Flip The Script

The state of Tennessee is known for it’s Red State hate. It could be that Tennessee is actually the reddest, and meanest, state in the land of the free. (I’m sure many people from Texas would like to dispute this.) Not only is there a super majority of Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature, the legislature is working feverishly at gerrymandering so they may remain the dominating political party for years to come.

  The citizens of Tennessee already pay very little for public education and social safety nets, and they want to pay even less. They pay some of the lowest rates in taxes and public utilities and yet they still complain that their bills are too high. They tell the poor and homeless to just “get a job” and to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Although Tennessee claims to be the buckle of the bible belt, what they offer to their fellow citizens is something less than grace. They are more likely to offer punishment, than forgiveness, as a motivator to the wayward. It is also a right-to-work (for less) state. Equal rights for minority groups? yeah, right.

As red as Tennessee is, the city of Nashville (and Davidson County) is as blue as can be. It’s liberal nature is due, I believe, to two things: Nashville is home to several universities and colleges, and home to a large concentration of musicians and music industry people. Both groups focus their energies on being open minded, and discovering and communicating the realities of life.

As if a reaction to the liberal nature of Nashville, all the counties surrounding Nashville have some of the highest concentrations of Republicans in the state. So, it came as quite a surprise when I read this article which published a couple days ago in the Tennessean.

Nashville is home to the country’s largest street newspaper, The Contributor, employing homeless and formerly homeless people to sell the paper, and to give them an opportunity to work their way out of homelessness. Given the liberal nature of Nashville, The Contributor was fairly well received. But, as the newspaper grew, hiring several hundred homeless vendors, the vendors were forced to look farther out from Nashville for fertile sales territories. This led them to eventually attempting to sell the paper in the surrounding counties – counties that were less hospitable, counties with different jurisdictions, with different laws and politics. What was openly accepted in Nashville/Davidson County was not, anywhere else.

Vendors of The Contributor were being regularly ticketed by police for selling the paper, or just being force to leave, when selling the paper in other counties. the Contributor was relying on their 2nd Amendment right to freely publish and distribute a newspaper, and many people living in these outlying counties were reacting unfavorably to the sudden appearance of admitted homeless people in their neighborhoods. Court battles ensued, communities became vocal, city councils debated and created new laws, and it wasn’t looking good for the future of The Contributor vendors outside of Nashville.

Then, something unexpected happened. The city of Franklin, in Williamson County, just south of Nashville, decided recently to officially allow vendors to sell there, (within certain limitations). It is a welcomed change of heart by the people of Williamson County. And I’m sure that many people there will disagree with this decision. There will be people watching every move the vendors make, and will be looking for every opportunity to destroy the reputation of the paper and its vendors. All the more reason for the vendors to be on their toes, and to tow the line.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless

One comment

  1. Where do homeless people sleep in the rain or in the winter?? This is a very important question, especially for those who live in cities. Thanks!!


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