Asheville Argus: The Midnight March

All through last night’s march, I had three recurring thoughts:

1. This is serious.
2. Where are the cops?
3. These would make some awesome Argus photos.

While the photos belonged to actual news coverage, the whole Amendment One controversy is an existentialist crisis right up the Argus alley. Especially the media’s part. This morning, the post has over 4,000 hits, and some interesting criticism. Local blogger ThunderPig noted that it’s awfully convenient that an impromptu march was so well covered by two Xpress photographers who happened to be downtown at midnight. It’s an excellent observation. Here’s my part of the story:

I was at The Southern with the Xpress news team when the march went by. I had just ordered the Southern Burger, and seeing as how I hadn’t eaten since noon, I was anticipating it with great enthusiasm. The last thing I wanted to do was cap off my 15 hour work day with a quick jog around town, trying to stay ahead of an angry mob.

Then someone started yelling, and we all looked out the windows, and there they went. Determined to live up to our journalistic super-hero self-images, reporter Bill Rhodes and I dashed out the door.

When we turned the corner and started up the steep hill of Walnut Street, I started to rethink the whole dashing thing. It had been a long day, and my knees hurt, and I was tired and out of shape and lazy. I set a pace that was more of a trudge. Then the fireworks went off right behind me, and suddenly dashing once more seemed like a good idea.

I’ve been around a fair amount of gunfire and fireworks, and I can tell the difference in their reports. But, apparently, my paranoid reflexes cannot. After I picked myself up off the pavement, I tried to tell myself to be cool, that it was just a march. And my self said: You’re an idiot, and you’re in a real situation here.

It was right.

The point of sale
You won’t hear me taking a stand on Amendment One. First, the Argus is apolitical. Second, I don’t care. I worked in sales long enough to recognize a sales pitch, and I’m not in a buying mood.

Photography, more than any other art, is a way of seeing things as they really are. You can lie and cheat and deceive your audience with photos, but you must start by capturing light that bounced off of something that was really there. You can invent most of it, but not all of it.

Politics is exactly the opposite. You can’t do it without invention. What is a law, if not an abstract bond made of pure nothing?  All the work and strife on both sides of Amendment One was expended just to change some words around on a piece of paper. Politicians, therefore, are salespeople whose product is nothing. And while the best, most honest transactions benefit both parties, every deal benefits the seller. Otherwise, he wouldn’t sell.

I suspect folks on both sides are waking up this morning and finding their lives for the most part unchanged. The winners will soon learn that their victory is hollow, and the losers will discover that their plight is status quo: Gay people still can’t get married, but they can still be gay all over the place, and there’s not a damned thing anybody can do about it.

So if neither customer bought a worthy product, who profited from the sale?

This is what democracy looks like
Civics 101:  Political power is finite and, as Chairman Mao said, it grows out of the barrel of a gun. When you support a law, you’re basically saying, “I want to transfer my power to the government, so that it may force people to behave as I’d like.”  And that’s fine, as long as we’re talking about preventing murder and rape and arson. But somewhere between that and regulating little girls’ lunch boxes, there is a vast, gray area.

On that misty sea we chart our course. That is our lot. And what interests me is that many of the same people who last night were shouting “F—- this law” were not too long ago shouting “This is what democracy looks like.” 

It’s hard to get more democractic than a popular referendum. Proponents of Amendment One say that it is the will of the people. Clearly, it is, but the will of the people is frequently wrong. It was against the Revolutionary War, and for slavery. What makes us think it’s right now?

At the same time, those shouting “Don’t f—- with us” and throwing firecrackers should consider the demographics of the situation. If you really want to rumble, 61 to 39 are not good odds, and you’ll quickly find that the will of the people is backed up with the force of their government.

And that’s what the protesters found last night. The marchers blocked the street, banged on drivers’ windows, and invaded the bars they passed, but they stopped far short of any real damage. The streets cleared as soon as the blue lights finally came on. And while the march was certainly an escalation from the largely respectful protests of the last few months, no one got hurt or even arrested.

Where does that leave us?  Well, it wouldn’t be an Argus post without a gaping lack of closure. But beyond that, does anyone feel like this is over?  Are the “fundamentalist bigots” satisfied?  Is the “radical gay agenda” resigned to defeat?

As we watched the crowd disperse, Bill looked at me and said, “You know this is just going to get bigger.” The blue lights beat the air, and the megaphones were turned off, and we all went our separate ways, trying to figure out what had just happened.

Follow on Twitter: @DarkTopo
Other dispatches from the Asheville Argus:

Cats and Dogs
The Leader
The Asylum
The Lay of the Land
Merry Christmas from the Asheville Argus
Crying Wolf
Birds, Part II
Birds, Part I
Eyes on the Street
The Public Space
Collected Street Portraits
The Day it All Started
Fog on the Top Deck
Two Storms
Introducing the Asheville Argus


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4 thoughts on “Asheville Argus: The Midnight March

  1. Logan Ayliffe

    This is incredibly weak “journalism” in my opinion.

    Don’t want to be mean, but that article reads like it was written by an utter coward, afraid of everything, especially making a definitive statement of any kind. Instead, the author chooses to take pot shots / exaggerate details / vaugely handwave at a lot of “what if” statements. All the while missing the most important point: whole sections of north carolina residents were given Constitutional disenfranchisement last night, and the worst that happened was a couple firecrackers? And that’s got this person upset? Wow.

    • Barry Summers

      And yet there you are being mean…

      This is an opinion piece by an artist/blogger meant to convey impressions from a chaotic and emotional event. I don’t think it pretends to be Journalism with a capital J.

      I may not agree with some of the sentiments expressed, but I appreciate the writing.

  2. Art Lover

    Max Cooper is a very fine photographer and a serious, thoughtful artist. His musings about his art and his life are sometimes less interesting and compelling than the art itself. Maybe this is a product of current art school pedagogy, with all those “artist’s statements” required. Mr. Summers’ comment shows a lot of understanding.

  3. zen

    I liked it. It’s all a dance and it’s nice to hear writing that isn’t fumbling for just the right position to take. I agree with some, disagree with some and that’s all good.

    I would like to take exception to the idea that “photography, more than any other art, is a way of seeing things as they really are.” Most often it’s just a way of seeing things as they (temporarily) were. It’s an art that is one of the toughest to find a ‘voice’ in and its halls are filled with students creating esquisitely crafted mediocrity, but it is very difficult to make a photo as something is, especially of people as they only stop moving as they sleep or in death.

    The point is its a good article because it stimulates thought, not because it provides the answers or even pretends to.

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