That ruby red group of extremists, the Tennessee Legislature, is in session again.

It’s the annual competition to take partisan shots at favorite targets, blue cities Memphis and Nashville.

There will be snide and insulting comments, all while what they should be saying is “thank you.”

That’s because these two Democratic cities generate 60% of Tennessee’s $427.1 billion GDP and 60% of jobs in the state.  Sixty percent from two urban areas, which still don’t get respect in the right wing Tennessee Legislature.

Memphis and Nashville drive the Tennessee economy. They prop up the state economy weakened by the rural towns where so many legislators come from.  They send the lion’s share of taxes that prop up state government’s budget.  They even pay most of legislators’ salaries.

Legislative OCD

Where’s the Legislature’s family values?

Saying thank you is just common courtesy.  Surely legislators’ mommas taught them that much.  Thank you is just a way to let someone know that you appreciate all that they do for you.  

And Memphis and Nashville do plenty.

How about the Golden Rule?  Surely with so much Bible thumping going on in the Capitol, they know it.  But “do unto others” is a hollow Bible verse when the Legislature is in session and hateful legislation is its product.  

So exactly how does the legislative supermajority show its gratitude to Memphis and Nashville for keeping Tennessee afloat and revenues to state government flowing? 

After all, Memphis and Nashville have real needs, challenges, and opportunities. 

What they get from the Legislature are obsessions about drag shows which they’ve never seen, interfering in the freedom of families they’ve never met to make their own decisions about their children, they agonize over a trans athletes although they’ve never met one, they squeal about diversity and inclusion training teaching respect for all races although they have never attended it, they agonize over White kids who might be uncomfortable learning accurate American history, they vilify teachers as groomers although they can’t find one, and they push “classical education” they can’t explain and is more about injecting their political and religious beliefs into our public school classrooms.

But it doesn’t stop there.  These anti-democratic legislators interfere in local government decisions, they dumb down our school systems, they prevent a fairer criminal justice system, they gerrymander our Congressional districts, they erode  our cities’ home rule authority, they threaten our health and diminish our individual liberties, they pull money out of our public school and send it to private schools, they fuel our crime and make every public space unsafe with the proliferation of guns, they threaten the independence of our prosecutors and courts, they block Black students from learning their history, they ban books that require students to think, they waste thousands of hours of teaching by making teachers inventory and publish books in their classrooms, and they remove freedom for parents to make their own family decisions about their trans child.   

Simple: Just Act Right

As a friend of mine often said: “Why can’t they act right?”

For Memphis and Nashville, the answer is no.  The sad part is these right wing extremists are proud of their churlish, ignorant, and pandering behavior and the ignorance at the heart of the spiteful laws that flow from that spring of ignorance.

There’s the fundamental question: how do they sleep at night? 

They put people’s lives at stake to score political points.  

They prefer sloganeering over service.  

They preach liberty while limiting ours. 

They are motivated by cruelty rather than compassion.

They call facts they don’t like fake news.

They put paranoia over policy. 

They abandon reason to fuel their rage machine.

George Orwell Foretold Legislature

We are living in George Orwell’s world.  It’s 1984 – war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, fascism is freedom.  Tennessee Legislature is Big Brother.  

That is what is most telling: they are hypocrites.   

Not too long ago right wingers complained that big government was interfering in the lives of Tennesseans, that liberals wanted a nanny state where government told families what to do, and that Democrats wanted to take away our freedoms.

Now they engage in all the behaviors that professed to abhor.     

Theirs is a world where woke, borrowed from African American culture where it means enlightened, is now ignorantly treated as an epithet. Theirs is a world where even M&M’s are enough to trigger their culture wars and play the victim.

Meanwhile, Tennessee is #43 in happiness, #36 in child well-being, #39 in health, #40 in family and community, #43 in preparedness to compete in innovation-driven economy, #45 in healthiest state, #50 in academic investment, #49 in school class size, #40 in maternal mortality, and myriad other indicators that are symptoms of a state government focused on the wrong priorities and concentrating on the wrong laws.

It’s enough to make most Tennesseans needing relief from their own state government.  Drag show, anyone?


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