Dickson County. X2.

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Amendment XIV, Section 1, United States Constitution.

Let me try this again, because apparently, the Dickson County Commission seems to believe that the “citizens of Dickson County have made themselves clear” while the voices of those in opposition present at the meeting were not addressed — were not even heard — neither was my previous letter, the ones written expressing similar sentiment, the two-hundred and thirty signatures on the ‘you’re drunk, Dickson County Commission, go home’ petition, or the increasingly numerous social media posts of my fellow citizens who believe you all are embarrassing the County. So, no, Dickson County citizens were not heard — YOU ALL were, commission. As were the people who agree with you. And only them. Pat yourselves on the bigoted backs, y’all. You had your say.

So, allow some of us who, while believing that the Bible may govern our personal lives, believe that the CONSTITUTION governs the United States of America to be heard. AGAIN. Try listening this time. And consider this: Blount County killed their own similar resolution at the County level. Let that marinate. BLOUNT County. The foothills of Appalachia. And yet, their County Commission was bright enough to restrain from doing something so shamefully ridiculous. Why? Because Knoxville leaned over and whispered, “Stop making us look bad! We’re still reeling from Mr. ‘AIDS comes from man having sexual relations with a monkey’ Campfield!” 95 counties in Tennessee and only seven of them have been stupid enough to try something this silly. A similar proposal couldn’t even get past the State House — and that’s saying a LOT, given that we’re home of Mr. “Don’t Say Gay” and Mr. “F-You!” on the House Floor prescription fraud who calls himself a “Conservative for Christ.”

Aaaaand — wait for it, now — we’re the state that infamously tried to make the Bible the “state book” while simultaneously denying our underprivileged citizens health care. (Do you think, by the way, that any of these Representatives have ever read that so-called state book? I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t ask Mary for Lazarus’ insurance card, he just went on and raised him from the dead.) So let that stick, DCC. YOU make LESS sense than the State House. And the occupants of the Capitol Building are famous for one thing in recent years and one thing only — providing late night punch line material. Congratulations on topping their religious ranting of hypocritical insanity, DCC. You worked hard for it, woot woot!

And that’s the point of this piece. To remind every one of you exactly who they are so you can remember next election time. They are as follows:  Jeff Eby, James Dawson, Linda Hayes, Kelly Weatherspoon, Tony Adams, Carl Buckner, Shane Chandler, Buford Reed, Kyle Sanders, Becky Spicer, Jeff Spencer, and Randy Simpkins.

Regardless of how you feel about gay marriage, you should at least believe in a county commission who actually CONSIDERS the voice of ALL citizens before moving forward with their position on their own moral authority. Where they want the right to “define” a word in a language the Bible wasn’t even written in. (How First World Syndrome of you, by the way.) Well, dear Commissioners, you can define “marriage” all you want. I’m busy defining a word of my own. For the sake of not offending sensitive eyes, I’ll just let you guess what word that is. Be creative with it.

It was especially big of Mr. Eby to acknowledge that this provision will have NO EFFECT whatsoever. I suppose that was an attempt to make those of us who respect the process of the legislative and judicial branches in the United States feel better about your inability to understand how that process works. But all I heard was that the Dickson Co. Commission felt the need to publicly stand up –but only where they know it won’t be audibly contested — and state that they don’t approve of someone else’s lifestyle, even though they know, or some appear to, THAT IT WILL HAVE NO LEGAL EFFECT, coupled with their own self-righteous desire to tell people like me who ACTUALLY love gay people, as well as those gay individuals themselves — much like, I should point out, the spineless majority of the ‘Krazy Khristian Konservatives’ that gather on social media to shame, bully, and belittle anyone who has the intellectual capacity to stand up for themselves, or in my case, have me repeatedly blocked from and kicked off of my own Facebook account for standing up to them ONCE on my own personal page (thank you to a Misty Mahan Dantico and something called the ‘Dickson Scene’ Facebook page) — that they are going to burn in a non-consuming  pit of fire for eternity. Or so says the Dickson County Commission.

Because that’s all we heard, Mr. Eppy. That’s ALL we heard. Along with the loud rantings of a man, shouting, “We are called to serve Jesus Christ!” — which is beautiful, Bubba, but I’ve read our founding documents, and I’m pretty sure ‘Jesus Christ’ didn’t put his John Hancock anywhere on them. So, there’s THAT. 

