Monday protests focus on issues that are, at their heart, moral issues

By John Peters

July 14, 2013

It started as a small movement that stirred little coverage among the state’s media. Now, though, the weekly Moral Monday protests in Raleigh have picked up steam with people from all over the state descending on the state capitol at the start of each week to take part.

This past week a number of folks from Surry County joined the peaceful, organized protests. One local man, Mike Badgett, even went there to be among those arrested for their protesting.

The movement is aimed at letting legislators in Raleigh know that state residents are opposed to many of their recent actions, most notably those that seem to be aimed at undercutting the shoestring-thin support the poor have. Over the past year the General Assembly has significantly cut the state jobless benefit program, affecting both the duration of benefits and the level of benefits to the jobless. In so doing, the state has cut off thousands from qualifying for federal jobless benefits.

The legislators have enacted so-called tax code reform, but in a manner which has increased the tax burden on the poor while in some cases lessening it on those who are in the upper middle class or upper classes. And the state has distanced itself from the national Affordable Health Care Act, putting up roadblock after roadblock aimed at keeping the state’s residents from realizing the benefits of affordable health care.

Several organizations have now started what they call Moral Monday protests, a weekly gathering of people who descend on the state capitol, peacefully, to make their opposition to these policies known.

What is puzzling is the reaction of some people to Moral Mondays. State Sen. Thom Goolsby has called them moron Mondays, lowering himself to crude ad hominen attacks on those involved rather than engaging in responsible discussion on the issues.

Here at the Mount Airy News office we have taken criticism for writing a story about local people going to the protests, though we give little credence to those who offer such criticism in profanity-laced and racist-tinged comments.

While we do not agree with all of the positions put forth by those participating in the protests, many of these issues are troubling. In previous editorials we’ve questioned the wisdom of seemingly trying to balance the state budget on the backs of the poor, and we’ve even wondered if the state is trying to drive the poor from its confines so legislators can market North Carolina as a land of the rich and well-to-do.

For too long those generally on the right of the political spectrum have defined “morality” as fitting their narrow definition of the word, generally focusing their efforts on the issues of abortion, gay marriage, and prayer in school. We understand their position on those issues, and we respect the deep-seated religious underpinnings of their philosophy.

But we would submit that morality means much more. How we treat the homeless, how we take care of the sick, how we provide for the poor, and how we act toward those who are in the minority are primarily moral issues.

Most of those who oppose gay marriage, who seek to ban abortions, who want to see prayer re-instituted as an official part of the school day hearken to the Christian beginnings of the nation, and point to the teachings of the Bible as the ultimate basis for their beliefs.

We might suggest they read the entire manuscript of that sacred book, because even Jesus showed in no uncertain terms how individuals, and how a society, treats those who are downtrodden is ultimately how those individuals, or that society, will be judged.

Yes, Moral Mondays is an apt and proper term for the protests going on in Raleigh, and those who would make light of the protesters or their cause, who would revert to calling them names or turning a blind eye to their cause should be ashamed of themselves, because we certainly are ashamed for them.