On State Boycotts: An Open Letter to North Carolina

Born and raised in the Grand Canyon State, where I still reside, I have been where you North Carolinians are now—a few times. So, at the outset, let me encourage you to hold fast to the wisdom of Scripture and common sense which nowhere sanctions men using women’s bathrooms under any circumstances.

Like North Carolina, my state doesn’t take kindly to threats and bullying from outsiders. Arizonans have always been an independent bunch. As a territory, this was a land of outlaws and gunslingers until John Slaughter, a tough cattleman and sheriff of Cochise County in 1887, had had enough. He issued a simple message to those who threatened Arizona: “Get out or get shot.” The sentiment remains in my state, at least in spirit. It’s a maxim you North Carolinians might want to adopt as well, metaphorically speaking.

These days, my esteemed North Carolinians, our states are more apt to face mudslingers than gunslingers (although Arizonans still have the right to carry, just in case). Some good old-fashioned Wild West tenacity is called for now and then. Some ante-bellum pride would not go amiss. We must not allow moral derelicts to dictate the principles by which we live. The disordered demands of the noisy few must never be allowed to subvert the moral imperatives of nature and of “nature’s God.”

The Arizona Experience with Political Intimidation
Perhaps North Carolinians might find encouragement from Arizona’s experience. We were in the crosshairs of the intolerant, politically correct factions of the nation during the 1980s when our governor at the time, Evan Mecham, refused to recognize the new holiday honoring Martin Luther King. As prickly as a barrel cactus, Governor Mecham said he rescinded the holiday because his Democratic predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, instituted the holiday illegally (only the Senate had passed the bill, not the House). From a legal standpoint, Mecham was correct. Nevertheless, a hailstorm of fire and brimstone came down on our state. Stevie Wonder cancelled a concert and said he would not return to Arizona until the state recognized the MLK holiday. The Doobie Brothers scrapped a reunion concert. The Irish band U2 issued a statement of outrage at Mecham’s decision, but kicked off their Joshua Tree tour in Tempe in 1987. U2, at least, drew a distinction between the governor and Arizonans themselves. Others made no such distinctions.

In 1991, after voters in my state narrowly rejected the MLK holiday in November of 1990, the menacing rap group Public Enemy warned Arizonans that trouble was coming in their threatening rap “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” introduced by the faux-militant racist Sista Souljah. By today’s standards, the video would be considered a threat of terrorism. Splicing together footage of Civil Rights victims being blasted by firehoses with a recreation of Dr. King’s assassination, we see a cohort of glowering Black lads dressing themselves in military garb, arming themselves with automatic weapons, killing a Senator with poisoned chocolates, and making a bomb which is ultimately attached to the underside of a car, blasting our governor to smithereens. The video plays like a recruiting film for Boko Haram. The message was clear: white Arizonans deserved to be killed very violently.

In the rap, Chuck D growls the “whole state is racist” and led by a “gun cracker” who was “runnin’ things under his thumb.” Never one for elegance, Mr. D went on to proudly proclaim, “I urinated on the state while I was kickin’ this song.” The rap is filled with expletives and incoherent blather. I suppose it never occurred to Mr. D that his rant extolled tactics Martin Luther King unequivocally rejected throughout his life.

Like the LGBT loudmouths and their supporters today shouting at you North Carolinians to let men use women’s bathrooms (and vice versa), there was no moral imperative guiding the hysterical screeds against my state. Like all such self-important, disgruntled millionaires, Public Enemy was a noise that passed like a desert thunderstorm, with far less power and none of the beauty. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Twenty years later and shunted into the ignominy of the bargain rack at Best Buy, Chuck D was still complaining about the “Wild West mentality out there.” Arizonans take that as a compliment. Public Enemy had no impact on the public here. I don’t think Mr. D ever did make it to Arizona.

The Super Bowl hosting committee awarded the big game to Arizona in March of 1990, after the NFL was assured the MLK issue would be left to voters in our state; voters the NFL believed to be pliable. The NFL continued issuing veiled threats suggesting voters better understand which way the wind was blowing. But, we don’t like the wind blowing at all in Arizona. It’s like a blow dryer kicking up dust and making a mess of everything. I remember this vote and I remember those in my state warning the NFL to stay out of it because, cash-cow or not, if Arizona voters sensed that outside interests were trying to intimidate them, they might rally against those interests simply on principle, which is exactly what we did. After the holiday was rejected, the NFL promptly moved the Super Bowl to Pasadena. In the run-up to the vote, the NFL liked telling us that losing the Super Bowl would cost our state $200 million, thinking it would frighten voters into believing the predictions of disaster if voters did not “do the right thing.” Arizona voters were unimpressed.

By bullying us, the league transformed the issue for Arizonans. What had been an issue of honoring a great American became an issue of subsidiarity, of a state’s right to decide what’s best for its own people. Our vote was the 1990 version of “get out or get shot” to the NFL. It wasn’t long before business came calling again. Their Pecksniffian tirades blow away uneventfully like tumbleweeds. You will find this to be true in North Carolina as well.

