Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I am from Nashville TN. I think I am one of the few people who is actually originally from here. People I meet are always surprised to hear that I was actually born in Nashville and not a transplant. I went to high school at Hillwood High, and so did my mom and dad. My mom has told me stories about her junior year of high school when Hillwood desegregated and African-American kids started attending school there. When I went to school there, there was racial tension sometimes, and a lot of fights (usually not racially motivated). Hillwood is in the center of a few suburbs in Nashville- Belle Meade (average household income about $200,000), and West Meade (upper middle class suburb) and Bellevue (upper/middle to middle class families). All three of these areas are almost all Caucasian and fairly homogeneous.

Hillwood buses kids, though, from North Nashville, which is a historic area for African Americans in Nashville. North Nashville is almost entirely black. Historic Jefferson Street along with Fisk University and Tennessee State University are all located in North Nashville. North Nashville is also has one of the worst reputations for crime and gang activity. Much of it coming out of a Public Housing known as Dodge City (where rapper Young Buck claims as his roots).

I have an affinity and special relationship with the community of North Nashville. My family heritage is rooted in that particular community. My grandfather is originally from the neighborhood and had a restaurant which later turned into a hardware store on Buchanan Street that has served the neighborhood since the early 1950's. My dad is still in the neighborhood.

Our public school system in Davidson County is rezoning our school system in order for students to be able to attend the schools that are in their own neighborhood. So in essence the kids from North Nashville who have been bussed to Hillwood since the 1970's will be attending schools in their own neighborhood. Many will be able to walk to school for the first time ever.

I like the idea of kids staying in their own neighborhoods, where parents can feel like they are a part of their child's education school community. But I am also scared by this move. I am afraid that embedded racism and prejudice from people in our county is what is motivating this move to neighborhood schools.

According to an article in the Nashville Post:

The most contested portion of the plan recommends that students no longer be
bused from low-income MetroCenter neighborhoods to Bellevue’s more affluent
Hillwood cluster. Students in those neighborhoods are considered residents of
“choice zones” and can choose whether to attend school close to home or at
Hillwood schools.

Opponents of the rezoning plan have called this a "re-segregation" plan. And using the families who make up the Hillwood cluster it wouldn't be too hard to see why people might view it this way. I personally like the idea of neighborhood schools, but I also know that its important for children to all have equal access to resources and to be in relationships with other kids who are different from them.

What I would propose is reverse school zoning- to send half of the kids from neighborhoods like Belle Meade to inner city schools and then vice versa. Now that sounds fair to me.



Thursday, January 22, 2009


1. That's right. Today is indeed the 36th anniversary of the landmark court decision to overturn state and federal laws concerning abortion.
Although I do lean toward "pro-life" in the richest sense (including pro-life in regards to war, euthanasia, abortion, victimization and violence) I am never a black and white person. I like to tread where the ground is muddy and the lines are blurred. When it comes to abortion I am actually neither completely pro-life nor pro-choice.

2. In my post a couple of days ago I suggested that one of the outcomes of liberalism is that we, especially in American culture, have a social construct of politics, culture, religion (ie life) that we tend to think things are either "black" or "white", "conservative" or "liberal", "religious" or "secular", etc etc... However, when we create narrow categories and have to communicate within those categories our imaginations are stifled and the outcomes are limited.

3. So when I say that I am neither pro-life nor pro-choice completely, I am not saying that I am indecisive or riding the fence, what I am actually saying is that because of the way our culture is currently shaped there are not many spaces for meaningful conversations that include alternative positions.

4. I'll expand this a little more. I am in favor of "life-giving" policies; regulations that enhance the quality of life for people, reduce harm and violence and promote health. If I were to be pro-choice then I would be supporting a woman's right to choose whether or not the environment is right for her to bring a child into this world. There could be all kinds of other issues as well to not bring the child into the world, mental health, physical health, etc... If I am pro-life then I believe that unborn children's lives, no matter what the environment or social context is, are valuable enough that children should have the right to be born and a chance to have a meaningful life.

