TENNESSEE HAS DECLARED WAR ON SHELBY COUNTY. We now have 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 them 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.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.