In 2010, Arizona was the target of boycotts because of immigration legislation. An attempt was again made to ostracize Arizona as racist. Hundreds of millions of dollars were lost and the tourism industry, one of the most important components of Arizona’s economy, suffered. Again, celebrities cancelled concerts. MLB tried to get the 2011 All-Star game moved out of Arizona, but Commissioner Bud Selig kept it in town. However, this social media pogrom against my state was milder than the MLK dust up twenty years earlier, which left many wondering: are Hispanics not as important as Blacks? The rallying cry faded and the boycott fizzled quickly. We watched it dissipate in another beautiful Arizona sunset.

Again, in 2014, Arizona became the epicenter of controversy when the legislature passed a bill (HB 2153/SB 1062) that would, like the bill your Governor McCrory signed, protect the rights of those now being threatened by an unrestricted and mobilized homosexual ideology that respects no boundaries whatsoever. Like your HB2, the Arizona bill was decried as “anti-gay.” (Of course, we all know that if you are not “pro-gay” you are de facto “anti-gay.”) We were made the butt of jokes, called names, and threatened with catastrophe. Again, the NFL chimed in and told us the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale was on the line. They hadn’t learned from 1990. Then Governor Jan Brewer, unfortunately, did not sign the bill into law, claiming it was unnecessary. Events in North Carolina have proved the shortsightedness of that position.

Our bill, like yours, would not deny anyone any rights whatsoever. Our bill, like yours, would simply protect the only citizens in the country these days who don’t seem to have any rights—Christians. Your HB2 is necessary given the all-out offensive underway against common sense and natural law.

There is another consideration. Setting aside the “transgender” issue for a moment, does anyone really doubt there are also “straight” male teens and sexual predators in North Carolina devising strategies for getting themselves into women’s bathrooms and locker rooms if this was permitted in your state, or any state? Our opponents will scoff self-righteously and say I am engaging in extremism. They made the same dismissals during the marriage insanity case in the Supreme Court when concerns were expressed about just such developments as you are now witnessing in North Carolina.

Bruce Springsteen: A Pillar of Moral Rectitude?
Arizonans noted Bruce Springsteen’s public repudiation of North Carolina with some interest because he was conspicuously silent on the King controversy in my state. That’s probably because not long before Chuck D was “urinating” on Arizona, the Boss was caught in flagrante delicto with his mistress in Rome and Paris. It must have been hard for Springsteen; such an enticing issue unfolding in Arizona just when he’d thrown away his credibility like the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s thrown away on craps tables. Why would anyone listen to a moralizing, multi-millionaire adulterer?

Springsteen was equally reticent on Arizona’s immigration bill in 2010. Maybe the Boss doesn’t attract many Hispanics. Maybe he doesn’t like Mexican food. Or, maybe, it’s because in 2010, Springsteen was caught in another dalliance, this time with a 45-year-old New Jersey housewife. While the woman’s husband was undergoing open-heart surgery in Chicago, the “human rights” icon was wining and dining the man’s wife in a swanky restaurant in New Jersey. The cuckold has since filed for divorce. Maybe Arizona is just lucky when it comes to Springsteen that our controversies coincide with his own.

How should North Carolinians evaluate the Springsteen boycott? The answer is the measure of what it costs him. Most Americans make a little over $200/ day according to per capita GDP (many make much less); I’ve read Bruce Springsteen makes over $1 million per concert (at one point that figure was nearly $3 million). As a teacher, I would have to work nearly 30 years to make what Springsteen makes in a couple of hours. Dropping North Carolina is like dropping a nickel for the Boss. It costs him little while maintaining his relevance to liberals in the court of social media. Springsteen has reached that late moment in the career of every fading star when relevance is more valuable than gold.

It’s easy for Bruce to throw stones from his 378-acre horse farm in the New Jersey countryside, or perhaps from his properties in California. Just remember, those stones won’t reach your windows, my esteemed North Carolinians. And, Bruce won’t stay away long. Trust me. Celebrity protesters never do.

No matter how much he huffs and puffs the big, bad wolf of popular outrage will not blow your house down. Arizona, too, has been the target of intimidation tactics and celebrity boycotts. We, too, have witnessed unscrupulous business interests holding job opportunities like a ransom demand. We, too, have been ridiculed, vilified, lampooned and punished for our adherence to moral sanity. We’ve had Super Bowl’s taken away, concerts cancelled, and big conventions moved elsewhere. Yet, our economy has boomed, our population has grown exponentially and Phoenix has become the most populous capital city in the nation, as well as the sixth largest city in the U.S. All this despite the threats to shun Arizona and crush us into the dusty desert in which we live.

So, my North Carolina friends, now you must suffer a while. Now is the time to ponder the last of our Lord’s Beatitudes:

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5: 11 – 12)

We Arizonans are not prophets, nor are we saints. But, we have gone before you in this trial. It is a test of will and moral valor. You know what is best for your people, your families. Suffer the boycotts, the jokes, the insults. Suffer them with your head held high because you are suffering for truth. You are an example for other states who will soon feel the fury of the comfortably outraged. But, these are tempests in teapots. Temper tantrums cannot be sustained because they soon consume the very material that feeds them. And, social media topics are more ephemeral than a butterfly.

You are not alone, my dear North Carolinians. We are with you in prayer and in spirit. Keep the faith. And, keep your powder dry.

Tom Jay

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Tom Jay is a teacher at a charter school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Prior to his current position, he taught junior high at a Title I parochial school in the Diocese of Phoenix. Tom is a graduate of the University of Dallas.

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