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    I'm Changing My Answer

    It happens all the time. It's probably happened a half dozen times this year. Someone will ask me if I love living in Nashville, and I'll say, "No."

    I don't dress it up, or explain it; I certainly don't apologize for it—which probably has something to do with the fact that native Southerners like to jokingly (but seriously) tell me that I'm not "nice." What a garbage word. But I digress. I frequently say that I don't love living here, and if pressed to elaborate, I will. I can talk about the overt sexism I experience here, from men and women alike. I can talk about the oppressive presence that Christianity has in this part of the country, Nashville is no different (no matter what you hear or see on TV). I can talk about how strange it is to live in a community of musicians that allows its venues and music events to be mostly run by men, and not the world's most evolved men, either. There's the ever-present social substance abuse that no one talks about, but is inescapable. And then there are the politics. Nashville residents like to claim that we're the blue dot in the red state. I'm not buying it. We aren't so blue, and the state is so crimson-red-Republican, so Christian, and so conservative, that the above items can't help but trickle down from it. Did you know that almost seventy percent of Tennessee voted for Trump? Because it did. And we also have a state law that prevents any individual city from declaring itself a sanctuary to refugees and immigrants. The blue dot is an illusion. It's purple at best. I live in Tennessee, where men make the laws, book the shows, own the clubs, and give the sermons. 

    How did this happen?

    That question screams through mind at 3:30 in the morning every once in a while. I often have to retrace my steps and go back to 2007 when I first visited Nashville on the direction of the late great Doug Sax, mastering engineer and genius. He mastered my first solo album out at his Ojai CA studio in May of 2007, and pretty much sent me to Nashville when he was done. I was living in Brooklyn at the time. I'd been there four years. I was on the precipice of change in all areas of my life, so it makes sense that I would have been ready to explore a new place. I liked some of the music that was coming out of Nashville at the time, wondered about how things worked down here, and if I'm totally honest, I worshipped Doug. He was quite high up on my list of People Who Made Great Music Possible. He told me to come here, he made some calls, and I was here in a week. Eleven months later, I lived here. All I can say is that I truly believe I was supposed to be here. I never loved it (and I have journal entries from all along that can back that statement up), and I might never. Maybe I'm just like Prince's mother, "never satisfied." I don't know. What I do know, is that something is changing for me, lately. Some part of me has shifted in the last two weeks, and I find my grip on Nashville—and even Tennessee—to be different than it's been in years past.

    The new administration has been in place for thirteen days. Feels like four months, doesn't it? Alas, not even two weeks. It's been a harrowing thirteen days, and I think that's part of it . . . but I also think it has to do with the activities I've participated in since January 20th. I was involved with five protests in eleven days. One of them was in Washington D.C., four of them were local. I marched in the Women's March on Washington for women's rights, LGBTQ rights, immigrants' rights, and the rights of indigenous people. I have attended two protests in response to the travel ban (read: Muslim ban), one in response to the threat of repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and one to let the Tennessee lawmakers know that we are watching them and demand transparency in our state. That last one was maybe where I started to notice the change in me. I found myself researching the laws that keep us beholden to outdated, non-inclusive practices as a state, and I found myself feeling protective of my fellow Tennessee residents. I felt—and continue to feel—solidarity with those who believe in a better way for our city, our state, our country. I'm in it right now, and it feels good.

    I was thinking about this change the other night, and said to my husband, "But, part of me has always been this way about Nashville. I organize Let Me Help (an annual project that serves Safe Haven Family Shelter and Magdalene House), I bake pies for homeless shelters every Thanksgiving, I raise money and volunteer for Nashville CARES, I participate in local activism, raise awareness for humanitarian programs I champion here . . . why do I feel like I'm not part of the city?" Jerry's response was that I would do those things wherever I lived; that it's just who I am. He's not wrong, and I have done some of those things in other places. But, for a city I claim not to love, I sure do show up to serve it when I can. I sure do care if the laws restrict the rights of anyone who lives here. I sure do want to wait this generation of senators out so we can start to seat some people who more accurately represent the people they serve. I sure do get involved.