There’s also this — historical and judicial precedent. It’s ridiculous to me to see the same pastors shouting about how “Tennessee voted over 80% in 2006 to keep marriage between a man and a woman.'” Well guess what, friend? I’d bet if we voted in 1964, over 80% of Tennesseans would have voted to keep black people eating only out of the back door. Particularly considering that African Americans wouldn’t have even been allowed to vote by work of creative “Christian” county employees. Thank God for the Supreme Court, huh?

Just like the South would have overwhelmingly decided — and they tried — to ignore Brown v. Board of Education. And if those ‘state’s rights’ truly existed, true to decades-behind fashion, activists would have still been fighting the South to integrate schools in the 1980s. Because it took the federal government sending in troops during the 1950s and 1960s to ensure that the South actually desegregated all educational institutions. To which, of course, the South was enraged, as they believed that their “states’ rights” had been infringed upon with that Supreme Court ruling as well.

Allow me to say on behalf of all the little white kids that loved our dark-skinned classmates, a big fat THANK YOU to the Supreme Court of the United States for deciding that separate but equal was a lie. And to the Constitution of the United States for clearing up that states’ rights illusion held by people who HAVE ALWAYS USED JESUS CHRIST to deny equal treatment to those they don’t approve of. Praise God for that Supremacy Clause in the Constitution, right?

Do you think you invented this, DCC? Do you think this struggle is new? Please. Try the Cornerstone Speech. Try the states’ own secession declarations — that state slavery as their main objective, and that slavery is the natural condition of the ‘negro’ and that God made the white man superior — in that war that the Connie Confederates now want to twist and call a battle over “states’ rights.” As they attempted to shout “our states’ rights are being taken away!” while forming the biggest domestic terrorist organization that our nation has ever known then, also. People have always used the Bible as a way to segregate and oppress others. And then they lie about it. Like that war over “state’s rights”– which, more accurately, was the states’ rights to own slaves.

Or the war over the “economic differences between the North and the South.” Another amusing spin. The economic differences between the North and the South, huh? Sure. The South was agricultural. The North, industrial. The South grew cotton and shipped it up North, the North turned it into textiles. The South depended on the free labor of slaves to further their trade. The North, largely, didn’t. So the ‘economic differences’ between the North and the South was that the South needed black people to keep picking their cotton without being paid and they used “God” in their attempts to do so. As made evident by the amounts of poor white men who fought for a right they would never even use — the right to own slaves. They did so to defend their own supremacy because they believed God commanded them to do so. Just like the Dickson County Commission is doing now. Their interpretation of “God’s work.” Consider this submission mine.

I wonder, when our children learn of this fight — which should have been settled by the swing vote of Justice Kennedy — how will you attempt to re-write this battle. Because oppressing the LEGAL RIGHTS of those you don’t agree with and attempting to use God’s word to do so is not new. In fact, it’s so unoriginal, you should have a new approach by now. But, as we know, “Biblically” based bigotry is not always bright. (See: Sarah Palin.)

So let’s take a look at Justice Kennedy’s own words. Penning the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote, “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its demensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”

In 1967 when the highest court struck down the states’ ban on interracial marriage, do you think that Bible-toting white folk weren’t angry over that Supreme Court ruling then, too? Heck, this side of one of “my” brown skinned children being born, a lady in Dickson County looked me in the eyes and told me that God didn’t intend white women to have black children — she isn’t even mine — and that “even a dog has enough sense to know to stick with its own kind.” To which I replied, “Yes, a canine knows not to hunch a feline, but I’m preeeeety sure we’re all, regardless of color, homo sapiens, lady. ”

You’d think these bigots would find one somewhere that was at least creative enough to pass on a racist saying that made, at minimum, a modicum of sense. Because be real, Betty Bigot, when have you EVER seen a dog that knows only to breed with another whose coat is the same color? That would sure save a lot of breeders their “Ooops!” litters.

Unsurprisingly, Justice Kennedy referenced that same court decision. Specifically, writing, “In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967), which invalidated bans on interracial unions, a unanimous Court held marriage is “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” The Court reaffirmed that holding in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U. S. 374, 384 (1978), which held the right to marry was burdened by a law prohibiting fathers who were behind on child support from marrying. The Court again applied this principle in Turner v. Safley, 482 U. S. 78, 95 (1987), which held the right to marry was abridged by regulations limiting the privilege of prison inmates to marry. Over time and in other contexts, the Court has reiterated that the right to marry is fundamental under the Due Process Clause.”

