Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Plants and politics
Gardening and politics don't often cross paths, and when they do, it can get unpleasant. I've avoided political issues in this blog because, first, none ever came up, and secondly, my political opinions weren't the least bit relevant to the subject matter of this blog. That changed with North Carolina House Bill 2, widely (but inaccurately) portrayed as a "bathroom bill". In reality, this bill goes far beyond that issue to give a special "screw you" to the entire LGBT community.
Why drag politics into my blog now? Because I was really looking forward to a trip this spring to Raleigh, NC to visit gardening friends, visit some private and public gardens, check out some garden centers and nurseries, and do some plant shopping. Raleigh has some great gardens (and great gardeners) and I've always enjoyed my visits there. But after the North Carolina legislature passed, and NC governor Pat McCrory signed, HB 2 (which is much more than the "bathroom bill" its supporters, and far too much of the media, portray it as) I've decided against this trip.
I feel a bit conflicted because I don't want to punish people or businesses who don't have any problem with me or the LGBT community, and (I hope) don't support this law. But on the other hand, why should I travel to, or do business in, a state whose elected representatives have gone out of their way to let me know its businesses can turn away me, or any other members of the LGBT community, because of their religious disapproval? Sadly, that was already the right of most businesses in NC (and in several other states) as there have never been any state-wide LGBT protections—discrimination against gay and transgender people is already perfectly legal for any reason, religious or otherwise—but this bill prohibits even local municipalities from enacting any such protections, going so far as to rescind several such anti-discrimination policies already enacted at the local level.
This brings back memories of being turned away from a motel, in the middle of the night and in the middle of nowhere, because the owners refused to allow me and my partner (now husband!) to share a bed. Even though we had made reservations, we ended up driving around an unfamiliar area in the dark, exhausted, looking for another place to spend the night. That was over 30 years ago, but in some states (like North Carolina) this would still be perfectly legal. But I have to ask, if the North Carolina state legislature and governor are really so serious about protecting the "religious liberty" of these business owners, why stop with LGBT? If they really had the courage of their convictions, they'd be passing laws allowing businesses to turn away customers who are Jewish, or Catholic or Mormon, or in an interracial or second marriage, or anybody else who doesn't fit into their narrow little religious beliefs. Why should they have to allow anybody to ride at the front of the bus, or sit at the lunch counter? But for some strange reason, it's only when dealing with the LGBT community that the last vestige of people's sincere, deeply held religious narrow-mindedness seems to kick into action.
And now people are threatening to boycott Target for being inclusive (in reality just formalizing what has been an informal policy by most businesses, just about forever). But trans people have already been using rest rooms for years; they just need and want to go to the bathroom, same as anybody else. When did this become a huge problem? The idiocy of laws like the one in North Carolina is that they now legally require people who look, dress, and act like men to use the ladies room, and people who look, dress, and act like women to use the men's room, as if that somehow solves the problem and makes everybody feel safer. The real kicker with the ostensible purpose of these "bathroom bills" is that the deviants, perverts, and predators these politicians are so afraid of—who they think pose so much danger to women—are apparently heterosexual men, but they seem to think they're going to solve the (non-existent) problem by targeting gay and transgender people. The sad truth is that men who sexually harass or assault women—because that seems to be the biggest concern, although they're loathe to admit the problem is primarily heterosexual men—aren't going to be stopped by such laws. The real purpose of these laws seems to be to punish the LGBT community for daring to be visible, and for daring to expect the same rights and protections everybody else takes for granted.
When I travel to North Carolina, I'm not just spending my money at nurseries and garden centers; I'm spending my money at hotels, at restaurants, and at gas stations. Any of them could turn me away, for no reason other than the fact that I don't live up to their own religious beliefs, and there's nothing I can do about it. Well, there's one thing: I'll choose to spend my money in states that let me know I'm welcome, not ones that want me to know I'm a second-class citizen.
Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to let me know in the comments section. Either way, I certainly hope this is the last time I will post any kind of political rant on this blog.