Senator Alexander’s Recent Response

On April 29, Sen. Lamar Alexander responded to my correspondence regarding his vote on the Toomey-Manchin background check bill. I was incredibly disappointed in him for voting against common-sense gun legislation. Instead of engaging my concerns, he sent me back a form letter that told me he, or his staff, did not read the contents of my letter. His response is below.

Dear Jonathan,

Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what’s on your mind regarding the right to bear arms.

I’m a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and I received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association in their most recent ranking of my voting record. Congress should strongly defend our right to keep and bear arms, not pass laws that take away these rights from law abiding citizens and leave criminals to terrorize the streets. Good citizens don’t abuse guns – criminals do. I will continue fighting to protect the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans, and oppose efforts to overturn the Second Amendment.

I also believe that those of us who oppose efforts to restrict gun rights should be willing to stand up on the Senate floor and defend those rights. I supported a motion to permit debate on this subject because I am always ready to defend and debate the Second Amendment Constitutional rights of Tennesseans.

Overall, I was proud of the debate that we had, and pleased that the Senate rejected efforts to weaken the 2nd Amendment. I opposed the Toomey-Manchin amendment to expand background checks and the Feinstein amendment on so-called “assault weapons” because I believe they would have infringed on our Second Amendment rights.

I am grateful you took the time to let me know where you stand. I’ll be sure to keep your comments in mind as Second Amendment rights are discussed and debated in Washington and in Tennessee.

Sincerely,
Lamar

I absolutely hate being patronized. I hope you’ll contact Sen. Alexander, and tell him that not all Tennesseans support his intransigence. I plan on breaking down his email point by point in my next post.

Published by Jonathan, on May 7th, 2013 at 9:15 pm. | Tags: , , | No Comments

My Reaction To Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Vote on Universal Background Checks

I am deeply disappointed by the vote in the Senate regarding universal background checks. I wrote my senator, Lamar Alexander, to express to him my opinion.

Senator Lamar Alexander of TN

Senator Alexander,

I have to say that I am truly disappointed in you for voting the way you did regarding the expansion of background checks. Sens. Manchin and Toomey seemed to have reached a deal that would, at the very least, have taken the chief fear of 2nd Amendment proponents off the table: a national gun registry. Why on earth do you not support the ability for increased screening of individuals buying a gun? Buying a gun should be harder than buying a pack of underwear at Walmart.

We live in a country where we have to register our cars. We have to register our likenesses to the state if we want the privilege to drive. We are registered with both the federal and state governments for a wide variety of reasons. Why would we not find it prudent to register, universally, those who own a guns? Is the 2nd Amendment really so important that it would block our best efforts to reasonably regulate the sale of guns?

I must admit that I don’t think the universal background check is a panacea to the problem of violence in our society. I do, however, think it is an important first step. In all honesty, there is no one single way to stop violence. It certainly isn’t going to happen overnight. I believe it starts by making it harder to get guns, but not impossible. I also believe that if greater resources are made available to mental health and prevention services, we can catch people like Adam Lanza before he gets to another Sandy Hook.

It is important to me that you know that I am a lifelong Tennessean, and have lived in Nashville for all but my 4 years of college. I still remember when you were governor of this great state. I tell you this because I want you to understand that I am an actual constituent.

I understand that I am in the minority in this deeply red state. However, I believe that sometimes, the majority is just wrong. I feel like you had a chance to show some political courage, and did not stand up to the challenge. The country, and Tennessee, are not better off for it.

Respectfully,

Jonathan Sanders
Nashville, TN

As always, I will post any response I get.

Published by Jonathan, on April 18th, 2013 at 9:01 pm. | Tags: , , , | No Comments

An Anniversary and a Hope For Equality

I will try not to make this post too earnest. Today is mine and my wife’s 8th anniversary. It’s amazing to think that we’ve gotten this far. It truly feels like a blur in some ways. In other ways, I feel like Lynn and I have been on a long journey that is really just beginning.

