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Carolina on Your Mind: Why Saturday's Moral March is Everyone's Lookout

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On Saturday, February 8, North Carolinians will fill downtown Raleigh, surrounding the state capitol. There will be many thousands, very possibly tens of thousands. There will be teachers, doctors and nurses, laborers, farmers, artists, and unemployed people. We won't be protesting, or demanding, anything in particular -- not because there isn't anything to protest or demand (there's plenty!), but because the goal is bigger: to keep building a movement based on civic equality and common care.

That movement is big enough to include many kinds of North Carolinians, and people across the country, too.

If you're outside North Carolina, you might have heard about last summer's Moral Monday movement of weekly rallies in Raleigh and, eventually, all over the state. Organized and led by the state's NAACP, these gatherings started as tiny groups of hard-core activists and drew more than 5,000 people apiece by the end of the summer. More than a thousand of us were peacefully arrested in the capitol building in acts of civil disobedience meant to highlight the stakes of the movement.

Saturday's rally continues that movement, and merges it with the North Carolina NAACP's annual march in Raleigh. We will be there to call out the state's legislature for one of the most regressive agendas in the country: a far-reaching voter-suppression law, crippling restrictions on abortion providers, a rejection of the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid (which, according to respectable and non-partisan studies, means more than a thousand North Carolinians will die early and preventable deaths next year), an open door for fracking -- and much more. We (meaning we who are going -- I have no official role and speak only for myself) want to rally voters, canvassers, candidates, and donors, for the next round of state elections, this fall, and the round after that.

On another level, we're cultivating the seeds of a political community based on civic equality and common care: where everyone's right to vote is honored, everyone's health is precious, and everyone's intimate decisions get respect and even a helping hand. This is more than rejecting conservative moralizing with the libertarian politics of leave-me-alone: it's about learning to feel shared responsibility for the shared houses we all live in and depend on -- schools, hospitals, public spaces, the natural world, and the laws of equality and democracy that are our invisible house. It means going beyond the politics of overlapping interest groups to achieve what the movement's leaders call fusion politics, making new energy by combining things that had been separate.

Why should you care? If you're in North Carolina, you live in these houses, and they need caretaking. If you're outside North Carolina, it might not seem like your problem at all: maybe you live in a place where the state is working for universal health care, where early voting is easy and secure, where personal autonomy is honored. In fact, if you're reading this, it's likely you live in such a place: more and more, Americans live around people who agree with them, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, city-by-city, and state-by-state.

But if you share the values of civic equality and common care, they tie you to people working for them everywhere. That's true in a practical way: we here in North Carolina hope to reverse the gerrymandering that gives us a massively Republican congressional delegation in an evenly split state, and the voting laws that (with massive and passionate turnout) gave our electoral votes to Barack Obama in 2008. You have a stake in that wherever you are.

The bond you share with us is more than practical, though. Building a politics of civic equality and common care is a national project. No one knows yet what it will look like if it succeeds. All these movements are experiments on everyone's behalf. Like any politics with lasting effect, what we're trying to build is both a concrete way of using power and a something subtler, a way of seeing one another that recognizes we're in this together. These experiments have to succeed where people are divided by partisanship, race, class, and religion - and not just in Seattle and San Francisco (no disrespect!), where progressives have easy majorities. A better American future needs North Carolina and places like it.

So rally with us on Saturday, starting in the mid-morning. Do some clicktivist nonsense to remind us that we aren't alone: fly the North Carolina flag in the distress position in your social media, tweet in solidarity, act like it matters to you. When you act like things matter, sometimes they come to matter. Consider making a trip here, in the legislative session or for the elections, or contributing to progressive causes in the state: right-wingers have called us local activists "outside agitators" for months, and for decades, and you might as well give them something to talk about. More relevantly, think about what this sort of thing would look like where you live. Make this thing everyone's problem, and everyone's hope. That's the point.

And, if you live in North Carolina, see you on Saturday.