Sunday, March 27, 2011

Update on The Sacred And Profane: Sweetwater, Tennessee's War On The American Family

Our last post might have left readers wondering where the precise definition of the American Family by AFA and Family Research Council can be found. Well, in answer to the AFA's prayers, we've been able to actually locate it: Sweetwater, Tennessee has all the mythical nuclear family needs, right down to its traditional bigotry. 

ours after we posted an OpEdNews article, The American Family: Sacred or Profane?, this bit of insane bigotry was posted by Joe.My.God:
In January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) invited public comment on proposed new rules banning discrimination against LGBT people in all its programs. That prompted Vicki Barnes, the executive director of Tennessee's Sweetwater Housing Authority to fire off a letter to HUD in which she compares gay people to murderers, cult members, prostitutes and drug dealers.
Here is probably the most ironic and damaging section of the letter:
2. This is not a matter of discrimination. In choosing to name a group of people such as the Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), you are choosing to group together a group of people who are not of the same race, but have made a personal and moral life style choice. Other groups who make a personal life style choice are drug user and sellers, gang members, prostitutes, cults and murderers. You are saying any group of persons can call themselves a family. This will cause chaos in the communities and take away the security and stability of the families and would promote the following:
Ms. Barnes goes on to write that recognition of LGBT families would "promote" VIOLENCE, DRUGS, DRUG DEALING, NOT WORKING, and PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY ABUSED CHILDREN.

We could all dismiss Ms. Barnes' mindless screed to her living under a rock named Sweetwater, but this would mean prejudice on our part against the poor and uneducated (most of Sweetwater's 6,000 populace is below poverty level). But Sweetwater hardly considers itself a rock. 

Irony Abounds

Sweetwater bills itself as "The Sweetest Town In Tennessee" and the First Baptist Church of Sweetwater focuses on inclusiveness and love:
You can find that sense of belonging at First Baptist Church. If you visit us, you'll recognize that we have a strong love for each other. We believe that there is compassion, hope, and community for everyone through faith in Jesus Christ.   
Thoughts of isolation aside, here's a look at Sweetwater's website. The historic, pristine, folksy, postcard-perfect little town is extremely WASP and mentions nothing about past slavery and Jim Crow atrocities. It's congressional representative, John J. Duncan, Jr. comes from a long line of Southern Baptist legislative adherents and is a darling of the Family Research Council and the NRA.* It's self-promotion as a squeaky-clean town runs counterintuitive to its need for any Section 8 housing or HUD support: pity the poor people who have to find subsidized housing, since they must be looked upon as the lowest of indigent slackers. In addition, Sweetwater's continuous and constant appeal is for people to move there!

The outlook of towns like Sweetwater is imperative to today's Right Wing in forging behind with it's mythical vision of the American Family: steeped in hallowed "tradition", it helps uber-conservatives with its veneer of decency and righteousness. What Ms. Barnes letter underscores is that it is only a veneer. And a pretty tacky one at that. Sweetwater is a town built of ubiquitous buzzwords. And while it is not completely isolated (surrounded as it is by neighboring Knoxville's Wal-Marts), it would not survive in the real world of diversity and global awareness. It is fit to live alongside Lexington, KY's Creation Museum or Heritage U.S.A., but not fit to deal with the 21st century. 

If this sounds like un-American, small town mom-and-apple-pie bashing ... well, it isn't. Instead, it may be one way of relating the insidiousness of the Right in using stock images and pawning them off as the REAL America. Even Sweetwater realizes that it's image is one of the past. But it promotes its past as one you can live in today, and that just isn't right. History is full of beautiful, romantic images, but it is also rife with covert portraits of racism, discrimination and religious intolerance.

As I've noted before, today's real American Family is under attack, and Sweetwater, TN is leading the battle.

* wikipedia: On John J. Duncan, Jr.:
The Family Research Council rated him as a 92% or above since 2002[2] and the NRA has rated him in equally positive terms.[2] He is a frequent contributor to Chronicles, a magazine associated with the paleoconservative movement. 

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Thanks for writing this story up! I broke the story last Friday after posting comments I drafted for my agency.

Our definition of family is just one or more person who who intend to share a residence and it hasn't posed issues for our clients, landlords or ability to consistently rated as "high performing."