Most of Us are Not Real Tennesseans

I have to say that I see Tennesseans making a mistake I used to make back in the heyday of feminist bloggers. There’d be some discussion or other about things “us Feminists” or “we Feminists” do or say or feel or think and I’d be all doot-doot-doot reading along and all of a sudden it would hit me that, hey, they don’t mean me. I’m too old, too red-state, too poor, too wrong-college, too whatever. “Feminist” seems like an umbrella term, but it really does matter who’s holding the umbrella who gets covered, you know?

I got that feeling again today reading that Haslam has given huge raises to his cabinet. Most of them are getting 11% raises. One dude is getting 32%–$43,000. Yes, his raise is many Tennesseans’ whole salary.

Haslam says “Every one of those commissioners is going to end up saving the state a whole lot more money than the small incremental cost of their salary.”

Now, if you’re one of the 1,200 state workers who are going to lose their jobs in the money-saving efforts, this is probably making you sick to your stomach. If you’re one of the teachers in this state, who can never make more than $66,000 a year and who have been vilified as greedy jackasses out to ruin Tennessee’s children through the power of unionization, this is probably pretty galling.

But I think it’s time we come to terms with something–when the Haslam administration is talking about “Tennessee,” they don’t mean us.

After all, it doesn’t save you any money to not have a job. It doesn’t make your jobless life easier when Bill Gibbons (and, really, dirty shame on him–a man from motherfucking MEMPHIS of all places, who should know how bad people are hurting in this state–for agreeing to take that money) gets as his raise what you wish you could make in a year.

I don’t know how it happens in a state as dirt poor as Tennessee, but it has. Tennessee has become about doing what’s good for the rich people and fuck the rest of us.

I mean, I’m sorry, but we just got done with all this nonsense about how teaching is a calling and teachers should be willing to make sacrifices and concessions for the good of the state and Haslam can turn around and say, “In government we’re never going to pay what they do in the private market. But if we’re going to attract great people, we’re going to have to at least make it comparable.”

Really? Well why isn’t “Cabinet-level position in Haslam’s administration” a calling? Why can’t those folks make sacrifices and concessions for the good of the state?

Right, because this state is for them and not for us. Non-rich, non-well-connected people in this state are just like any other natural resource, something to degrade, pollute, and eventually destroy.

Funny how there’s always money to pay folks’ friends, isn’t it?

No wonder Republicans aren’t worried about jobs. Their friends all have cushy ones.

You know what would be more interesting than Haslam forgoing his $170,000 a year salary? Him taking Bill Gibbons’ pay increase as his salary–$43,000 a year–and forgoing money from his investments and other businesses, and just trying to get by on that, while he’s in office. See what it takes to live like a moderately comfortable regular person in this state. See how small a cost that $43,000 is to a family when that’s all they have.

And I’m glad to see Mike Turner saying, “It’s tough times; a lot of people are hurting,” but I’m noting how convenient it is that Ron Ramsey shot his “antagonism of the rich jackass Republicans” load before this shit came out.

Ugh, really, fuck this nonsense. And what’s next? We’ll elect Karl Dean governor and he can give all his friends $60,000 a year part time jobs at the state level?

I despair. I really do.

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And Yet, The Pear is Going to Live Another Year

The cedar is slowly dying in the yard. It’s kind of depressing to watch it go limp. It’s hard for me to believe that trees don’t have some kind of… supernatural oomph, you know? Obviously not a consciousness, maybe not quite what we’d recognize as a soul, but in those moments when you turn your face to the sun and you notice all of the plants have turned their blooms to the sun as well, how can you not feel some ancient almost-unbridgeable kinship?

That energy that makes them alive is the same energy that makes us alive. And so I hope the tree isn’t suffering. Though, really, how could it suffer? Ugh, it’s the problem with being human. You anthropomorphize things and then you fret over your metaphor like it’s the truth.

But that ancient, too-tall pear is putting on leaves again. I really thought last year might be it for it, since we didn’t see it fruit up. I remember when we came to the house, either just after we put in an offer or just after we bought it. But when we knew the house was going to be ours. Kathy was with us, so it might have even been on final walk-through.

And there was one pear on that tree, down low enough that we could get at it, and Kathy picked it and handed it to me and it was delicious. It tasted like magic.

I’m going to say something I’ve probably said before, but today it is just as true. Writing is a weird thing. In order to even do it, you have to develop this kind of “Fuck it, I’m going to do it” attitude and sometimes the “fuck it” part is the same “fuck it” you feel when you could go into work, but the weather is beautiful and your friend has just pulled up in a convertible and asks if you want to drive to Memphis. And sometimes the “fuck it” is harder, is like a shield you put in front of you to push on through.

There are a lot of people you talk about your writing with and you just have to learn how to be like “fuck it, I know what I’m doing,” in the face of their doubts or their weirdness about it.

But then you get to a stage where you really need other people to look at your work, to see for you what you can’t see must still be done. My advice to you, if you are like me, is ask enough people that your “fuck it” mechanism doesn’t work. Like my lovely novel. I’ve now heard from enough people that they don’t quite understand what’s going on in chapter 3 that I can’t just be like “fuck it! Clearly you’re an idiot. My real readers will be smart enough to get that.”

Not that I’ve said that to anybody, but, the first step is learning to tell that voice to shut up. The second is learning not to tip-toe back to that voice and say “Okay, just whisper quietly to me that I am right,” when you should be listening to what your readers are telling you.

And so, yes, something about the middle of my book is not quite right. Which is alarming. Like, seriously, if you could hear inside my head, it would sound like AAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAA.

But, in a way, it’s also comforting to have a bunch of people point out the same moments where they’re not quite sure what it happening or why. It makes me feel like the problems are obvious and thus, fixable.

Not that I have started fixing them.

Oh, no. Ha ha ha. I’m nibbling around the edges, fixing the things people said that I was like “Oh, duh, I never do tell you what she looks like” or whatever.

So, I’m a little worried. But also excited. I don’t know if I can do this, but I’m excited to try. And, finally, I feel like I’m getting a sense of my weaknesses as a writer, which is good,  because it’s helping me see where the work must be done.

I don’t know how long this next part will take. I think I’ll end up with a longer book. I think I may even be missing a scene in chapter 3, the more I think about it.

Anyway, this is a long digression when my initial thought was about how very lucky I am to have good, smart friends who are willing to read my work and help me make it better. It’s such a generous thing they do, even knowing me, which they do, and knowing that doing it means there’s going to be a moment when I’m all “fuck you, you’re wrong!”

I don’t know. That’s a pretty amazing thing to do for your friend and I’m lucky to have a lot of people in my life I can ask to do that for me.

I don’t really have anything profound to say about that. I’m very lucky. That’s all there is to it.