Lynn and Jonathan - April 15, 2005

I would like to honor the relationship I share with my wife by speaking out for equality for all couples, regardless of gender, orientation, or creed. Despite being brought up in a southern, socially conservative environment, I have come to believe that all couples should have the ability to have their love recognized in the same ways that only some couples currently enjoy. The bottom line is we should always celebrate love, in whatever form it takes. It is wrong to tell some people their love is “correct” and others that their love is perverse.

If you believe that God is love, then why on earth would you think that God does not smile on people that love one another? Cultural mores come and go through the centuries in a seemingly arbitrary way, which means that one expression of love or another will always be deemed “incorrect.” However, in the year 2013, I just wish we would use our powers of logic and reason to counter our baser instincts of exclusion.

I am not asking social conservatives to change their beliefs. I am only asking them to not stand in the way of those of us who oppose limiting the definition of love. People are free to feel the way they feel, but they should not be free to impose those beliefs on others. Even in the South, where social conservatism reigns supreme, the right thing is the right thing, regardless of what the majority thinks.

This post is indeed rather earnest, but I can’t help it. I hate unfairness, and I want all people to feel the joy of the ultimate celebration of love and commitment. Here’s hoping that happens in the very near future.

Published by Jonathan, on April 15th, 2013 at 8:20 am. | Tags: , | No Comments

My Favorite #SOTU Tweets

My favorite tweets from the State of the Union:

Published by Jonathan, on February 12th, 2013 at 9:33 pm. | Tags: , | No Comments

Stacey Campfield Adds to Tennessee’s Reputation

Stacey Campfield is feeling picked on. The LGBT community, according to Campfield, is bullying him. Kind of ironic coming from Campfield, isn’t it? Here is a terrific take on Mr. Campfield from Stephen Colbert from this past week.

Published by Jonathan, on February 9th, 2013 at 9:56 pm. | Tags: , , , | No Comments

Why Are Guns So Important?

This is not a rhetorical question. I really want to understand why gun owners put so much pride and energy into the act of owning a gun. If they put this much energy into defending our civil liberties from things like the Patriot Act, then we’d actually be a safer country.

However, people like Wayne LaPierre and groups like the NRA aren’t really looking out for freedom. They are a lobby group for gun manufacturers. They are looking out for big business, not the individual citizen’s rights.

Published by Jonathan, on January 30th, 2013 at 7:45 pm. | Tags: , , , , | No Comments

A Time When It’s Most Needed

This past Friday’s events have shaken us all. And yet, there are stories of kindness and love that abound. I think that is what will give us comfort during this time of national reflection. Throughout all of this dark time, the love we show for people we know, as well as strangers, will comfort us.

President Obama spoke with the people of Newtown, CT tonight. Here’s the video footage:

Published by Jonathan, on December 16th, 2012 at 9:33 pm. | Tags: , | No Comments

2012 Election Wrapup

Tuesday really was an amazing night for progressives. Marriage equality grew by 2 states, and our unsustainable war on drugs was dealt a setback in Colorado and Washington state. I was very happy about the President’s re-election, and had to fight the feelings of schadenfreude at the sight of Karl Rove losing his shit on Fox. My favorite part of the night, however, was seeing Elizabeth Warren win in Massachusetts. She beat Scott Brown, and she beat the big-monied forces that were trying to shut down a true voice for the middle class. I truly look forward to her Senate term.

Of course here in Tennessee, the state house of representatives became a Republican super majority. However, Bo Mitchell is my house representative, so it wasn’t a total wash. I believe he will do good things at the Capitol.

I received this infographic from MoveOn, and I wanted to share it. I think it shows the power of people just showing up to vote.

2012 Election Wrapup

Published by Jonathan, on November 8th, 2012 at 10:15 pm. | Tags: , , , , | No Comments

Campaign Postcard from the Republican Party of Tennessee

I received this campaign postcard from the Republican Party of Tennessee. As you would expect from any campaign postcard, it is filled with embellishment and misinformation. However, below, I’m calling foul on the most blatant falsehoods found in this particular mailing.

