The Tennessee Three
One of the advantages of being old as the hills is that one’s Weltanschauung has seen a great deal. Therefore, that worldview is better informed. Only about 15% of Americans remember the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s. In my previous essay, I’m Alive Because I’m White, I included Bob Dylan’s classic, The Times They Are A-Changin’. Things were changing. In this stanza, he addressed parents in America.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
Blacks and some white Americans were driven to address segregation and the inequality between the races. What was interesting about the leadership and the followers was that both communities often consisted of young people. There was a systemic change between the older and younger generation. Being an 80-year-old guy gives me a perspective that 85% of our country doesn’t have.
That systemic change also occurred with elected leaders. Remember what Dylan said.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’
However, that was over a half dozen decades years ago. Today, there is a re-emergence of the civil rights movement. The Tennessee House of Representatives expelled Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson lost their seat for disorderly conduct. House Speaker Cameron Sexton did not give Jones and Pearson the okay to use a megaphone in the chamber’s well. Jones, Pearson, and Rep. Gloria Johnson wanted the house to address gun reforms in the wake of the three children and three adults killed at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 30th.
To add to the firestorm regarding ousting Jones and Pearson, Johnson wasn’t expelled. She explained that the reason for not being removed was simple. “I’m a 60-year-old white woman, and they are two young Black men. It might have to do with the color of our skin.” Johnson was born in 1963, the same year a quarter million protesters participated in the March on Washington.
Nonetheless, Sexton compared the Tennessee Three to the insurrection on January 6, 2021, at the US Capitol.
One addendum. Watch this video. It is Rep. Jones and Joan Baez singing a duet. We Shall Overcome was the anthem of the civil rights movement.
A week later, the Old National Bank was the site of another mass shooting. This time in Louisville, Kentucky. An AR-15 rifle killed five people.
However, racism and gun control issues are not the only social movement that needs to be addressed. Sexism is one. We have men deciding for women regarding their reproductive rights. That is an absurd mindset at several levels. Who gave men the right to make laws about women? Men decided that they were better able to write those types of laws.
If we are dealing with abortions, who is responsible for getting a woman pregnant in the first place? Why blame the women? Why not send men to prison for getting women pregnant?
Some religions view abortion as wrong. Why should one religion’s mindset determine the prohibition for those that follow other religions or no religion?
The LGBTQ community also faces discrimination. It raises the same question about a religion dictating what is ethically permissible.
The litany of issues that the radical right push also includes banning books or inter-racial marriages. The times they are a-changin’. While that might be true, things haven’t changed much during my journey down the yellow brick road of my eighty-year life.