Thankful for the courage of Alabamians

November 20, 2023 6:59 am
Protesters stand in from of the state building advocating against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

“Drag me to the Capitol” protestors stand in from of the Alabama Capitol and advocate against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation on May 16, 2023. (Alander Rocha/Alabama Reflector)

It’s very difficult to look at Alabama’s problems and think that we can fix them.

We have seen appalling gun violence and next to no interest in addressing it from officials and lawmakers. They’re far more interested in chasing women seeking out-of-state reproductive health care.

Not to mention transgender youth getting health care critical to their well-being.


And we have a Legislature that thinks making voting easier — through early voting or less restrictive absentee ballots — is a diabolical Marxist scheme. They continue to work to make voting a discouraging ordeal.

And yet, people keep working to make this state better.

And this week of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for their courage.

By this, I don’t mean the courage to face bullets, blood or fire, though we ought to be grateful for that.

I’m talking about the courage to confront the people who would count you out.

Year after year, Alabamians who have been cynically targeted by legislators for their own gain have shown up to remind people they’re Alabamians, they’re Americans, and they have rights.

It’s something they shouldn’t have to do. It’s something they’re forced to do by legislators who have neither the interest in nor ability to tackle the state’s real problems.

But they remind the people writing laws that attack a right or criminalize a necessity are real acts that affect real people, whatever legislators think of them.

It’s hard work, where failure happens too much. Before the Legislature voted to effectively ban all abortions in 2019, several women stepped forward to share their stories, some intensely personal and difficult, about why they had abortions.

Legislators ignored them. They really don’t seem to care about anything other than their primaries.

But those stories put a lie to any argument legislators made about women’s health or any other excuse to uphold a draconian ban on a critical health service.

And I’m grateful for them. And so many other Alabamians.

I’m thankful for the transgender youth who speak out about their health care needs and their refusal to be anything other than their true selves. That they have to do this is perverse. But they have shown a grit and courage that ought to shame people twice their age.

I’m thankful for the families of transgender youth who sacrifice their time to confront lawmakers who want to harm their children to appeal to the worst people in the world. Sometimes the most they get from officials is an “I’ll pray for you” (translated: “Ask God for help because I’m not lifting a finger”), but their advocacy has more impact than they believe.

I’m thankful for the hundreds of people who have turned out to defend their libraries against a reactionary panic stoked by a small group of brittle bigots terrified that kids might read books about marginalized people. They’ve shown who has the louder voice.

I’m thankful for the dozens of people who have tried to keep women connected to all their health care options, despite the hostility, threats and financial struggle they often face. Alabama’s abortion ban will eventually fall, and it will be due in no small part to these people keeping the candle lit in the darkness.

I’m thankful for the teachers and scholars who defend their right to teach history as it happened, not the selective version that wants to replace pain and heroism with anodyne inevitabilities.

I’m thankful because there’s only way to stop the cruelty and authoritarianism constantly pressed down on the heads of Alabamians.

Make it hard.

Force people to look into the eyes of those who need health care.

Talk back to a person calling for book bans.

Tell people that abortion is not some mark of moral failure but a decision that adults make for an uncountable number of reasons.

Remind those who would present our children with bowdlerized histories that honest history is nothing to be afraid of.

We’ve seen results. The Alabama Legislature, to this point, has not passed a bill like Florida or other states amounting to a veiled attack on Black and Indigenous history. Local libraries, for now, have had their autonomy preserved by people coming out to fight for them.

I wish I could say that attacks on transgender youth had flagged, too. But that immoral panic shows no immediate signs of abating. Still, families and youth are standing up to remind people that they’re here; that they’re Alabamians, and that they deserve the respect due any one of our neighbors.

There’s a lot to despair about in Alabama. But the consolation is that brave people of good faith keep stepping forward to demand better.

That fills me with gratitude.

And hope that we can make this state better.


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Brian Lyman
Brian Lyman

Brian Lyman is the editor of Alabama Reflector. He has covered Alabama politics since 2006, and worked at the Montgomery Advertiser, the Press-Register and The Anniston Star. His work has won awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors, the Alabama Press Association and Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights. He lives in Auburn with his wife, Julie, and their three children.