On the front side of the postcard, the headline reads:

Charles Williamson is working hard to fight against Barack Obama and his Democratic Cronies in their Big Government Grab

The President and Congress passed a healthcare law that the Supreme Court of the United States upheld. Despite that fact that this is a settled issue, Mr. Williamson and his Republican cronies would attempt to waste state money on pointless litigation. Why don’t they use that money on improving education and infrastructure in this state instead?

The first bullet states:

Balancing the Budget, Cutting Spending

  • Will never support a tax increase to fund the state budget shortfall and instead will demand state agencies reduce spending
  • Supports limited government spending

State agencies are already experiencing budget shortfalls because of the recession. Our reliance on sales tax vs. income tax has left the state with little money. After all, when people have less money to spend, there are less sales. Less sales, means less tax collection. Revenue has to be raised somewhere! Since many people have been under a tremendous burden during this economy, more government spending is needed to support critical services.

Bullet #2:

Health Care

  • Supports any lawsuit against Obamacare, believes it violates states’ rights and will cost Tennessee taxpayers over $20 billion
  • Will fight for common-sense reforms that expand access and lower costs

Where do I begin with this? There is no evidence that the state will have to pay “$20 billion.” That is just an attempt to scare people. The line about “common-sense reforms that expand access and lower costs” is, to borrow from Vice President Joe Biden, a bunch of malarkey. How the hell does he expect to expand access and lower costs without raising additional revenue? Last I recall, the healthcare industry is in this for profit, and I don’t see them lowering their prices.

Finally, Bullet #3:

Reducing Taxes, Promoting Economic Development

  • Will continue to work for lower taxes, less regulation and less litigation
  • Vows to support policies that attract business investment and create more jobs

Want to know what lower taxes, less regulation and less litigation means for the majority of Tennesseans? It means no money for needed services, less regulation against harmful pollution and corporate malfeasance, and fewer avenues for the people of Tennessee to hold those responsible accountable.

The address side of the postcard sports this gem:

Standing up Against Big Government in Favor of Tennessee Families

As if big government has anything to do with Tennessee families. Oh…right, he’s talking about marriage equality, Planned Parenthood, and other “pro-family” right wing talking points. In actuality, this is just more of the same divisive rhetoric that comes out of the state Republican Party.

Reasonable people can disagree on the size of government, and its role in our society. However, crafting laws that protect the privileged majority to the detriment of the rest is not how you make a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Published by Jonathan, on November 5th, 2012 at 5:20 pm. | Tags: , , , | No Comments

My Email to Bo Mitchell, District 50 TN State House Representative Candidate

Bo Mitchell, TN House Representative District 50 Candidate

Yesterday, I spoke with a volunteer for Bo Mitchell, District 50 Tennessee State House Representative candidate. He and I talked about where Councilman Mitchell stood on some issues. Since the volunteer (understandably) couldn’t answer every question I had regarding Bo Mitchell’s views on some issues important to me, I decided to contact him myself. Here’s my email to him:

Councilman Mitchell,

I spoke to one of your volunteers today in my Bellevue neighborhood, and he gave me a good idea about some of your positions. I am a 35 year old Nashville native, and I was born in Baptist Hospital. I tell you all of this because I want you to understand that I am an actual Tennessean.

I am deeply troubled by the hard right path of the Republican party in this state. It is embarrassing to constantly see our state in the news for the behavior of people like Curry Todd, Ron Ramsey, and Richard Floyd. They spew hateful things, and attempt to turn Tennesseans against fellow Tennesseans.

While the economy is certainly a concern of mine, I am also concerned about some very important social issues. Here are my questions for you:

Do you support LGBT rights, including marriage equality? I know several in this community, and one close friend is transgendered. Based on Richard Floyd’s past comments, it would seem obvious where many in the Republican party stand on this issue. I want those close to me to be protected against bigots like Mr. Floyd.