5. Here's my first problem with the argument as its currently played out over and over again: I do NOT want to be part of an argument that pits mothers against children. That in affect is what our current abortion stances do. If you are pro-choice you side with mothers who have a choice to abort their children. If you are pro-life then you side with "at-risk unborn children" while silencing the many tragic stories of "at-risk pregnant mothers-to-be" who are victims to many social ills and forms of violence.

6. You see when we take sides, such as "pro-life" or "pro-choice", we exclude the stories of particular people, the hardships they face, and the often time painful experiences they have faced. We also exclude the willingness to imagine what an unborn child's story might be, as well.

7. Liberal politics (both that of republicans and democrats) want us to accept positions and platforms that are easy to choose. When we come together to discuss social issues such as war, abortion, or even something like school zoning and we do it in the context of our own stories of who we are and where we have come from then the arguments get muddy and less categorical.

8. The last reason that I cannot agree with either the "pro-life" or "pro-choice" position today is because of this: The current positions do not take into account that both choices are not just affecting a mother or an unborn child, these choices affect entire families, and communities. Hilary Clinton coined "it takes a village to raise a child" and yes, after it was said over and over again I began to make fun of the phrase. But Hilary wasn't telling America anything new. The village mentality is what got Americans through 2 world wars, a depression and countless other crises. So surely we can understand that when a mother-to-be is making the hard decision to have an abortion, that choice should not be solely her own choice...

9. Maybe the choice on whether a woman should or should not have an abortion should be determined by the mother-to-be, the particular people that make up her social support, her community, and those most knowledgeable in the areas of physical and emotional health. I'm always open to conversation.



"There surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby."

- President Barack Obama

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties."
- President Barack Obama, January 20th, 2009

What part am I going to play? What part will you play in this great ongoing American narrative that is continually unfolding?

For ideas on how you can get involved in doing your part, check this out.


Yesterday was a day I will forever remember. Two and half years ago I read an article by then Seanator Obama. After reading it I thought to myself, "Self, I really hope this person runs for president. I could 100 percent back someone like this".

After his inaugural speech was over I listened to different political pundits weigh in on the next 4 years. "Republicans are going to have to reinvent themselves".... "Obama isn't going to be able to get anything really accomplished in 4 years"..... "Real opposition is going to come from blue dog democrats vs progressive democrats"..... etc etc....

All the talk reminded me of something that I wrote about a lot on my old blog, The Phaith of St. Phransus. We often see Republicans and Democrats as two opposites, two separate parties representing two separate schools of thought. This way of thinking about American politics did work within a Modern framework. But when thinking about a Postmodern framework do the categories hold water?

It seems to me that what President Obama is going to find is his greatest challenge is the fact that he represents a Postmodern leader for an America that is still in the clutches of modernity and liberalism.

In listening to his speech yesterday I heard a leader who cited our American narrative, not a watered down, rose colored wearing glasses narrative... but a narrative that acknowledged where the marinalized and voiceless have come from and a narrative that invites everyone to see where we are and need to go together.

An America rooted in liberalism does not like to be critiqued but would rather have its main players, Conservatism and Progressivism, critique one another. But Obama, in my eyes, represents a new leader who really might just stand outside categories and stand up to the fragmented ideas that America has been fed by a century of liberalism.

Philosopher Alasdair Macintyre characterized liberalism as such:

"Liberalism is often successful in preempting debate . . . so
that objections to it appear to have become debates within liberalism.
. . . So-called conservatism and so-called radicalism in these contemporary
guises are in general mere stalking-horses for liberalism: the contemporary
debates within modern political systems are almost exclusively between
conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals. There is little
place in such political systems for the criticism of the system itself, that is,
for putting liberalism in question."

So my hope is that after 8 years of creating a culture of fear by our Conservative liberals (Republicans) and some Liberal liberals (Democrats), maybe we will move passed the past and look into a hopeful future.