From the epic poem to Dadaism, political turmoil has inspired new artistic genre. The Republican un-Reconstruction in North Carolina has made its own contribution, the obituary for “our formerly great state.” Citizens see our institutions disintegrating–public education, our clean elections system, the franchise itself–and take to the keyboard to express their fury. Oftentimes, such pieces conclude with a vow to desert this place and leave the reactionaries to suffer the consequences of their politics alone.
Given the crisis atmosphere, it’s understandable for people to yearn for more placid waters. Sometimes the flight instinct is even justified. There’s no reason, for instance, that LGBT people should tolerate a government that mistreats them. But I’m tired of hearing that our goodness is gone. The state itself has not changed. Radical politicians have hijacked the government, but the ground-level attributes that gave us hope remain unmolested.
That’s because our progressivism is, literally, organic. Long ago, the ocean-like expanses of forest that cover the state prevented plantation agriculture from taking root, along with the reactionary politics of the Cotton South. Thus, the terrain we admire endowed us with the politics we cherish. There’s a reason liberals like to hug trees.
The state’s beautiful land helped to mitigate social ugliness. Because our land was barely arable, the soil created a society of yeoman farmers. These modest people developed an egalitarian culture that was unique in the white South. Their tradition of equality helped them (grudgingly) accept their black neighbors when the Civil Rights movement finally made them abandon a cruel system. Consequently, the environment may claim as much credit for our relative peace as any government policy.
If you need any more reason to love our land, consider that it spurred us to industrialize. We had no highly profitable agriculture, and were consequently so backward as to be unfit for economic colonization. So early twentieth-century leaders, in the first signs of our famous economic ingenuity, built an economy from nothing. When we get around to rebuilding the state, we follow in their footsteps.
In addition to this initiative-mindedness, we should marvel at the historic events that came to pass here. Despite being so out-of-the-way, this state has played host to scenes that are burned into humanity’s consciousness. The first English colony in the New World took root here. Mankind first flew on the same island chain. And in the state’s proudest moment, four black Greensboro student took an immortal stand–or rather seat–for human liberty.
No political program can erase these strengths. That’s because the things that caused New Yorker writer George Packer to praise our “generosity and humanity” are grounded in our history, culture and home. As long as we keep it alive, our resilience will never erode.
For a time, things may seem dark, but in the hearts of patriots hope burns brighter than ever. It sparkles like the stars above Grandfather Mountain. It glimmers like curiosity in a school child’s eyes. It enchants like the glow of the moon on our beaches at midnight, and radiates like the electronic sizzle of the Charlotte skyline. It lights the way, and the way is forward.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.