Do you support the separation of church and state? I believe in freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion. While I am a lifelong churchgoer, I am opposed to imposing that on anyone else. I believe Christ would agree.

Do you support President Obama? As a Democrat, I would certainly hope so, but a video that showed up on the Nashville Scene’s website seemed to show you as non-commital. In that video, the “partisan bickering” you refer to is not the chief domain of the President. Republicans in Congress have been more than a little partisan themselves.

In your mind, how far does the 2nd Amendment go? In light of the Aurora, CO incident, this is certainly a pertinent issue. As I’m sure you are aware, the NRA very publicly sent out questionnaires to various lawmakers in this state. To me, it was an attempt to gauge their “pro-2nd Amendment” bonafides, and to publicly shame them. I don’t want groups that do not have the best interests of Tennessee in mind wielding undue influence. I need to know that my representatives are going to stand up to them.

I feel like I could go on, but maybe I’ll just give you an opportunity to answer these particular questions. I wish you luck in the election, and I thank you for hearing me out.

I am intrigued by his candidacy, and I look forward to hearing his thoughts on the questions I had for him. I’ll post any response I get from him.

UPDATE 10/28/12: I spoke with Councilman Mitchell outside the Bellevue Community Center, and he was very friendly and reassuring. After meeting him, I went into the Community Center to cast my early vote. I had no problem giving him my vote. I am confident he will stand up for things that matter to me and my family, while keeping an eye toward compromise. After all, that’s how government gets things done.

Published by Jonathan, on October 14th, 2012 at 10:47 am. | Tags: , , | No Comments

Bill Moyers on ALEC

It’s in no way a surprise that corporate interests flood our state and federal houses of government. However, did you know that there is a group of people that lobby our government officials without being legally obligated to register as lobbyists? I know the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is not unknown to many, but you may be surprised by the depth of its influence. This edition of Moyers & Company highlights ALEC’s role in our everyday lives.

By the way, here is a list of Tennessee legislators that are also current or former ALEC members.

Published by Jonathan, on October 9th, 2012 at 8:29 pm. | Tags: , , | No Comments

Hellbound: Thoughts on Hell’s Existence

I went to see Hellbound? last week at the Belcourt Theatre. It was a thoughtful documentary chronicling the existence (or not) of the Christian understanding of hell as a place of eternal, conscious damnation. Some of the best questions are asked by the filmmakers themselves:

Does hell exist? If so, who ends up there, and why? Featuring an eclectic group of authors, theologians, pastors, social commentators and musicians, “Hellbound?” is a provocative, feature-length documentary that will ensure you never look at hell the same way again!

This can be a sensitive subject for many Evangelical Christians. After all, if there is no hell, what is the motivation to do the right thing? What will become of those that are “truly evil” in this life? To be sure, this is not an easy question to answer, but it does deserve a nuanced discussion.

Rob Bell is famous (or infamous) for his book, Love Wins. In it, he discusses how he personally wrestled with whether this concept of eternal conscious damnation actually exists. His book features prominently in Hellbound?, and here is a quote from his book:

“God loves us. God offers us everlasting life by grace, freely, through no merit on our part. Unless you do not respond the right way. Then God will torture you forever. In hell.” Huh?

Admittedly, I haven’t read Love Wins, yet. I’ve been out of the Evangelical world for a long time, and I hadn’t remembered hearing about it before seeing the film. However, now I’m going to read it, because this is a question that deserves to be asked. Even if we can’t come up with the perfect answer.

I don’t intend for this post to answer any questions. In fact, I find it is more important to ask the questions, sometimes. The path we take to finding answers is usually the most enlightening part of the journey. If this wonderful film comes near you, I would highly encourage you to see it.

Published by Jonathan, on September 19th, 2012 at 9:50 pm. | Tags: , , , , | No Comments

Hellbound The Movie

I am going to see this movie at The Belcourt. It harkens me back to my college days, and the discussions I had about the existence of hell. I’ll post a review after I see the film.

