Tennessee politics confronts us with something hideous almost every week. The spectacles of hatred are so frequent that we have trained ourselves to stare at them, aroused by them AS IF they were beautiful. We experience, or seem to based on social media reactions, a rush of disgust. We get our fix every week and it's a good thing, too, because we come to need it.
Approaching the hideous: Before I move on to the beautiful, which is promised in the title, I want to linger with the hideous element for a minute and offer an ethic or a brief approach to the hideous side of our politics. Staring at and sharing and again staring at the hideous must not transfix us. We must see the hideous without staring because if we stare and share and stare again, we lose our sight, particularly we lose sight of what's beautiful, and we lose time needed for responsible action in the face of the hideous.
Staring and sharing and staring again at the hideous qualities of our political life are corrosive to activism. If we stare, we can't see our way out of the maze. Or to borrow another Classical image, the hideous facet of our politics is a Medusa that turns us to stone. We will need our flesh and we will need movement to become free.
So to put the matter succinctly, see the hideous, acknowledge it, respect its power, but get ready to move your eyes, ears, bodies, and minds through it to another place.
Beautiful is not hot: And that place is the beautiful. Beauty in this case doesn't mean who's "hot." Beautiful people are those who are trying as best they can to live authentically and freely, especially those whom the forces of hideous politics in our state are trying to hinder. Their striving and their moments of overcoming are what is truly beautiful.
More concretely, what is it that is so beautiful that is happening in Tennessee? Every day a couple, who before June 26 couldn't do so, is going to the courthouse to get a marriage license. Every day students who know they are different are finding the courage to resist their bullies, every day Tennesseans are coming out to coworkers, and every day people are finding places where they are not persecuted and even killed because of their gender.
We don't deny the hideous in order to look only at the beautiful. But we should look at both and for different reasons. The hideous is a reminder and even a call to overcome an obstacle. The beautiful is where we are headed. If we look around, rather than stare at one, we will see both. And both are necessary for our community's vision of itself and our path forward.
Considering our own practices: What does that mean in a practical sense? Everyone's use of social media is intensely personal. It is your page, your timeline, your feed, after all, and you are free to do what you will. No one else has to look. But if I may suggest it, consider how you share the hideous elements. Do you share them in a way that erodes hope? If your share them without comment, perhaps you are. If you share them with the comment: "I've got to get out of this F*(#ing state," then the answer is probably "yes." What if when we shared the hideous, we said, "Here's where we have some work to do?" Or even better, "I've thought about it and I've decided I'm going to dedicate myself to dealing with this problem." It is, indeed, your page, your feed, your timeline, etc., and it is your choice. It is also your opportunity.
Lead the movement for equality right where you are and help your friends see their way through the hideous to something else, something beautiful we can all share.