Bill Haslam continues to have high approval ratings — 68 percent overall in a recent Vanderbilt University poll. Haslam is popular with independents (62 percent) and Democrats (60 percent). So unlike reactionary right-wingers who seem to hate moderates and liberals on sight, the majority of Democrats and independents are able to appreciate reasonably sane Republicans. (During the most recent Democratic national convention, Bill Clinton pointed out that he never hated his Republican detractors the way they hated him.)
The Tennessee General Assembly, however, is another story, failing to earn the approval of the majority of Democrats (44 percent) and independents (49 percent). And that’s no wonder, as Mother Jones recently ranked Tennessee’s legislature dead last among the 50 states.
Mother Jones — which sarcastically called its rankings “purely scientific” — suggested that our state legislature is either first or last on the “crazy” meter, depending on whether one prefers to live in an insane asylum.
The magazine mentioned a sex education bill approved this year that referred to “gateway body parts.” This was presumably a blushing attempt to avoid terms like “sex organs” and “genitals.” Also cited were a failed bill to fine citizens for using restrooms that don’t match their birth certificate sex and a conspiracy theory email forwarded by a state legislator that said President Obama planned to stage a fake assassination attempt for political gain.
But this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Tennessee’s legislature is packed with Holy Rollers who seem intent on creating a perfect storm of “thou shalt not” morality bills.
Many Republicans who claim to believe fervently in two things — Jesus Christ and a much smaller, less intrusive government — in reality act nothing like Christ and create bill after nonsensical bill in an attempt to legislate their medieval “morality” on the masses.
As Nashville Rep. Mike Turner, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, recently said, “They’re preoccupied with sex up here. We’re about ready to put the turbans on and put the women in burkas, if we keep going at this rate.”
Haslam has also criticized the bizarre bills emanating from the suspiciously Taliban-like reactionaries now occupying Capitol Hill.
But the Holy Rollers are undeterred and hence we have a steady stream of “no hand-holding” and “don’t say gay” and anti-evolution bills that make Tennessee the laughingstock of the nation and the foil of late-night comedians.
And then there are guns. According to the Bible, Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers” and “turn the other cheek.” But the Holy Rollers continue to demand the right for citizens to carry loaded weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol — an obviously combustible mix.
Now they want guns in parks, parking lots and universities. And they’re not satisfied with Colts and Magnums. In American bigger is better. So the next logical steps, so to speak, will probably be assault weapons in high schools, grade schools, kindergartens, pre-schools, Sunday schools and maternity wards.
Where the legislature’s madness will end, only God knows.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.