Discomfort Zone

Discomfort Zone

by | Jun 10, 2024 | From the Campaign Trail

Where’s the right place to say things are wrong?

A neighborhood association meeting is an awkward place to talk about Tennessee’s abortion ban. But there I was last Thursday, talking about it in detail at the North Chattanooga Neighborhood Association.

The speaker who preceded me was my opponent. His speech was short on policy and vaguely uplifting. He talked about where he went to high school, and about patriotism, and about how Tennessee represents the very best of America.

My opponent’s stump speech ran well beyond the allotted five minutes, but I can’t remember what else he said, because as he spoke it was dawning on me just how uncomfortable my speech was going to be, coming after his.

I was thinking about someone I knew back in high school, a girl whose stepfather was a charter member of the Tinfoil Hat Society. She once came home from a concert very late and extremely high, hoping to slip back to her bedroom unnoticed. Instead, to her horror, her stepfather was up watching TV, and in the mood to impart some wisdom. She sat stricken for what seemed like hours as he told her all about the dangers of the Trilateral Commission.

I don’t want to be tinfoil hat guy.

My opponent wrapped it up, and I took his place at the front of the room.

I talked about how our state government is giving wealthy corporations giant tax breaks at our expense, and how our Republican legislators get people to vote for them by turning nuanced issues like reproductive rights and the Second Amendment into culture wars, which is how we got an abortion ban and gun laws that are causing us serious harm. I said our Republican legislators won’t modify their extreme positions because they’ve been openly threatened with political retribution from the special interest groups that they really represent. I promised that I couldn’t be bought.

The next speakers were the director of the Chattanooga Public Library and the administrator of Parks and Outdoors.

We all received the same polite applause. After the meeting, a few women came up to me and thanked me. I have no idea what anyone else thought.

Running for public office is inherently uncomfortable. But running for the Tennessee legislature in 2024 takes it to a new level. As the national media have noticed, but many Tennesseans still have not, our state lawmakers are willfully ignoring and endangering us. That’s not normal. And nothing will change until we talk about it.

Women are bleeding out from miscarriage. Little girls are being forced to carry to term. Children are being shot to death in record numbers. In this siloed landscape—where formal debates are rare, and everyone picks their own news, and nobody answers their phone, and people are ensconced in gated communities—it’s easy not to know or care.

If I wait for an appropriate forum to talk about it, I might be waiting forever. I’m going to speak the uncomfortable truth wherever I can.

If you want to restore compassion and common sense to our state government, please join my team. Click to donate, volunteer, or get a yard sign.