Mae Be, Mae Be Not

January 30th, 2014

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the Tennessee State Legislature.

So, personally and on on behalf of the columnists and all who opine across this great state, even the nation, thank you for the inspiration you provide us through your actions.

We’ve been waiting for you to come back in session and you do not disappoint. On just the second day, you’ve declared Tennessee to be above federal law and beyond the juristiction of the Supreme Court. I say you collectively, because while a few of you have put that on the floor, the rest of you haven’t bothered to object.

If you get writer’s block in Tennessee, you’re just not paying attention.

As published in The Daily News, January 31, 2014, and in The Memphis News, February 1-7, 2014

(Photo: from The Tennessean/State Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon and fellow Republican Sen. Mae Beavers, right, of Mt. Juliet hold a news conference in Nashville, on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, about their bill seeking to ban state participation in the federal health care law./Erik Schelzig/Associated Press)



State senator Mae Beavers – really, that’s her name – has offered legislation that makes it against the law in Tennessee to obey the law in the United States – really, I couldn’t possibly make that up.

Ah, the sweet memories so many of us want to hold onto down here in the grits belt – states’ rights, secession, the Civil War – you know, when we went to war with our own country. Oh, the halcyon days of Jim Crow – segregation, voter suppression – you know, like the voter I.D. law our legislature recently gave us. Alas, the loss of the frontline defenders of our separate but never equal way of life – Faubus in front of Little Rock Central High, Wallace in front of the University of Alabama, Bull Connor in command of the fire hoses and dogs of Birmingham – you know, like making damn sure, no matter what and damn the cost, that Tennessee doesn’t do anything that might be perceived as supporting the President of the United States, well, this one anyway.

Mt. Juliet Senator Beaver’s law, supported in the House by Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon and other retro types, would make it illegal in Tennessee to cooperate with or participate in or enforce in any way the Affordable Care Act – never mind that it’s federal law, never mind the some 40,000 Tennesseans who have already signed up, oh, just never mind.

There’s no outrage from her party’s leadership, from anyone really. Taking his usual strong stance, our governor said he hadn’t, “had a chance to review its impact and how it would work.”

Let me help with that, Bill. Its impact would be embarrassing for Tennessee, it won’t work, and merely proposing it is an affront to the responsible leadership of both parties if not the basic intelligence of the rest of us.

But that’s what’s coming our way out of Nashville. Our own Mark Norris, senate majority leader and supposed champion of less bureaucracy, had the state turn our two school systems into seven, creating seven new boards and enough new bureaucratic red tape to wrap the county several times over. Our own Brian Kelsey, he of smaller government, is asking the state to relieve us of two judges, assuring an already backed up court of a huge mess.

But wait – maybe Mae and the boys are onto something.

If you don’t like the laws big bad government passes – say your country and, by logical extension, your state – just refuse to obey them. Better yet, make them illegal.

Instead of a nation of laws, we can become a nation of laws we like.

I’m sure we can find somebody local willing to call attention to themselves and whatever bone they’re chewing on at the expense of the many – Janis Fullilove on the council and Terry Roland on the commission come to mind – to propose a law that makes it illegal for anyone in Memphis or Shelby County to obey the law in Tennessee.

I’m a Memphian, and so it goes.


I'm a Memphian by Dan Conaway

The book is available all over town – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look.



Ken: I suppose these legislators must be supporters of Duck Dynasty. How else do you explain this kind of idiocy in government which now seems less the exception than the rule? It's not just here in Tennessee. Alas.

Jason: It's time to stop using Civil Rights abuses of the last century as a bludgeon against proponents of decentralization of power and state's rights. Just as many horrible acts have committed by the federal government. Ever hear of the Trail of Tears or the annihilation of Native American population? It wasn't done by the states! Too much centralization of power has historically been a tool of tyrants and crony capitalists. There are numerous examples. Just check the history books. The first thing Putin did when he came to power was to neuter the states and accumulate all power to himself. That's why our founders set up a federal system with division of powers. It has been under constant attack ever since. Now, you are correct that under our federal system that federal law trumps state law. But state's rights advocates have a legitimate beef about the excessive accumulation of power in Washington DC. The SCOTUS has allowed it to happen. Is this the best or most effective means of protesting? Perhaps or perhaps not. But isn't peaceful protest an inherent part of our political process? It certainly is deemed to have been acceptable when MLK did it in the Civil Rights struggle, or when Vietnam protesters burned their draft card. Wasn't that also in violation of federal law? Of course it was. The AHCA, regardless of its merits for expanding access to healthcare, places this fed-state power struggle front and center. It is the most significant example of a longstanding and expanding pattern how the govt takes our tax dollars and holds us hostage to do as we're told if we want to get it back. Is there a steep price to pay for standing up to this blunt exercise of raw power by the fed govt? Absolutely. But then, many of those that marched in the Civil Rights struggle also paid a dear price, but eventually they got the nation's attention, and brought about real change.

Jason: What happened to my comment?

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