The problem with the cherry trees wasn’t just about the cherry trees

Apr 21 2019
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The problem with the cherry trees wasn’t just about the cherry trees

By: Betsy Phillips

As so many people have noted, the destruction of the cherry trees wasn't just about the trees. It was about how alienated so many people in Nashville feel from their own city. It feels like there’s so much that we are constantly being required to do without so that tourists stay happy. We're paying for a water park we'll have to pay a private entity to use. Most of Rose Park — a public park — is commandeered by Belmont, making it off-limits to Nashvillians. We almost lost Fort Negley. We're still fighting about whether we should give the park in front of the downtown library to a developer for way under market value. And we're losing the use of our downtown for the whole length of the NFL draft.

I resent being impressed into being the "local color," an extra on the stage set that is "Nashville." I resent having my money spent on things I can't enjoy because it's supposed to be good for the city, when that goodness never seems to trickle down to me. I'm not alone, I know.

But the part about this whole thing that shames me is that I, like a lot of other Nashvillians, have been conditioned to accept that the city isn't really for some of us. Many sat by while tent cities were torn down, while people were removed from Fort Negley — a place famous among other things for being a home to people who didn't have any other homes. I've shrugged it off when people were gentrified out of their neighborhoods — after all, why didn't they ever buy? And I know better. I know, intellectually, all of the reasons people don't own homes. I still accepted that, even if it wasn't fair, it's the price of progress. I don't think I'm alone in that, either.

Why did the cherry trees sting? 

Because it was a bunch of us who assumed we were safe finding out that our feelings and our well-being are also considered expendable by the powers-that be. There are folks who sacrifice for It City and folks who benefit from It City and it turns out a lot more of us are in the first category than we realized. That's a hard lesson, but we can't change things until we learn it.  


Betsy Phillips is a longtime local writer who focuses on everything from politics to parks to ghosts to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Last year her fiction book Jesus, Crawdad, Death was released through Third Man Records.


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