Cook: Making laws like it's 1949

Cook: Making laws like it's 1949

March 11th, 2014 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Tennessee lawmakers are a few curlicues away from requiring all public school kids to learn how to read and write in cursive.

Not required art class. Not PE class every day. Not courses in coding or nonviolent conflict resolution or civics, each year, every year.

But cursive, the form of handwriting preferred by the Donner Party and Whigs everywhere.

I'm not against it, really. Not for it, either. Just seems there are a batrillion other important issues that ought to hop to the front of the line. So why legislate cursive?

I think it's nostalgia. Wistfulness. A yearning for the good ol' days, which is beginning to seem like part of the operating manual for our Legislature.

Let's gaze into the rearview mirror together ...

• Monday, March 3: With only one "no" vote, lawmakers in the Senate vote to legalize switchblade knives.

They'd been illegal, you know, along with all knives with blades longer than four inches -- some people call them swords -- and other outdated things, like child labor.

Now, state senators are working to allow citizens to carry switchblades as their God-given right.

Somewhere out there, Ponyboy Curtis cheers. (Stay gold, lawmakers. Stay gold.)

• Three weeks earlier: With only seven "no" votes, lawmakers in the Senate vote to cancel a 2009 law that allows city councils and county commissions to ban guns in local parks.

With a gut-punch to the autonomous power of local governments, the long hand of the state Senate decreed that anyone with a handgun permit is now free to carry their weapon into any municipal park or recreation area ... and cities and counties can't stop them.

It's like an addiction. Lawmakers can't get enough of guns, feeling the never-ending urge to insert them into any and every public and private space in the state.

Bars. Churches. Campuses. Trunks.

It is the cock-loading of our democracy -- guns here, there, everywhere -- that reflects an antiquated, Wild West model of conflict resolution and unblinking interpretation of the Second Amendment.

(In other news: District Attorney Buzz Franklin refused to charge the North Georgia man who shot and killed a man with Alzheimer's who was wandering the neighborhood at night with his dogs. As the confused man knocked on the wrong door, the man inside the house felt threatened, grabbed his gun, went outside and then fired, killing the 72-year-old. To summarize: anyone in Franklin's district who feels threatened when someone knocks on your door can now shoot to kill ... and get away with it.)

• Around Valentine's Day: Led by Chattanooga's Rep. Richard Floyd, lawmakers condemn Sex Week at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

While Sex Week includes a list of excellent presentations -- discussions on religion, abstinence and hook-up culture -- it also caters in the sensational and Mardi Gras-gaudy.

So lawmakers are fighting back, and quite naturally, they're going too far, throwing the baby out with the act of making a baby. They're considering bills that would prohibit UT from using student fees to bring in outside speakers, because, after all, the last thing we want is college students learning about the outside world.

"Have Gun Week instead," one reader told UT officials. "You certainly won't have the opposition you have now."

"Let them get off campus," Floyd said of Sex Week organizers. "They can go out there in a field full of sheep if they want to and have all the sex week they want."

Somewhere out there, Little Bo Peep faints.

• Thursday, March 6: Lawmakers prevent Gov. Bill Haslam from expanding Medicaid without their approval first.

As the sick get sicker and public hospitals beg for federal dollars, lawmakers half-nelson the possibility of our governor doing something to help them. Haslam casually replied that he'd been planning to get permission anyway, which was a Fonzie-cool, slick answer. (Somebody give the man a switchblade!)

This is not really about health care. It's about our ongoing subterfuge of anything-Obama. It's about legislating from an outdated paradigm. It's about the filibuster of anything thoughtful and creative and bold, as lawmakers pine for the days when kids wrote in cursive and people carried switchblades and nobody talked about sex and nobody ever elected a black man named Barack.

Somewhere out there, Andrew Jackson plans his return.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.