opinion.
I had heard of the late Sen. Jesse Helms before I moved to North Carolina in 1995. He had national reputation. His bigger-than-life profile helped define the state. Indeed, he seemed like the state’s only U.S. senator to the outsider. It seems his legacy lives on. Today’s North Carolina conservatives have inherited his boldness, his blustery ways.
At their worst, they can be mean-spirited, shock jocks. Conservatives’ brazenness exaggerates their significance. Their clout is so amplified. They are not the squeaky wheels, but the grinding wheels; making noise with sparks of fire. They are bullies.
Still, we must keep writing in.
Our state is in crisis. Over 900 North Carolinians have been arrested at the Moral Monday protests while the Legislature was in session. Progressives have been upset over the GOP’s regressive policies.
Massive anti-voter laws threaten to suppress the N.C. vote.  The laws will not only require a photo ID to vote but will restrict early voting. The ACLU and the League of Women Voters have all filed suit against the laws and will test them in the courts.
Public school funding has been cut. Teachers are short-changed in the new budget; they haven’t received pay raises in years and are now denied extra pay for advanced degrees. The Legislature has made a provision for vouchers, a sure way to dismantle our public schools.
Then, there are the tax cuts, mostly benefitting the very wealthy. Anti-government advocates have found a way to both cut government and services. With less revenue available, government naturally becomes smaller; it can do less for the people. Tax cuts are a redistribution of public wealth, and they do not serve the common good.
The Legislature opted out of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, a move that could have insured 500,000 people at no expense to the state. Ideology is responsible for that sad action.
But the Legislature has gone home, the good fight has been lost. The good fight has been lost only if we forget and go about our other business. Let us flood the public forums with our complaints. Let us recount the damage that has been done to our state.
I imagine a room filled with people. It truly takes only one person to stand up for a righteous cause. Soon another will stand up. Eventually, the whole group will be on its feet. There is strength in numbers. Call it “the bandwagon effect” or whatever. People are social creatures and do not like to act alone. The courage of one man or woman gives others backbone. People are more likely to write in if they are not the only ones.

Kristine Kaiser is a writer living in Kernersville. Contact her for comments at: Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.