It is a struggle these days to experience the leadership of this state and attempt to understand the state’s future.
It seems we are always having to respond to cognitive dissonance, where the actions of our leaders don’t connect with their stated beliefs. We boast of saying that we are a “believing” community, while in reality we go against the tenets of the state’s dominant religion.
On Monday, it was stated that we had a “moral obligation” to support families. That comment does not hold water with the desire to spend $100 million of our tax dollars to create anti-abortion centers.
On the surface, this proposal sounds very admirable. However, looking beneath the surface, it is an example of many of the leadership’s proposals that oppose our moral obligation.
For example, in our surface attempt to provide for families under the ruse of a moral obligation, we ignore that many areas do not even have an ob-gyn physician. Who will provide appropriate pre-natal care when physicians will not be attracted to areas where there is no hospital? There are no ob-gyns in many rural counties.
Part of the proposal states that Tennessee will provide free diapers for two years. How does that strengthen families and support “moral behavior?” Also, what are the details for parental leave? Is it for both parents, since in a family requiring two incomes, both have full parental responsibilities? Will diapers be available for parents of a same-sex marriage? They also create families. How does pre-natal and post-natal care strengthen families?
My understanding is that love and caring relationships create families. Most of those with pregnancy crises come from the local economic levels who struggle to keep bill collectors at bay and are faced with a culture that does not reflect care and love.
It’s interesting that the state will use our tax dollars to give away diapers and provide pre-natal and post-natal care while 350,000 Tennessee citizens go without medical care that fully disrupt healthy families. Furthermore, we are willing to use $100 million for a new “family program” while ONE BILLION of our tax dollars annually go to other states for expanded Medicaid that creates, in those states, a healthier economic climate. That economic climate nurtures healthier families.
If that isn’t enough to prove a case for the state that ignores our moral obligation, the TennCare program will undergo a recertification process during 2023. It is estimated that approximately 300,000 people now covered for medical expenses will lose coverage. Many of those insured fall into the gap between private insurance and ACA, adding even more of our neighbors throughout the state without medical coverage. This is another blow to strengthening the family system.
Where are our “moral obligations” in other action taken by the state? Is it a “moral obligation” to instruct the CDC to discontinue HIV prevention at a loss of $8 million? Do we discontinue all HIV assistance or to just those of the LGBTQ+ community?
Personally, I cannot see where that action supports Tennessee families. Again, this action creates an unhealthy environment for a segment of our citizens. And, without expanded Medicaid, excludes many from a financial medical support system.
Then, there is the death of Tyre Nichols, who was brutally beaten to death; and, one of the officers published a picture of the beating.
This certainly wasn’t morally appropriate. Yet, where was our leadership? What words of compassion did they share with our citizens other than their “thoughts and prayers?” How did they demonstrate a commitment to family strengthening by a lack of action to reign in police brutality?
When neighborhood communities fear police rather than respect them, it is difficult to develop strong families.
On Thursday, we were informed by media that our state leadership is looking into ways to reject nearly $1.8 billion of federal K-12 education dollars that help provide support for low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities. We need to think deeply about that and the state’s declaration of a “moral responsibility.”
My childhood experiences and those of my children realized that we learned, changed our actions, and helped strengthened families and our moral obligations by the mistakes we made. I believe many of our state leaders would agree. Yet, when we attempt to reveal the truth and learn from it, we do not call our past treatment of Black skinned and other minorities a historical truth, but erroneously call it “critical race theory.”
Being part of the majority religion of this state, I am reminded of the comment of God as stated by Isaiah, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them . . .?”
And yet, we cannot just fault Tennessee leadership. Where is the voice of our faith’s theological professionals and the congregations they lead? The church remains silent although we claim to follow the one who touched the lepers, touched the dead son from Nain and said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Edward Wolff is a Jonesborough resident and host of the community discussion group Black/White Dialogue.