So, I’ve been back in Georgia a little more than three years. After spending most of my adult life in Texas, I must admit that I was guilty of a bit of nostalgia at the prospect of moving home. In particular, I was exhausted by the relentlessly right-wing nature of Texas politics. Although we made great progress in Dallas, it felt like the rest of the state was determined to move backward to a more repressive, discriminatory, and callused age. Women’s rights were being curtailed at every turn. Public education was gutted. It didn’t seem to matter how many people were exonerated; executions became a source of pride. The social safety net was proudly shredded. What was most frustrating was that almost all of this was done with the support, or at least the acquiescence, of the churches of Texas.
Imagine my great disappointment to return to Georgia and find that governors of integrity like Jimmy Carter were long gone, and my new government was made of the same cloth as the old. I couldn’t stand it. Mostly I couldn’t stand that the state that had given us so many leaders of the Civil Rights movement now seemed to be leading the way in terms of voter suppression, privatizing education, blocking health care for the poor, and, in general, being as repressive and mean-spirited as any state in the nation.
Bill and I both turned our eyes toward heaven and asked God if we couldn’t live in a progressive state just once before we died. The political situation in our state looks bleak for anyone who really cares about justice, equality, education, and the future. We found ourselves growing increasingly depressed about it.
Then Moral Monday spread from North Carolina to Georgia. It started very small in our state, and the weather every Monday through the winter couldn’t have been less cooperative. Still, week after week, we trudged down to the Capitol and stood in the rain, the wind, the cold with other kindred souls. No media showed up, and almost no one inside the Capitol Building paid us any attention. Still we came almost every week.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, something began to happen. People began to pay attention. The pastor of Ebenezer Baptist joined us. This past Monday, the Episcopal Bishop joined us. Although we counted, by hand, more than 200 people at the protest, the press reported “a few dozen people snarled traffic.”
The weather is better now, at least, and, although nothing has changed, I swear I felt something this week. I’m not sure, but it feels just a little like hope. We’ll see. If spring shows up in Georgia, though, I want to be there for it.
by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal