Why Justice is Face-to-Face

Why Justice is Face-to-Face July 12, 2013

As the concerns of Moral Mondays draw national attention, including a New York Times editorial this week, NC Governor Pat McCrory told The Wilson Times that he has mingled with our ranks and found some among us lacking in character. To quote the governor:

“I go out in the crowd all of the time. Frankly, yesterday I went out and talked to several of them and they were not very respectful. They did not represent the majority of those who call themselves moral by cussing me out. But that’s the way things go some times.”

Now, I will admit: I’ve been on the West Coast teaching and visiting with family this week. I missed Moral Monday on July 8th. But I have not seen Governor McCrory on any of the previous Mondays when we’ve gathered on the Halifax Mall. And I have not been able to find anyone else who’s spotted him there either.

Of course, it’s no surprise to most people on either side of the political spectrum that politicians lie. What’s much more interesting is why the governor felt like he needed to stretch the truth for a reporter down in Wilson. What compelled him to say that he’s looked us in the face on Moral Mondays and heard our concerns?

Governor McCrory’s attempt to stretch the truth about facing the crowd may turn out to be the most revealing gesture of his administration. Because the good ole rank and file of North Carolina know that, even when you disagree with someone, you ought to be able to look them in the face and tell them why. But this is precisely what Governor McCrory has not been willing to do.

I was with Rev. Barber when he hand delivered a very simple request to the Governor, Speaker Tillis, and Senate leader Berger. If you think you have to refuse Medicaid to 500,000 North Carolinians, he said, at least meet with some of them face-to-face and tell them why. If you feel like it’s necessary to cut unemployment benefits for 170,000 Republicans and Democrats in this state, sit down with them and tell them why. If you’re going to raise taxes on working people, cut funding for their kids’ schools, and at the same time give a tax break to the state’s 23 wealthiest families, look an honest, working family in the eyes and tell them why.

Governor McCrory has not been willing to do this. But he understands that this is a moral contradiction. Feeling the pressure, he decided to lie.

I have no interest in attacking the Governor’s character. No, he shouldn’t have lied. But I can forgive him for that. What’s much more important is the moral contradiction he is feeling. Because anyone who can feel that torn is on the verge of a conversion. And Governor McCrory’s conversion is precisely what we all must pray for.

To know the need to look those who are hurting in the face is to know deep down that justice is not simply about balancing budgets and maintaining order. Even if the small, leaner government Governor McCrory wants is the future we need, he knows as well of the rest of us that you cannot run over those who are poor, sick and vulnerable to get to it. Justice is always face-to-face because justice is about the inherent dignity of every person. No vision of what we should be is worth ignoring another human being. Deep down, we all know this.

What the Governor’s little lie reveals is that he knows it too. I pray he’ll trust what he knows enough to turn and face the real concerns and the real, live people who make up Moral Mondays.

We’re coming back next week, Governor. As always, we’d love to see you.

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