    I was at a protest with friends the other day, and a couple of them were talking about exit strategies they want to have in place, if the administration announces that they're coming after gay people the way they're going after Muslims rights now (and, in fact, an order outlining pretty much just that has since been leaked). I can't fault anyone for that. There seems to be no end to what this group of men will try to dismantle in the way of human rights. It's been thirteen days and we're all afraid. Additionally, I'm not gay, so I can't speak to that particular persecution, nor will I dishonor it by pretending that I share the burden. In fact, as my friends pointed out, I could just keep my head down and let the next four years pass me by, if I wanted. As a woman, my rights will be lessened (let's be honest, they always are), but they're likely not coming after me because I'm white and straight and could (COULD) keep a low profile. I know people who plan to do just that.


    Instead, I'm going to educate myself on as much of our local and federal laws as possible. I'm going to read the Constitution again. I'm going to continue to be part of the organized resistance, visibly. I'm going to reach out to Nashville's mayor, Megan Barry, to see if I can be of service to her office in any way. I'm going to continue to fight for the refugees and immigrants who call Tennessee home. I'm going to continue to march in Pride with my friends. I'm going to drive groceries to the homes of people living with advanced AIDS in Middle Tennessee. I'm going to continue to knit scarves and hats for homeless families and the women at Magdalene House. I'm going to continue to participate in Nashville's wonderful recovery community, the anonymous rooms that give me sanity, strength, and hope. And when I need to rest, I'm going to go to the Belcourt, my favorite movie theatre of all time. 

    I may never claim this music scene. I may never shop at the many hip clothing boutiques, or eat at the Zagat-listed restaurants. I'm not sure any of that matters. Today, I claim Nashville, and I claim Tennessee. I claim the people—even the guy who yelled at me last night as I was leaving the We All Belong rally/vigil. He drove by and said, "Build the wall! Deport them all!" I waved at him as I walked back to my car with my fourth protest sign of the week. He's limited, dude. He's limited by some set of perspectives I don't know anything about. It's unfortunate, but it's also just how it is. I don't know what goes on with those people, or why there are so many of them here, but it's the reality we face. He doesn't know what goes on with me either—of that, you can be sure. I'm interested in creating a safe place for dialogue between the two sides. I'm interested in talking with the people who think none of this matters. It's one of the only ways I can imagine any progress being made. "Talk to each other, reason things out with someone else, but let there be no gossip or criticism of one another." That's part of the meeting closing in the Al-Anon fellowship. It brought tears to my eyes for the first several years I heard it, week after week. The invitation is so powerful. Let there be no gossip or criticism of one another . . . WHAT? Do we know how to do that? I don't know, but I'm willing to explore it. Stay tuned.

    Meanwhile, I think it's important that those of us who can and will fight for human rights, do. And I think it's important that we do it here. In Tennessee. In America. Otherwise, who will? The idea that "someone else will take care of it" is part of the problem. And by "problem," I mean: our nation is in trouble right now. Big trouble. Our nation is being run by a bunch of people with hateful, damaging agendas. I know some people will read this and roll their eyes at another Lefty freaking out about the new president's policies, and wonder why we can't get over it. We can't get over it because we believe in human rights. We can't get over it because we're afraid we're going to wake up in a nation that will jail us or deport us for doing any number of things that used to be allowed. Our senators from Tennessee are currently promoting and supporting this new agenda. Someone needs to make a stand, and it might as well be us Lefty weirdos. I've got nowhere else to be, guys. I can show up to the Capitol as many times as it takes. See you there, Senators Alexander and Corker. I'll have a large coffee.

    And the next time someone asks me if I love living in Nashville, I'm just going to say, "I'm happy to be part of the conversation."