But seeing as how those who don’t understand that we have the ability to believe in the Bible AND the Constitution — or that only one actually governs our nation — want to live by God’s Word as the basis of law, quit yelling at me about an ‘eye for an eye’ and foaming at the mouth over the death penalty. I mean, how far do you want to take that? As Christians, I’m positive we’re commanded to live by the New Testament. And I’m even more positive that Jesus commanded there, ‘If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.’ So we’d better do away with assault charges. So that if and when, someone corners one of these council members and puts them in what I affectionately refer to as ‘the Burns headlock’ and refuses to let go until they publicly shout in Forrest Gump voice, “You don’t treat gay people like that!” I fully expect there to be no arrests, right?

I mean, it would only be fair. Jesus’ word!

Now, this is the point where it is appropriate for you to feel ridiculous, Dickson County Commission. Though you have made it painfully clear that you do not have the ability.

I suppose that is part of what I find so infuriating. The fact that Conservative based “state’s rights” only seem to exist when woven to fit bigotry and that so-called conservatism seems to forsake the principle of states’ rights when it does not fit their ideological objectives.

For example, in the passing of Dodd-Frank, legislators sought to expand provisions to give the states the powers to enforce stricter regulations on ill-intending financial institutions, and the right was NOT having it. Also, this literal interpretation of the Constitution that allows gay-haters to yell about how the Fourteenth Amendment was only intended to ensure equality to newly freed slaves is also troubling. If the Founders ONLY meant what they wrote at the time and only intended its application to be based in a realm that they, themselves, understood — and ONLY that — then you’d better hand over your AR-15s and muliti-round ammunition that allows the crazies to out arm our police forces and enables the twisted to kill dozens of individuals in a matter of minutes before the brave men and women who respond can get there. Because a literal interpretation of the Constitution means that your right to bear arms covers only your right to bear arms that resemble those of 1789 when when Bill of Rights was written. Sad day for you, Jethro.

It’s further infuriating to find that we have a lawyer on the Commission. Now, I don’t know Mr. Sanders and I’ve heard nothing but pleasant things about him. But as someone who inspired to attend law school — I didn’t make it — and still hopes to achieve that goal before my time on Earth is up, I suppose I hold those who have to higher standards. Because I admire them. Now, I realize that the Ted Cruz types exist. Those highly educated and well trained legal minds who place their desire to hold office over their desire to speak the truth. Or more accurately, to speak the law. (Or bluntly spoken, those, like Cruz, who take acting like an idiot for the sake of winning elections to an art form.) I don’t know where Mr. Sanders received his legal education — I’m certain he’s more than qualified — but the fact that he has one makes it abundantly clear that he knows everything I’ve written above. I wrote it for the sake of those that don’t. So, my question to him would be — Don’t you have an obligation to stand up and say, “I know that you folks may not like this, and I may not think God agrees with it, but to pretend that Dickson County knows more than the highest court in the land, or to give the inclination that we think we even have a legal leg to stand on, makes us all look like ignorant, intolerant hillbillies.”

There is not a member of the Supreme Court panel that didn’t matriculate from Yale or Harvard. Now, four of them dissented. But five did not. And while math wasn’t exactly my strongest subject, I’m almost positive that five makes a majority. Therefore, Dickson County standing up and pretending to know more than that well versed panel makes the County itself appear as silly as these state legislators with a degree such as… oh, one from Mississippi State University in Home Economics does every time she stands up and lecutures the Harvard educated, fifteen year professor at the University of Chicago, Constitutional scholar that currently occupies the White House about how “unconstitutional” his actions are — every other day, for years. (Shout out though, Marsha Blackburn, if I need a good cookie-baking receipe, you’ll be my gal! Until then, on manners of the Constitution, I’m going with my President.)

It’s also saddening to me to see a person of color on the commission subscribe to the belief that the State, or the County, has a right to reject or override any Supreme Court ruling that they don’t personally benefit from. Given the fact that, if that were the case, African-Americans in Tennessee might have found themselves riding on the back of the bus a few decades longer.

