“Methinks thou dost protest too much.”
I bet Mr. Randall and Mrs. Tew from my high school days would be proud to see me using a line from a Shakespeare play in a column. And surprised, too. To say I never showed any interest at all in the famous playwright and his writings back then would be an understatement. To be honest, I still don’t. But the actions and comments of individuals recently relating to current events have brought that quote back to me from way deep in my memory bank. (But why can’t I remember the name of that person that I’ve known for years that I saw just last week?)
The quote is from the William Shakespeare play, “Hamlet.” The actual wording reads, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” You may hear the phrase being used when one is suspicious about the actions or intentions of another. The Urban Dictionary describes it as being “overly insistent about something, to the point where the opposite is most likely true.”
I did it when I was a kid. You probably did, too. You insist you didn’t break that glass. Someone else must have done it. You keep talking, giving explanations and reasons why it wasn’t you. Eventually, because of the way you keep denying it, it becomes clear to your Mom or Dad that it was you, as they had already suspected.
I was reminded of the quote about protesting too much with all the recent outcry against our state over a law passed by our legislature. The state of North Carolina has been the object of much protest, ridicule and scorn because of our legislature’s passage of House Bill 2, commonly called the “bathroom bill.” The bill, passed in a one day special session, is entitled The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.
You’ve probably heard a lot about the bill, but what does it actually do? “Politifact” states that “the law is most well-known for mandating that people use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate, which would stop transgender people from using the bathroom of their gender identity. It also sets statewide nondiscrimination policies for both employment and service in public accommodations; the policies don’t include protections for gay or transgender people. It also forbids cities and counties from making rules that differ from state law on discrimination and bathroom issues, as well as on minimum wage and other labor-related topics. Finally, the law says North Carolinians may no longer file discrimination lawsuits in state courts – they may only use the more restrictive federal court system.”
Immediately after the law was passed, the uproar from social activists began. It seemed like everyone from Ringo Starr to President Obama was against the law. Musicians and groups canceled concerts in North Carolina in protest. Companies, like PayPal, threatened not to do business in the state. It looks like the passage of the law is going to cost our state jobs and money.
But I wonder, how many of those executives of those corporations have actually read the law. Do Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr or President Obama know the bill’s details? Or are they all just responding to public pressure, the dominant popular culture, and an opportunity for favorable public relations from the media?
But the North Carolina legislature is not blameless in this mess. The bill was presented and passed in less than twelve hours in a special one day session. Did they not know that there would be a backlash? Instead of just dealing with the bathroom problem caused by the Charlotte ordinance, (Thank you, Charlotte!) they added other policies that were sure to outrage the gay and lesbian community and their supporters. And they do love to protest. And the media loves to cover those protests. The media surely doesn’t think they “dost protest too much.”
Our culture has changed over the past fifty years. Many Christian theologians believe we are now living in a post Christian society. Legislation will not change that. But changing hearts and minds will, and that’s what we should be striving for. I know that somewhere down the road, probably sooner than later, we may have to decide to make a stand against the deterioration of our culture. But I don’t think the place to take that stand should be in front of an entrance to a public restroom.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org