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Mom as the New Face of Anarchy? Police Terrorize Americans Who Object to Right-Wing Lunacy by Using "Anarchist" Label

Are you now, or have you ever been, an anarchist?

Barbara Parramore, mother of AlterNet editor Lynn Parramore.


Dissent is once again a criminal act in America. People who object to right-wing lunacy used to be called “communists” and treated as enemies of the state. Now “anarchist” is the label of choice used to harass those who disagree.

Just ask my 81-year-old mom. In the state of North Carolina, she is a suspected anarchist for wanting children to go to decent schools.

A new era of protest

America has gone through plenty of protests that have made us stronger and better, from the Revolutionary era and the abolitionists to the sit-down strikes and the lunch-counter civil rights demonstrations.

Now we’ve entered a new distinctive era of protest — the pushback against economic inequality, stagnant wages, attacks on public programs, and two-tiered justice that’s popped up in Wisconsin, the Occupy Movement, and, most recently, North Carolina’s Moral Mondays, a progressive charge against a wave of knuckle-dragging GOP legislation that seeks to turn the state into a Mid-Atlantic Mississippi.

Protests inevitably fire the energy of those who are allergic to change. Many Americans are old enough to recall the Second Red Scare, which blew across the country like poison gas in the 1950s and had everybody from Martin Luther King to Burl Ives branded a communist. Hundreds were locked behind bars and thousands lost their jobs. Blacklists spread not only through Hollywood, but also through schools and universities. If you were a union activist, you were labeled a communist. Gay? Definitely a communist. Feminist? Ditto.  Arthur Miller compared the hysteria to the Salem witch trials in his play, The Crucible.

Now when those in power want to question someone’s patriotism or values, the term “anarchist” comes in handy. The fear of anarchists in the U.S. goes way back to 1870s, when businessmen, religious leaders and editorial writers tried to stoke opposition to dissident railroad workers and again to laborers fighting for an 8-hour-day during the Haymarket affair in the mid-1880s. The same dirty, reckless tactics are deployed now as they were then: Fear-mongering, bending the law, and the red-baiter’s favorite tactic of all, spying.

When everyone’s a suspect, no one is safe from accusations. Not the student, not the pastor, not the teacher.

Meet the new face of anarchy

My 81-year-old mother, Barbara Parramore, is a former Sunday school teacher who served in North Carolina’s public education system for half a century as a teacher, elementary school principal, and professor of education at N.C. State University. She is the author of many books for young learners, like the Children's Dictionary of Occupations (a subversive tract if there ever was one).

Since her retirement, Mom has been engaged in such radical activities as raising money for a 4-H museum, volunteering with the Carolina Ballet, and sharing her modest savings with her alma mater to set up a scholarship.

According to North Carolina police, she is a suspected anarchist. For real.

Let me explain. A citizen who cares about her community, Mom follows the news closely. Lately she’s been shaken to see rabid right-wingers doing their level best to handicap the next generation of Tarheels. They have declared a war on the poor, women, young people, African Americans, and anybody else who does not share their mean-spirited objectives.

Some might mistake Mom for a southern belle, with her charming manners and conservative attire. But she is actually a steel magnolia. When Mom saw her life’s work as an educator jeopardized, she joined her Baptist pastor and other concerned North Carolinians to protest at the State Capitol as part of the Moral Monday campaign. On an afternoon in May, she joined hundreds of other peaceful citizens at the Legislative Building in Raleigh to call attention to the constant attacks on the most vulnerable.  Later that evening, she was handcuffed and taken to jail. She expressed her reasons for risking arrest in an essay published on AlterNet and elsewhere: