A recent news story talked about Mt. Airy, NC, Andy Griffith’s home town, and the model for Mayberry of TV fame. The town embraced that connection and used it to drum up tourism. But as television programs fade into the past, so do the memories that drew visitors. The town is wondering what to do next.
That comes to mind because of Moral Monday. The heroic age of the civil rights struggle fades into the past. But to many of the demonstrators, it still seems to be 1963, or perhaps 1968. But “The Andy Griffith Show” went off the air in 1968, and times have changed.
So the demonstrators chant the old slogans and the speakers recycle the buzz words of the past. But they have no new ideas or realistic solutions. I heard the Rev. William Barber, head of the NC NAACP, shout out his accusations about “we are right and they are wrong.” He ranted against the rich and said they were plotting to take from the poor. But the problems of 2013 are seldom amenable to the solutions of the past.
Consider unemployment insurance. I heard Barber rail against how the legislature was cutting off benefits for people who got laid off from jobs through no fault of their own.
But of course lawmakers aren’t cutting off all benefits; they are returning the program to what it was supposed to be. In extending unemployment benefits, North Carolina went $2.5 billion in debt to the federal government. Let that sink in: the program went $2.5 billion in debt to fund extended unemployment benefits. It’s not a question of giving people a cushion when they lose their jobs — it’s a question of paying for that cushion.
Remember, every dollar paid in unemployment insurance is money taken from funding that could pay for education, or better roads — or just to allow people with jobs to keep more of the money they have earned.
And extended unemployment could be a trap for many. It tempts people to hold out for a great job, but if they stay out of the workforce too long, their skills and contacts erode, making it harder to get a job.
We could also talk about how the Obama administration has bungled its job of helping the economy grow. But that doesn’t fit the Sixties narrative either.
Then take the slogan of “Solidarity Forever!” that the crowd chanted when they moved into the Legislative Building. Ah, yes, the old alliance of progressives and minority groups. Many of the chants and speeches hailed the links between progressive politics and racial advances.
But by coincidence, earlier that day a professor had provided a reminder of the progressive movement’s racist roots. Lee Craig, a professor at NC State, is author of Josephus Daniels: His Life and Times. Craig spoke at the John Locke’s Foundation’s Monday luncheon and reviewed Daniels’ life.
Daniels owned the News & Observer, was a staunch progressive, and was a political kingpin when the Democrats solidified their hold on power around 1900.
And he was an unabashed white supremacist, and was a force in the Democratic Party that instituted segregation policies. Daniels was also secretary of the navy for Woodrow Wilson, a fellow racist. As Navy secretary, Daniels strengthened segregationist policies there too. And of course the Democratic Party was a bastion of segregation for decades.
So the old slogan of “Solidarity Forever” is exposed as myth, like the idyllic Mayberry that never existed either. Progressives and Democrats abused black people when it suited their purposes. Later progressives and Democrats became all in favor of helping minority groups. But that doesn’t change the past. And what will the future bring?
The Monday protesters live in a Mayberry of their own imaginations. The things they protest are long gone; their demands are for things that could never be. The demonstrators would do better to face up to the real problems of today.