Surely, as a county, we know that you can’t pick and chose WHEN you follow the highest court in the land. There are rulings that I find appalling. That’s why I’m using my voice and my influence — if I have any — to help elect a leader than will consider in their appoinments to the Supreme Court justices who actually intend to uphold the Constitution instead of those who need patches for their robes that display the corporate sponsors that have bought and paid for their performance. You know, like NASCAR. (We see you, Clarence Thomas.)

I have no problem with those who don’t agree with gay marriage. And I respect those who stand up and say — as did a young man in a news interview — that they don’t, as a Christian, think gay marriage is right, but that they also think in the United States of America, their religious beliefs don’t dictate whether or not someone else enjoys the same legal befefits as they do. That just might be my opinion also — you’ll never know. (Because what I believe is not the basis of law!) What I have with is the commission giving off the impression that Dickson County is a bunch of intellectually-inbred individuals who don’t understand how the Constitution works. Or what that Supremacy Clause actually is.

I find that –regardless of their own political or religious beliefs — a slap in the face to the herds of great educators in Dickson County. Because they taught us better. We have had — and have — the most amazing teachers in Dickson County. From a Ms. Jane Finger to a Mr. Carl Pettes to a Ms. Dana Ramsey to a Ms. Gwen Kerns. I’d put DC up against anywhere. I always have. Which is why I am violently offended at any suggestion that moves funds away from public schools — because I know how great they all can be. And if you’ve ever set in a classroom headed by one of my own personal heroes, Mr. Richard Jones, you’d know that. And it is with much respect that I offer the following assessment: You do disservice to every one of them when you give the impression that we are collectively illiterate. And anyone who truly believes that the State of Tennessee has the power to amend the Untied States’ Constitution, CLEARLY seems to be. I don’t care that you don’t agree with gay marriage — that’s your right. I care that you go about it in ridiculously embarrassing ways. And that you drag those of us who met the scorn of friends in college — from Knoxville to Murfreesboro (which is , sadly, facing its own humiliation) — who mocked our town stating that we were from the ‘sticks’ with a “well, MY English teacher can out wit your English teacher!” into it. While refusing to even acknowledge that we exist.

I hope all of you are sent home after the next election. Not because you disagree with me. But because you all are proudly and profoundly self-serving — humiliatingly so — and unabashedly one-sided. But even worse, because you proceed in the cowardly fashion of refusing to even hear the words of the citizens opposed to your ‘resolution.’ And for feeling like you are warriors for doing it.

I have proudly voted for the current representative from my area in every election — Mr. Adams, it pains me to say that you have lost my vote — because I respect anyone who wants to spend their time doing that kind of work. I, much like JFK, have no desire to spend days negotiating city sewer contracts. My desire to serve my country comes in a much different manner, as I have always longed to spend my time making a difference with my words. (And in that same realm where I marry Kenny Chesney, making a United States Senate run.) So I appreciate the time commitment of those who do so. But with that commitment comes responsibility. And that responsibility is to at least APPEAR to listen to those who don’t agree with your intentions. And you all failed miserably. I hope to see some opposition come election time.

On that sporadically-applied Christianity

However, since I recognize the downside of living in a world that turns a little slower than the rest, the south, and one that uses God as a reason to bully those that they don’t like, I will acknowledge that no, most don’t think like I do. I own that. I’m engulfed in a part of the nation that sent death threats and upwards of 3,000 pieces of hate mail a day to Hank Aaron (all for attempting to whack a long ball more times than white man) decades after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in Major League Baseball. It’s slower here. I realize that “Christians” in this part do shamelessly juvenile things like attempt to social media bully other adults for stating that all students, particularly those of color, in a public education system have a right to attend school without being eye assaulted by kids of the Confederacy every time they step foot on school campus.

That’s “Christian” life in a small town, 21st Century style. I get it. And I’ll address it. We no longer instinctively help people. We certainly don’t love people. We don’t care to know or understand someone else’s life for a minute. So it appears. Gone are the over abundance of beautiful, elderly congregations of one-room Churches of Christ who taught me that love was an action word, that God was a good — even in trials — and that the Heavenly Father was a far greater force than I was. And, most importantly, it seems apparent that gone also are their teachings that His only begotten son was a man who conducted himself in a manner that my Uncle Chunky tried, tirelessly, to mimic.

Of course, all of those adoptive grandparents also gave me $20 every time I stood up and recited scripture — and I recited a lot — so I’m partial to the past, but I acknowledge the change.

