I know, I couldn't wait to get away from SC politics, so here I am, in North Carolina. Well, it couldn't be helped. It's a timeshare week that I hoped to rent to help cover my recent blue state getaway, and since I couldn't rent it I figured I'd head on out to Atlantic Beach and see how much it's changed in five years.
My resort is still fairly nice, hasn't changed much, and it's lovely to have the beach a short walk away. The skinny little island, however, is just sad. It's been way too wet lately, and the standing water and drizzle combined with the fact that ugly three-story tall houses two feet away from other three-story tall houses have been stuck any wherever they barely fit make it seem that the whole thing is just going to sink fairly soon. I walked the main drag to the causeway yesterday and it's so trashy it's depressing. It pretty much seemed like a testament to greed and refusal to care. After my time at the beautiful beach towns in Rhode Island, I couldn't have imagined a greater contrast.
But today I decided to head out to neighboring Morehead City to find Sugarloaf Bakery. Despite my poor sense of direction, my GPS got me there with no problem. Traffic was light and I took a careful u-turn and parked in front of the tiny building, and looked up to see a cop car with lights flashing pull up behind me. The 30-40-ish African American officer took a few seconds to check out my out-of-state plate and no doubt my blatantly liberal bumper stickers.
I couldn't figure out what I might have done wrong, so when the cop walked over and I asked "What did I do?" I was very obviously not faking it. I had taken a u-turn under a small unobtrusive sign that said "No U-turns." I apologized and explained that I was looking for the bakery and hadn't been here before. He looked up at the bakery and commented, "They have great cheesecake. The best in the state." And then he explained to me about the u-turns and told me -- nicely -- not to do it again. And left.
The tiny bakery was supposed to have opened at 11, but the sign on the door said that due to roof damage from the rains they would be opening at 12, and it was just a couple minutes before. So far, I'd been lucky all the way around.
The shelves of goodies were still being stocked, and the woman behind the counter described the different sweets. I bought too many, and as we said our good-byes I told her I was glad they were open and that I hadn't been given a ticket. She replied that she had noticed my bumper stickers and that she had seen me being stopped for something that people do all day. Given that I had been let off with the recommendation to try the cheesecake, I really didn't think the stop had been because of the bumper stickers. The man was, after all, a police officer, and he was a black man, so I thought that I had those two details in my favor.
But she is a Democrat, and we talked about the sad state of North Carolina in the maws of the Republican party and the Kochs, and treading cautiously with a small business in the belly of the beast. Being from SC, I commiserated, and I told her how astonishing it was to see NC get taken down, and how proud I was that with groups like the SC ACLU, we managed to not have a single anti-abortion law passed in this last legislative session. Then I got the great opportunity to talk about being fearless, taking chances (like plastering pro-Obama care and anti-Citizens United bumper stickers on your car). It was a very happy meeting.
And the more conversations I have like this, the more I heartily believe that there are far more of us out there than our Democratic politicians believe. They just need to know -- we just need to know that we are not alone. We need to know that our representatives, our candidates, will really stand up for us. Elizabeth Warren did it in 2012. In South Carolina we have a few who are unafraid to speak up on issues like women's reproductive rights and gun control, and they even get elected. Fearless women like Gloria Bromell-Tinubu. Heck, there are even a couple of men who proudly fight for marriage and workplace equality and women's reproductive freedom.
And that is what it is going to take. Because we really are the ones who are fighting to protect the American people.
So speak up.