No one can accuse the State Legislature of not creating work for people, that's for sure. This whole session has been practically an ongoing jobs bill for the ACLU. The current nonsense involves passing immigration legislation similar to what has Arizona tied up in a lengthy and expensive court fight — while insisting that somehow, we also won't be caught up in a lengthy and expensive court fight.
Fine, whatever. What I'd like to focus on is this bit of business from State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), who said, when asked whether this bill might have tourist-dissuading effects similar to those seen in Arizona:
“I think people are going to see Tennessee as that shining state on a hill and want to move here because we’re doing the right things about being American."
Here's the thing that bothers me, when you get right down to the heart of it. No, I don't like the law. Yes, I think it's ridiculous to assume that Tennessee has capabilities to attract tourists and businesses that Arizona doesn't. Whatever.
What bothers me is something more fundamentally bipartisan. People in this state are suffering, tremendously. We don't have work for people who want jobs to do. Everyone in the nation just read about us losing Goodyear. Whole charities are devoted to coming into our communities and providing us health care like we're a developing nation, and the hours-long lines of Tennesseans waiting to see these doctors regularly gets shown on the national news. Whenever people nationally talk about infant mortality or poor health outcomes in general, they talk about Tennessee.
Ketron seems to be pushing this idea that almost everything is fine in Tennessee, and if only we could find some way to deal with illegal immigrants, everything would be perfect. People will look at our state and "want to move here."
I want to live in Ketron's magical realist version of Tennessee, where people have jobs and lots of perfectly wonderful jobs are going unfilled and where people across the nation look at Tennessee and say, "Dang, except for that one small problem with illegal immigrants, I'd totally move there" — instead of real life, where people across the country look at us and say, "Dang, I thought times were tough here, but at least we don't have all those dead babies and lines to stand in to see a volunteer doctor."
But more than that, I wish politicians would be frank with us about the challenges facing our state — rather than pretending all it takes is a little more Jesus and a little less of the unsightly folks we don't like, and everything will be back on track.