by Bob Schwartz
Today, Monday, June 3, is another Moral Monday in North Carolina. A Mega Moral Monday. Small and local right now, Moral Mondays have the potential to be the kind of broad movement that in recent years progressives have wanted but so far been unable to achieve.
In May, the North Carolina NAACP began peaceful protests each Monday at the General Assembly. The civil disobedience is meant to bring attention to legislative curbs on Medicaid expansion, workers’ rights and voting rights, and to the lack of legislative progress on gun control and public education funding. There have been an increasing number of arrests of activists, 153 so far. This week, the protests are expanding across the state.
All movements are more likely to fall flat than catch fire. The Occupy movement reflected real dissatisfaction and outrage, but never sufficiently articulated the underlying principles that would galvanize people to commit and to connect with each other in big numbers.
Moral Monday is built on a foundation that is at the heart of what bothers so many Americans. As is apparent from many of our political controversies, some of those who claim the moral high ground sometimes seem to ignore possible moral shortcomings in their policies, e.g., a Christian imperative to lift the poor and heal the damaged may be at odds with extreme cuts in government support and programs. (In this regard, see questions about Ayn Rand that arose in the most recent election.)
Moral Monday simplifies what is admittedly a set of very complex issues to a very basic baseline: If you claim, by the light of faith or by a sense of enlightened humanity, to believe in moral action, then your idea of morality must be your primary guide. You are free to choose that morality; no constitution, no set of laws, nothing can or should move it. But once you have chosen, and especially after you say it loudly every Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, or on whatever days you proclaim your core beliefs, your duty is to act on it. If you don’t act morally, or if you try to rationalize around that morality for some supposed greater cause, you are only human, but should investigate and consider your action, and even your possible hypocrisy.
Moral Mondays may not make it beyond North Carolina. But it is possible that in a little while, all around the country, more and more people will start the week by taking a stand and, if necessary, getting arrested for it. There is a global and historic tradition for this sort of action, and great change has been made.
Thank you North Carolina NAACP. Mondays will never be the same.