Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sweetwater, Tenn.'s Old "Tea Room" - Ahead Of It's Time!!

One "sweet" little fun photo and tidbit:

During our research on homophobic Sweetwater, TN, we came up with this old photo. If Sweetwater knew what today's connotation of "tea room" is, it sure wouldn't post it! 

Sorry guys, this place closed down in 1930's (after the Crash). Bet it had some really great times!!

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. 

The American Family: Sacred or Profane?

I've often asked myself what kind of organizations with the words "American" and "Family"* support someone like the Christian Right's Bryan Fischer: Fischer fulminates against gays Muslims, feminists, Native Americans and, of course, immigrants. So that begs the question: what is the American Family?

The portrait of today's American Family is not exactly Norman Rockwellian (at least not one of his earlier works). The American Family** still sits down to dinner together (over 85% do), reveres "family time" and even communicates with each other more than ever before. The problem the AFA has encountered: the American Family is more diverse than anything the AFA could have imagined. And even though groups like the AFA have taken up hate-broadcaster Michael Savage's mantra, "Diversity Equals Perversity," it looks like diversity is here to stay. 

Today's American Family may consist of various combinations: mother-father-biological children; single-mother-children; single-father-children; divorced-parents-children; single-gay-father-biological-children; gay-couple-biological-children; gay-couple-adopted-children; lesbian-couple-in-utero-children; mother-father-dependent-grandparent-children; single-man/woman/caregiver-parent. 

Add to any of the above, families with close extensions of aunts, uncles, cousins and life-long friends. Now mix it all up with different races, ethnicities, philosophies, sects and religions: now THAT is the American Family.  It's turned from the mythical nuclear rock to a snowflake: each having the same bonding of love, yet each being distinctive in its form and diversity. 

Unfortunately for America, however, the AFA and its compatriots are unable to see the beauty of these snowflakes (the new family units) and are hammering away at pockets of Right Wing America with such vitriolic determination that some people may come to believe in the superiority of being part of a rock, albeit the kind that never really existed in the first place.

If you go to the AFA's website, your first question usually is: so why isn't it called the Christian Family Association? Simply because a dynamic exists between the Right Wing concept of Christianity and the Right Wing concept of Family: they are too interdependent - one cannot live without the other. Yes, there are Right Wing Jewish families, but if we're playing a numbers game here, their number is very small; with the exception of CUFI (Citizens United For Israel - a Zionist organization founded by Pastor John Hagee), the Christian Right rarely concern themselves with Jewish (family) matters.

On the AFA website:


The American Family Association exists to motivate and equip individuals to restore American culture to its moral foundations.
To achieve their lofty goals, the AFA:
1. "Restrains evil" in the media, particularly film. 
Sort of a latter-day Catholic Legion of Decency.

2. Convinces "men of sin" to be driven to Christ. 
And that means absolutely EVERYONE. America MUST be a Christian-only nation.

3. Encourages Christians to live-out their new "holy identity."
Bludgeoning your co-workers with biblical passages and righteousness around the water-cooler is definitely OK.

4. Strengthens families and protects them from "government intrusion" and "preserves the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of a husband and wife." 
In other words, we're anti-liberal and virulently anti-gay, get over it.

And Above all, "AFA defends the rights of conscience and religious liberty from infringement by government and from subjugation in popular culture."
Since we defend RELIGIOUS liberty, atheists aren't protected by any law and it's OK to hate Muslims because, as Bryan Fischer put it, they're not really protected by the First Amendment. Oh, and Lady Gaga is our sworn enemy.

That is the AMERICAN FAMILY Association: an anti-gay, anti-Muslim, Christian-only organization that wants to mold everyone into virginal TV sitcom characters using, as Rick Warren puts it, "Whatever It Takes." 

And these days "it takes" one weapon to achieve what the AFA defines as The American Family: fear. A quick look at its website can show us disdain and fear-mongering.

Yes, their definitions are skewed in the extreme, but groups like the AFA don't realize just how many people they turn off with their UN-American, ANTI-Family (and anti-reality) stances. America has progressed (horrors! such an ugly word!) into greater acceptance and greater love of mankind through its diversity and the diversity of it core family units. In its own way, the AFA is trying to destroy the American Family.

So will Uber-Christians like Bryan Fischer ever go too far and be chastised? 

Probably not. The failure of the Christian Right to ever effectively monitor their own resulted in the unfettered rise of Fred Phelps. The damage done by Bryan Fischer has only elicited a lofty and disingenuous "we are not responsible" dismissal to such thoughts. 

So the real American Family is now under attack by organizations with "American" and "Family" in their titles; under attack by groups dedicated to the motto of "whatever it takes." And if we want to defend the sanctity of its beautiful diversity, we might have to start being as profane as our enemies. 

Sad, but true.

*E.g.: Family Research Council and American Family Association 

** The Pew Forum research done in 2008 of the "Networking" of the American Family shows just how much and how little the American Family has changed: the majority of families still eat dinner together and prize family time over all other activities. However, the makeup of the family has changed: single mothers with children, grown children with elderly parents, gay couples with children, extended families. Groups like the American Family Association will always denigrate these groups by saying that they not "real" families.