David Hoppe

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:: This crisis is too good to waste

by David Hoppe

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything…” That’s been the cultural rule of thumb in Indiana for as long as I can remember. We don’t have a lot of strikes, protests or demonstrations around here. Hoosiers tend to be team players.

So the firestorm following Mike Pence’s signing of the so-called Religious Freedom act has been beyond breath-taking.

Indiana, welcome to the 21st century.

The passage of this law, and Gov. Pence’s clueless attempts to defend it, have been shameful. There is no need to “clarify” this mess. Anybody with ears to hear and eyes to see has known what this was about — look at the who’s who of homophobes pictured round our governor as he signed the bill in a private gathering: Micah Clark, Eric Miller, Curt Smith.

When these guys lost their fight to make LGBT people second-class citizens in the state’s constitution via a marriage ban, they regrouped with their legislative buddy Scott Schneider (of Indianapolis, I’m afraid) and came up with this steaming pile.

The rest is history in the making.

It’s amazing what can happen when you have one-party rule. That’s what Indiana got after Republicans redrew the state’s districts. The Statehouse is now an anti-urban rightwing club, where the members nod and congratulate one another like scavengers at a flea market for outdated appliances. It’s been such a long time since they checked in with the rest of the world, they had no idea what was in store.

It’s not that they weren’t warned. Mayors, business moguls, even religious leaders begged them not to do this awful thing. All were blown off.

Our fearless leaders wanted to make “a statement.”

But it turns out even a place as hidebound as Indiana is not immune to change. It turns out life doesn’t just go on, it wakes up, stretches and imagines new ways of being.

Not to realize this or, worse, to try and stop it, means trouble.

But we’re not used to trouble like this in Indiana. Usually we just make things so uncomfortable for somebody they leave, and then everything’s okay again.

Not this time.

Like it or not, Indiana is part of a larger world. That world is now letting us know that there are rules for participation. We can, of course, choose not to play, but at a cost. We can say good-bye to our kids, our future.

The mess our leaders have made is dire. But something thrilling is also happening. The intensity of the backlash to what Pence and Schneider and their ilk have done is unheard of in our state. That’s because too many people have worked too long to make things better here. We see it, we feel it — and so does that wider world. None of us wants to go back.

The Fairness for All Hoosiers Act, proposed by Freedom Indiana and the state’s ACLU, is a way forward. It would extend civil rights to all Hoosiers, throughout the state, for the first time.

There should be no rest until this is done. Call or email your lawfaker: tell ‘em the 21st century won’t wait.