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North Carolina is No Fairy Tale -- But Will There Be a Happy Ending?

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Once upon a time, in a land called North Carolina, there was a problem. North Carolina was always an exciting land, because it was a swing state and you never knew what to expect. The people of the land had been happy, although perhaps not always wise in their choices, as they elected a new ruler into office. In this faraway land, McCrory was very happy to become the ruler over this vast land. He sat down in his new, bright and shiny office and thought about the things he had promised people over his campaign. He decided that he had his own ideas of what he should do. "They chose me," he reasoned, "so even if I break my promises, they will like my ideas because they voted for me."

When he finally spoke, giving the land his first State of the Union Address, people across North Carolina wondered why he didn't tell them details about creating the jobs that they so needed, that he so strongly told them he was creating. These people, so hungrily needing employment, were surprised when their new ruler told them they would be receiving less employment benefits for a shorter amount of time.

The people of this great and beautiful land questioned some of their new ruler's choices. While taking away benefits of the poor, and ignoring the needs of his schools, he gave his new cabinet members generous raises. He decided the budget of this great land should be in the hands of Pope, a man who was well known to be great friends with the fearsome Koch Brothers. "Will this relationship harm our state?" many wondered. "Will they truly have our best interests at heart?" Some time later, when the nearby land of West Virginia found their water under siege, the questions only grew. The people also wondered at the fact that the man in charge of Public Safety had been found guilty of assaulting neighbor's children. The people were equally disturbed when their new ruler decided that the man in charge of their great Environment in fact did not believe in climate change, and held many unscientific views. "How can our land succeed," they wondered, "if our leaders are only businessmen who don't understand or prioritize science?" The new ruler did not hear their voices, though. He continued to put his friends in office, friends with no experience but deep pockets. The people wondered if their great land, full of beaches and mountains and elegant pine trees, had become a "pay-to-play" society. They wondered why the word "fracking" was even on the table, knowing what it would cost them, in an amount that dollars could never repay.

When this new leader passed laws that threatened women's health and access to healthcare, trying to close clinics and limit access to abortions, not only was the threat of bodily autonomy on the table, but it became clear that this new leader did not view women as equal citizens. When women spoke up in protest, McCrory responded with cookies. But these women did not want cookies, or any other suggestions of kitchens and stereotypes and simple-mindedness. They wanted full control of their health, and women's health care. They reminded him that he had promised not to do the exact thing he was doing, but their calls fell on deaf ears.

"What should we do?" cried the people. Many felt personally violated, lied to, and scared. Many wondered how they would feed their families, what they would tell their daughters about their rights, and how the schools could possibly continue successfully. Some quickly and determinedly left the land of North Carolina for a better life. Still others gathered in protest, some being arrested, but many feeling the power of exercising their voice. McCrory said he was there, talking to the protesters, but no one remembered seeing him. "Perhaps he has powers of invisibility?" they wondered. When he began calling these citizens "outsiders", they felt like they'd been put in a time machine. Many people felt like they could elect a new leader one day, but that day seemed far away. And many worried about the voter suppression laws passed, and what that meant towards voter discrimination. "Will our voices even be heard?" they asked. "What do we do if they take away our voices completely?"

They protested again and again, demanding to be heard. You see, the people of North Carolina were no strangers to activism. Many, many years ago, citizens of this great land transformed the nation, fighting the pernicious form of racism called segregation, through voter drives, Freedom Rides, and sit-ins. These activists were not afraid to have a voice. And now, in present-day North Carolina, some felt as if the not-so-new ruler was slipping back to a darker time, and that equally determined measures must be taken to protect the land's citizens, as well as the land itself. It was a new dawn of fighting for civil rights. These activists knew one of the most important steps for success was to educate: about health care, about the environment, about schools, about infrastructure, about tax reform.

They reeled when schools that taught creationism flourished, while schools for bullied students were closed by the State. "What kind of generation are you hoping to produce?" the citizens asked. Teachers, in charge of creating a literate, informed and functional society, called to the new ruler to understand they had too few rights in the classroom, and couldn't make ends meet. The very next day, the not-so-new ruler teachers would have an increase in salary. Speaking as if he was the one who first discovered the fact, he proclaimed that the current teacher salary was too low off which to live. Teachers were confused, as they had been telling him this for months. What was the catch? It was then they realized that this not-so-new, not-so-kind ruler was interested in "building a foundation", so the salary increases would affect only new teachers. The teachers who had been working for over ten years suddenly were making less than teachers who had just begun. It was then that they understood. "He doesn't want to retain us," they said slowly, shaking their heads. "He doesn't value the teachers enough who have devoted their lives already to the schools of North Carolina. He hasn't heard our voices. He simply found the cheapest way to appear to be making changes. We feel more ignored, and more devalued than ever!" They wondered why McCrory didn't raise their base salaries to the same as the national average. It became clear that there was no plan to help teachers or students, only to appear to be doing so. They pondered at the celebrations of the ruler and his friends. Did he want them to leave? Was he hoping to dumb down the citizens by driving out the teachers? Would a dumbed-down land be more pliable, more ignorant, easier to trick and mold to fit his needs?

So what became of this land called North Carolina? Did McCrory eventually realize the error of his ways, offering a sincere apology and quickly creating new legislation that empowered teachers, the poor, women, minorities, and children? Or did he continue in a downward spiral, bringing his beautiful land further and further down? That chapter is still being written, of course. What remains now is to see if anyone is left to read it.