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Unmasking the truth about the conservative agenda in Raleigh • NC Newsline

The North Carolina legislature has enacted many destructive and half-hearted laws over the past 13 years of conservative government.

There was the HB2 debacle in which lawmakers turned the state into a national pariah and laughing stock by promoting the absurd notion that male sexual predators diabolically disguised themselves as transgender women in order to gain access to public women’s restrooms.

There was the infamous “Monster Voting Law” that a federal court found targeted black voters to disenfranchise them “with surgical precision.”

There was the legislation that guaranteed thousands of premature deaths by banning Medicaid expansion, the bill that gutted the state’s unemployment insurance system, the bill that sought to ban discussion and consideration of sea level rise in decisions of coastal planning and land use, and of course, all kinds of bills to defund and privatize public education, gut the state tax code, rig elections through partisan gerrymandering, limit bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom, and incite the proliferation of lethal firearms in every corner of the state.

And while these measures were often cloaked by their proponents in buzzwords like “freedom” and “liberty,” when one steps back, it is not difficult to see another, more important overarching issue at play, one that has little to do with with either of the two. word. As with Donald Trump’s “MAGA” appeals, what’s really at work here is the desire to preserve and enforce a slowly decaying social order that has been dominated for so long by white, rich, older, and mostly white people. men.

In 2020, the Trump campaign launched its own line of branded masks. House Bill 237 would prohibit the use of these types of masks in public. (File photo)

This is not to say that the political choices of recent years have improved the quality of life for wealthy, older, white men, who make up about 10% of North Carolina’s population. In reality, most would be much better off in a state that, among other things, valued science, public education, access to health care, fair elections, a progressive tax code, and less gun violence.

But as with so many things in life, the perception of agency and control is often more important politically than the real-world impacts caused by that control. It’s part of the reason people vote against their true best interests all the time.

And that’s how the state Senate took the remarkable step last week of passing legislation that would, rather absurdly, increase criminal penalties for protesters and protesters who are arrested if they were wearing a mask at the time of their alleged crime, even if they did it for health reasons.

And that’s why the bill would also, surprisingly, make it illegal to wear a mask in public for virtually any reason.

Yes, you read that right. A vulnerable elderly person or other immunocompromised person trying to protect themselves in the supermarket would be guilty of a crime if the bill becomes law.

And it’s hard to overstate how ridiculous and dangerous this is.

Turning protesters and protesters engaged in civil disobedience into criminals is bad enough, but the idea of ​​criminalizing the wearing of masks (a practice that is often essential to protecting public health) is, by any fair estimate, downright crazy. (And as an aside, the idea that wearing a surgical mask bears any significant resemblance to wearing a Klan hood, as a 1950s law sought to prohibit, is simply nonsense.)

But, as noted, the bill has very little, if anything, to do with public safety or any other legitimate public purpose.

As was made clear in the speeches given by senators who supported the bill, what this legislation is really about is showing everyone who is still in charge in this state.

In fact, if there’s one thing that makes the modern conservative politician’s blood boil, it’s seeing two things they really don’t like combined: the masks they’ve come to hate during the pandemic and the protesters who challenge their policies and priorities.

So when pressed by critics about the obvious irrationality of making cancer patients who travel to Rite Aid and Harris Teeter lawbreakers, proponents of the bill gleefully responded that police officers and hospital aides sheriff would use “discretion” in enforcing compliance.

Translation: As is often the case with law enforcement in many parts of the United States, seniors and middle-aged residents in wealthy white neighborhoods (like those where most Republican lawmakers reside) will have nothing to fear. However, young people and people of color – especially when they dare to venture outside the prescribed boundaries and time frames – will be a different matter.

In other words, as so many thousands of North Carolinians have been reminded in countless incidents over decades during traffic stops for the “crime” of “driving while black and brown,” the proposed mask law, if it ever survives a governor’s decision, veto, and appeal to the courts—provide another set of reasons to show disadvantaged populations who’s boss.

And even if, as is likely, the proposal never becomes enforceable law, it helps remove another rather loose mask: the one that hides who conservative politicians intend to favor with the laws they pass, and who that is. Your goal is to stay in line.