Published by Jonathan, on September 6th, 2012 at 10:37 pm. | Tags: , , | No Comments

The GOP Long Ago Went Off the Rails

There are people out there who actually think the GOP took the train to crazy town recently. Time’s Joe Klein is apparently one of them. In a recent Hardball interview with Chris Matthews, a gobsmacked Klein stated:

The Republican Party has a major grassroots problem, which is that a good part of its grassroots now celebrate ignorance.

He’s just now figuring that out?! Down in these parts, this is certainly not news. This part of the country has long been a hotbed for right wing thinking. Everything from affirmative action to Roe v. Wade is a cause célèbre. The only difference is that now nutters on the right feel emboldened to actually spout their nonsense in public.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not talking about reasonable differences between intelligent adults. I am talking about the faction of people that deny climate change despite overwhelming scientific evidence. I am talking about those that think AIDS came from “one guy screwing a monkey.” I am talking about morons like Todd Akin that think the female body has ways to shut that whole pregnancy thing down during a rape.

Why do we tolerate the level of nonsense exhibited by the GOP these days? How has ignorance and stupidity become a virtue? When did we decide that an untrained, uneducated male is an expert on the female anatomy?

Looking back at my childhood in the church, this is not remotely surprising. I remember being indoctrinated with a fierce sense of being under siege. The “world” was out to corrupt me, and turn this country into a hedonistic den of sin. Thankfully, a skeptical mind took over toward the end of high school and all through college.

I will vote for a second term for President Obama this November. This is not because I think he is a savior for the middle class. I also don’t think he’s a perfect president. I do think, however, he best represents the entirety of the American people. Not the rich. Not the poor. Not Muslims. Not Christians. Everyone.

Published by Jonathan, on August 28th, 2012 at 7:50 pm. | Tags: , , , | No Comments

We Are Too Quick To Criticize Without Facts

We’ve become a nation hooked on outrage. This became apparent long before the Chick-fil-a kerfuffle. While I hate the “both sides are just as bad” line, in this case, it’s actually true. MoveOn, a liberal leaning group that I have supported morally, if not financially, sent out the following email yesterday to those of us on their mailing list.

Dear MoveOn member,

Yesterday, 19 House Democrats sold out the middle class. They voted against a bill that would have extended tax cuts for the middle class and ended cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Are you as furious as I am? 

Representative Jim Cooper was one of the Democrats who refused to stand up for the middle classhe needs to know that his constituents are outraged.

Can you call Rep. Cooper now? Tell him: “I’m furious that you voted against ending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.” 

There’s only one problem with the above email…it’s not true! Because of that, they sent out this email today.

Dear MoveOn member,

We’ve made a mistake—yesterday, you received an email identifying Representative Jim Cooper as one of the Democrats who voted to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Rep. Cooper actually voted against both tax cut proposals—he voted against the Democratic-sponsored bill to extend tax cuts just for the middle class, as well as against the Republican-sponsored bill to extend the tax cuts for the rich. We apologize for our mistake.

I had planned on calling Rep. Cooper myself to express concern because of MoveOn’s original message. I don’t blame MoveOn for that. I should have fact checked them. I do blame them, however, for stirring up a hornets nest unnecessarily. It is difficult enough to be a liberal (blue dog or progressive) in this state without having to fend off unsubstantiated attacks from the left.

The political and cultural climate is polarized and toxic. The worst thing we can do is contribute to an already negative environment. I do hope MoveOn will do a better job of getting their facts straight. They purport to stand up for the less fortunate, but they do those people no good by being loose with facts. The only way a better country emerges from this current climate is to have better ideas…based on truth.

UPDATE:

Apparently, MoveOn wasn’t the only outlet that didn’t properly fact check.

Published by Jonathan, on August 3rd, 2012 at 8:19 pm. | Tags: , , , , | No Comments