“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it: the tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln
The shadow cast by the 111th Tennessee legislature has shed a dark pall of corruption over the entire state. Accounts of the excessive use of illegal drugs in the state house, debauchery, and cronyism at the highest levels of our representative government have been shocking to say the least. The disrespect and contempt shown to our citizens of color, women, children, families, and for the rule of law by our leaders strikes at the very root of democracy in the state. It’s time we all realize that the Tennessee state tree is rotten to the core and needs to be uprooted.
Tennessee suffers from an astonishing lack of leadership. Leadership requires integrity and strong character. Our elected officials should at the very least be honest and show consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong ethical values. Leaders should care about all of the citizens under their sway and should meet the expectations of society as a whole. Our leaders must be held accountable for their actions and must serve as positive role models for the citizenry. It is disappointing to know that the leadership of the 111th Tennessee legislature failed in all of these areas.
The Tennessee legislature has attained its supermajority by gerrymandering districts for specific candidates and by stoking the fires of fear between various constituencies. They emphasize social issues to keep the religious on their side, though their responsibility is not the church but the state. They support candidates with questionable backgrounds and conflicts of interest so that they can keep them in line when leaders make questionable ethical decisions. They use bribery to achieve their goals. It’s past time that the good people of Tennessee opened their eyes to what is being done at the legislature in their name.
In the last legislative session, two young activists of color were arrested and carried off in shackles for protesting the lack of representation for the poor by the leaders of Tennessee. And later, the speaker’s office attempted to frame one of the activists with false evidence. Take that, those who dare raise their voices for the voiceless. An accused serial abuser was overwhelmingly elected in his district and once at the legislature was appointed as chair of the education committee. Take that, women of Tennessee. More than 150,000 children were moved off of their Tenncare medical benefits without notice. Take that, children and families of Tennessee. Who are these guys?
But more than who they are, who are we, Tennessee? We allow ourselves to be manipulated into electing these unethical people to represent us. We have to stop voting for our representatives just because they have an R or a D next to their name on the ballot. We have to find out who these candidates are as people, as human beings. Corruption and political dirty tricks will reign unless we demand ethical candidates for public office.
The speaker of the house and his aid are now embroiled in several ethical controversies. The aid has resigned and has been replaced by someone with ethical problems of his own. (Isn’t there anyone in Tennessee government with character?) Calls for the speaker’s resignation persist and are thankfully growing louder. We can only hope that the members of the legislature can muster the guts and the character to rid out politics of the cancer that the speaker represents. And to the person who started this ball rolling by turning the highly informative text messages over to the media—good on you, and please keep ‘em coming!
Jun 02 2019
Jun 02 2019