Business Casual: Don’t Go, Please

To movie folks ready to pack your bags: Think who you will be hurting.

Practically every parent alive has at least one recollection of trying to get out the door for a day’s work or an overnight trip with a teary-eyed two-year-old clinging to a leg, pleading, “Don’t go!”

I’ve been feeling a bit like a despondent toddler myself lately, wanting to wail and grab onto the limbs of the movie folks who have let it be known that they are ready to leave Georgia over HB 481, the abortion bill – also known as the heartbeat bill – that the General Assembly passed and the governor signed into law, that outlaws abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Believe me, I get it. I understand why that is their first reaction. But, please, folks. Take a breath. Think again. And for heaven’s sake, don’t go!

Hollywood people, you will do more good by staying and fighting the law and its effects with the majority of Georgians – according to polls – who share your disapproval.

You cannot loathe that bill more than I do; you cannot be more concerned about its effects than those of us who have lived here, raised children here and are optimistic about the future of this state, despite this setback.

And you cannot be more hopeful than I that the courts will relegate that odious piece of legislation to the trash heap.

Georgia, especially Atlanta, is a business hub, an education hub and a technology hub, as well as a hub for the film and TV industry. We have a great deal going for us.

Apart from the 30 percent tax break (which I believe was one of the best things our state legislature ever put into effect), the weather, the scenery, the airport – you obviously found something here, something worth building on, encouraging, being a part of.

The entertainment industry has been very good for Georgia – it’s a $9.5-billion-a-year enterprise that supports some 92,000 jobs. With good stewardship on the part of our elected officials and support from the business community, the education community and the arts community and good will from the people of Georgia, it will bring much more.

It’s exposing our citizens – our young ones, especially – to new opportunities, new points of view, new ideas. Nothing to fear there – but plenty to embrace.

Believe me, I understand why individuals – Alyssa Milano, Don Cheadle, Ben Stiller – and even major studios like Disney, Netflix and Warner Media have expressed doubts about working here or even determined they will not if the bill becomes law.

But I value and admire those – like Ron Howard, Jordan Peele, J.J. Abrams – who have decided to continue working here and have said they will contribute money to organizations working to protect women’s rights.

To movie folks ready to pack your bags: Think who you will be hurting. Not the legislators who voted for the bill or the man who signed it into law. They’ll be OK. But thousands of Georgians, many of them women, will suffer.

Some are newly minted state citizens who came here to work in the industry and found a place they want to call home and build a life or even raise a family. They and their Georgia-born colleagues are the ones who will bear the brunt of your decision to abandon the state. Georgia’s civic and cultural life has been enriched by their presence and their work.

Yes, I know, you hear a few disgruntled souls saying they don’t care what Hollywood thinks – who needs those movie people? But those are a pretty small percentage of Georgians, and they do not represent the state’s future.

You know what else? Georgia is changing, becoming much more forward-looking and progressive – and prosperous. We came that close to electing the country’s first African-American female to the highest office in the state. Our legislature is becoming more diverse, more accepting of new ideas.

The same legislature that approved the heartbeat bill also voted to allow the cultivation of medical marijuana, to take steps to provide Medicaid coverage to more citizens and to implement a pay raise for public school teachers. Small steps, perhaps, but that’s the way good things often get done – incrementally, not with one great thunderous action.

I understand why Hollywood folks are concerned with the status of women and frustrated by the setback that is HB 481. But instead of leaving, stay here and help us fight the good fight. Don’t go, please.

Categories: Business Casual, Opinions