If I had to take a guess as to the three most important, most beloved, most adored male figures in the history of my beloved home state of North Carolina, I would venture to guess that it would be Jesus, Dean Smith, and Andy Griffith.
Though, not necessarily in that order.
This, of course, adds much to my confusion. After all, in the past few years, NC has proven to be one of the most bigoted, hateful, Pharisaic, self-righteous, and, literally, ‘dumbed-down’ states in our republic. Voter discrimination. Guns on their way inside of bars and restaurants. Unadulterated homophobia. Anti-constitutional calls for a merger of church and state. Teacher pay-cuts (‘we don’t need no education’, who’d ever imagined NC being fans of Pink Floyd?), and the list goes on and on. My question is, how, in light of this state’s heroes, is this possible? After all, Dean Smith and Andy Griffith would be considered, by the folks making and supporting these policies, to be bleeding-heart liberals. Dean Smith has been adamantly opposed to the death penalty, he de-segregated his basketball team and the conference (in a blatantly racist culture that continues to be racist), he has vocalized his support of equal rights for all people (including, GASP, gay people! “Look out, Dean! The next thing you know, Carolina Blue will be Carolina Rainbow!”), and is unabashedly unapologetic about his concerns over this our warring machine (he recorded radio spots in the 80’s in an attempt to put a stop to the construction of nuclear weapons and was also vocal against the war in Iraq).
Do you know how hard it is for me to sing the praises of Dean Smith?
I graduated from Duke, man!
Then there’s Andy Griffith. Not only did this guy make a fairly ridiculous commercial with Opie and the Fonz in support of Obama, this guy is so liberal he played a sheriff who refused to carry a gun. What’s even worse, he limited his deputy to just one bullet.
Now THAT’S gun control.
Take that, Obama!
(Oh, Sheriff Andy, you liberal/socialist/pinko-commie/fascist.)
[Is Barney the symbolic representation of the average gun-toting NC resident?]
To be clear, I’m not aligning myself with the democrats (our two party system ensures that certain forms of power maintain their grasp on our intellectual imagination and, more importantly, our bodies–you have to resist that nonsense). Democrats can be every bit as hateful and bigoted as anyone else, but at least they’re going to come down on the right side of history on, say, their support of gay rights. Of course, it’s a shame that this is even an achievement. As Cornel West points out, it took white people centuries to figure out that black people were human, and, apparently, it’s taking heterosexists even longer to figure out the same for anyone that is not heterosexual. If anything, all this means is that some democrats figured out a little earlier than some republicans that gay people are . . . well . . . people. (I saw how long it took you to figure out the whole civil rights thing back in the 60’s, so stop congratulating yourself on being so progressive. And why is being a decent human considered ‘progressive’ anyway? Ugh.) But, hey, you have to take a win where ever you can get one. I’m just wondering how we found ourselves in a position by which some people have rights, and others, based on creed, religion, race, sex and/or sexual orientation, don’t. How did that happen? How, in a culture of Jesus-loving, Dean Smith and Andy Griffith idolizing fetishists, have we not, somehow, figured out that not extending to everyone the same rights you have is not, somehow, inherently wicked? How is that possible?
I just don’t know. Must be all that Christlike love oozing out of the thousands of churches in NC.
That or the fact that NC doesn’t want their teachers to be educated beyond that of the average college graduate (which may be the scariest thing of all).
With that being said, I’m not sure what else to say except for . . . well . . . let’s not confuse what I’m about to say with the great town of Chapel Hill–one of the most progressive cities, and universities, in the state. It’s a place I spent much of my teenage life taking in punk rock shows (Cat’s Cradle) and consuming pizza at Peppers–RIP, Peppers. No, what I’m about to say I’m saying in a sense that extends beyond college athletics. Here it goes: As long as North Carolinians continue to support voter suppression, terrible pay for teachers, concealed weapons in bars, restaurants, university parking lots, and playgrounds (how about the freaking ‘right’ for me to NOT have to sit beside some idiot in a restaurant carrying a loaded weapon?), and bigoted policies toward people of any race, sex, and sexual orientation, then I don’t know what else a person can say except this:
“GO TO HELL, CAROLINA. GO TO HELL.”
P.S. Okay, so, just so no one confuses me for being too defensive of the legendary Tar Heel, Coach Smith, or the stellar city that is Chapel Hill (Sonic Youth wrote a song about it), here’s one of my favorite moments in college basketball history:
The silence of the crowd is deafening.
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.