Now as alleged Christians, we’d rather shame people. We’d rather talk about them, particularly on social media, or turn them into the County when they don’t have the ability to cut their grass — instead of seeing if they want to trade their nanny services for our mower — and buy the next big thing that we can to prove how much we’ve got it all together, all the while publicly pointing out everyone else that we think does not. I get it. “Christianity” is increasingly becoming a word used to describe a political group that goes out of its way to do everything but emulatee the teachings of Christ. I understand that. But, doing so as an individual is one thing. Doing so as a County is quite another. Because what if we all went there.

For example: If we’re going to cherry-pick scripture for the sake of being discriminatory, I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of those “Christians” wearing blue skipped the part of the Bible that mentions gluttony. Now, would I be doing Jesus’ work to shout that out? Like I did just now. Does that ensure my status as Heaven-bound to remind you that there’s a good doctor in town who can hook you up with B-12 injections and a Greek yogurt, power walk regimen that can help you throw sloth, greed, and gluttony to the wayside. Particularly if I say I am doing so with love? Was that Christian of me? I mean, it is in the Bible, y’all. Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, right? Right? Isn’t that it? Well, God made Patricia and Pat, not Patricia and F-a-t. So right back at you.

Honestly — was that doing Jesus’ work? No, it was just mean! And it’s wrong. We can find all kinds of reasons to stand up and ridicule others — hey, I’m just standing up for the Lord, y’all — when the truth is, it all comes down to one’s own need to feel superior to someone else and the moral rise from believing that YOU are the only one who TRULY speaks for God. It’s your own indignant need to feel better than. (As I just demonstrated mine.) But even worse, your belief that you are religiously commanded to do so. You’re not. You never have been. Jesus fraternized with sex workers and God included a prostitute in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. He could have left that out. He didn’t. Jesus showed kindness and acceptance to sinners of all sorts. So if you believe homosexuality is a sin, try Jesus’ approach — BE KIND. And kind means accepting the Constitution in the nation you still very willingly chose to reside in. And if that still confuses you, try remembering that our nation was, in fact, founded by those escaping religious persecution. Which means, where in the heck do you get off attempting your own?

While some of our Founders were devout Christians, several practiced deism. And they all believed that Freedom of Religion wasn’t an assault on a God, it was a protection for one. ‘Endowed by their Creator.’ That’s the mention of God in the Declaration. It’s up to us — in a free nation — to decide who and what that Creator is.
And now, more than ever, are we reminded that freedom of religion is necessary and important, as it protects my right to worship how, when, and who I want, just as it does yours. Because while many claim to believe in a similar God, we clearly aren’t reading from the same book.

Thank God the Constitution makes clear that in this most amazing nation, we don’t have to.

SO STOP humiliating us, Dickson County Commission. I do a good enough job of that myself. I’m proud to hail from the greatest county in the state of Tennessee. The place where our GIRL athletes win more than the boys — yes, I said it, and no, I’m not sorry about it — and this county belongs to us ALL. Christian, athiest, agnostic, gay, straight, black, white, skinny, fat, and in between. Democrat, Republican, or sick of them all. We are ALL one County. Your way is NOT the only way that matters. And gay kids, if anybody is giving you grief on either one of those educational hills, you call your “aunt” Candi. Because you’ve got a friend.

(Also, begging forgiveness, I’d like to note that I tried unsuccessfully to whittle this down to acceptable submission size, but every time I Googled the suicide rate among gay teens, the words continued lengthening themselves. My theory being this: the Comm. forced the entire state to hear their words on behalf of us all, the least I could do was force them to hear mine. )

In closing, so we’re clear, do you — those who claim to be Jesus’ sole BFF — know how you do Christ’s work? You form a county, a community, a place, a home where those who have been persecuted — whether because they struggle with their sexuality, their addiction, their mental illness, their eating disorder, their greed, their doubt, their abandonment, or whatever shuts them off from the sunlight of the spirit or makes them feel unworthy, unloved — and you welcome them. With open arms. That is the Christ I know. And that is the Dickson County I believe in.

And you certainly don’t attempt to twist the Constitution of the greatest nation on Earth — that beautifully advanced citizenship of a free people that I love and celebrate with every strand of my genetically mutated DNA — and mold it to fit your own personal, loosely based, so-called Biblical bigotry. If anyone deserves to be shamed, it’s you, commissioners.

Candice C. Mathis

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