War Within The State

February 7th, 2013

Okay, making Ida B. share a park with Nathan B. was a lousy idea. But, then, naming a park after grand wizard Forrest and digging him up to put him there was, in retrospect, a lousy idea.

But those are our ideas. Those are our mistakes to correct or fail to do so, our opportunity to grow beyond our differences, our debate to have.

Those of you, and you know who you are, who call your boys in Nashville, and they are boys, to quickly manufacture something to correct something here you don’t like should be put on notice. And every citizen of every city, town and hamlet from Memphis to Bristol should pay attention.

If you invite the state into our house, you’ve invited them into yours, too, and into every house in Tennessee.

As published in The Daily News, February 8, 2013, and in The Memphis News, February 9-15, 2013

(painting: The first Battle of Memphis. By the way, Memphis lost, and was occupied.)

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We have now renamed three parks. Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park. Confederate Park to Memphis Park. Jefferson Davis Park to Mississippi River Park. The new names are uninspired and uninteresting ­– they might as well be Boring Park, Bland Park and Whatever Park – but what inspired the changes is what makes them interesting.

They are the latest defense against yet another volley fired at Shelby County from Nashville.

In what could have been an honest debate about how to deal with all of our history for all of our citizens instead of dividing them into opposing camps – about understanding the difference between recognition and honor, reality and romance, truth and myth – the city council was forced instead to take hasty cover from incoming legislative fire.

Two Republicans from Lexington and Murfreesboro have proposed legislation to prohibit the renaming of anything noting military events or people anywhere in Tennessee by any city they don’t like … wait, that’s too limiting … by any city period. This latest attack on our right to make our own civic decisions just happens to coincide with our debate about the names of our parks that mark our history. Not the history of Lexington or Murfreesboro, but our history.

Again, the army running the state legislature has taken dead aim at us in order to correct our wayward behavior and snap us into formation. The party that stands for less government has spent more time here than anywhere else in the state, to the exclusion of virtually everywhere else in the state, to meddle in our affairs and dictate our destiny.

This isn’t about monuments and parks commemorating the War Between The States, this is the latest battle in the War Within The State. Nashville is attempting to occupy Shelby County, and whether you’re black or white, Republican or Democrat, red or blue, you should be seeing bright red right now.

Pickler’s charge to change state law to allow multiple school districts led to the surrender of the city school charter and started the sabers rattling in the east. Our own General Norris and aide-de-camp Todd mounted an overnight legislative campaign to pass laws applicable in Shelby County only, and the ensuing battle continues in federal court and continues to divide us. Gadfly Stacey Campfield proposes legislation that would tie whether or not a family on welfare can feed their children to the grades of their children, and there are more families that would take that cold bullet in Shelby County than any other county by far.

The state wants final say on charter schools, and more here than anywhere else. The state wants vouchers, and is carefully defining terms that will affect more of our children than anywhere else. The state wants everybody to carry state ID, and there are more people here than anywhere else that are not just inconvenienced but disenfranchised by that.

This is a state of war. And we’re losing control.

I’m a Memphian, and this corner of Tennessee is ours.


Reuben: Next, the U.S. government will demand we rename our parks to Sherman Park, Grant Park and Lincoln Park (wait, that's a band). At least they'll have character again. "I, for one, welcome our new eastern overlords." -Kent Brockman, news anchor

Jim Beaty: Dan, I would prefer that Nashville, and the State Legislature stay out of our business, no matter what. However, the simple fact remains, we are not just losing control, we are out of control in virtually every segment of responsibility granted the city by it Charter. This place is hopeless and suffers from a long history of poor leadership. When you and I stepped out of line, and that was frequent for me, my parents stepped in to regain control. The State granted the City of Memphis it's Charter. Maybe some adult supervision is needed. It is surely lacking as I see it.

guy miller: Dan......the last time I looked we were a part of the State of Tennessee. What do you suggest that we succeed from them? I thought we tried a similar idea 150 years ago.

Bob Jarrett: Well said for the most part. Memphis leaders seem to be able to make a stand on non issues, and just shift responsibility for real governance to the County on others. They can change names of parks but can't collect fines or taxes or run a school system or manage their employees' issues. Just let the County do it. Of course the intervention of the State in education has opened another bone filled closet. It is the State's job to educate, believe or not. I take your slap shot at politics was to blame a political party for Memphis' leadership stupidity. It was Memphis leadership that described a new world class education system with the memorable phrase "economy of size." Missed the economy by $90 million. It's all about the children was another memorable obfuscation. Enough this day.

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