Many people in other parts of the U.S. have an image of Tennesseans as hicks. They picture us sitting on hay bales, missing a couple of teeth, and playing banjos. I have fought this impression of our wonderful state’s residents for years, arguing that Tennessee is making great strides in arts, culture, and business. But lately I’m not so sure.
A couple of years ago, the Tennessee Legislature was taken over by Republicans, who were swept into office by voters united by the bad economy, the Tea Party, and a shared hatred of Barrack Obama. The politicians promised that jobs and the economy would be their number one priority. Then, they got busy pushing an agenda that no one asked for, including radical gun laws adopted verbatim from NRA templates, anti-gay and anti-Teacher’s Union legislation, and voter suppression laws. Lately, they’ve been concentrating on really important issues, like making sure teenagers don’t wear saggy pants, forcing teachers to teach abstinence-only sex education, and allowing gun enthusiasts to bring their weapons to work.
Now they have just passed a bill that will allow teachers to discuss alternatives to the theory of evolution, which is a Trojan Horse to allow backers of creationism to teach children biblical myths. We’re still living down the memory of the Scopes Monkey Trial, and now this has made us a laughingstock once again.
Cut to the board room of a major Bio-engineering firm that is deciding where to locate their new billion dollar factory. The CEO says, “Well, we’ve narrowed it down to Tennessee and Georgia. I like Tennessee, the people there are really friendly and there is a good business climate.” Another executive speaks up: “Yes, but Tennessee law allows them to teach creationism in their science classes. I’m afraid that their workforce will be too uneducated to understand our processes.”
Governor Bill Haslam
Our governor, Bill Haslam, was urged by science groups, business groups, and thousands of people who care about our state to veto the “creationism bill,” but he declined to do so. And this week, he pointedly criticized the news media for covering what he called “the craziest political issues.” Talk about shooting the messenger. If the legislature is going to keep proposing stupid laws, then the news media has an obligation to point out just how stupid they are, and I’m happy that they are doing it.
Even if it does make Tennesseans look like a bunch of hicks.