• dustin evans

It's Oh So Quiet

Dustin Evans writes about Gov. Lee's HB 8005 - the bill that could take your vote for protesting.

There is a game that I like to play. It begins with an ominous warning from none other than Will Wheaton (read Whil Wheaton for some) - and though we are enjoying a party game born from the genius of some apples fell far from the tree, we can see that certain analogies have their place, and should not be taken lightly.

Each player is given a secret identity, separated into factions, all the while Wheaton is letting you know from the safety of your app, that you are not alone in your choices. Within seconds you seemingly assume your position and begin to work alongside your team-mates to ensure one common goal - to promote the will of the masses and to reassure that very goal.

The catch is that at least two of your friends are secretly working against you to ensure that this “common goal” has been ultimately defeated. Though everyone involved is identified as “blind” walking into the initial agreement, two of these friends are asked to open their eyes to identify each other, as well as identify their iconic leader.

Hilarity ensues. The group begins to identify their true alignment and almost immediately a coup has begun to form itself. The game you may ask? It is the farcical romp found at the heart of Secret Hitler.

It’s a sincere guessing game. No one, even the titular character is fully aware of what is going on. Candidates arrive, pitching their individual motive to unseat the current chancellor and return to a peaceful, just society.

How are the unassuming Hitler and his two teammates able to sit upon this leadership and avoid being unmasked? All they have to do is shift attention elsewhere. With a simple misdirection, the duo works in the shadows to ensure that they can get their cards turned face-up.

The end of this game comes when the liberal majority is able to assassinate Hitler or when Hitler and his team have played enough fascist policy cards to fully take over. As an added bonus, if they are able to deceive the group - they receive benefits that help them to cross the finish line.

Many of us have been gathering in safe groups to play board games together and take some time away from the sincerely bizarre times we face. Taking a few minutes away from the daily routine to distract ourselves from the repetitive motions.

The problem is that through this cycle of daily life, many of us haven’t realized that we are the game being played. While we have been taking our endless trips around the game board, a hidden faction has developed and has been laying down their cards.

It’s oh so quiet. It’s oh so still. And while we have persevered, there is an unsettling movement stirring in our state. While we have been motivated to keep each other safe - a hidden force has been moving amongst us and now it is time to wake up.

Tennessee, like many other parts of the country, is divided into a handful of factions. The conservative majority comprises time-stained, staunch business owners; the devout worshipers of faith; and those who work tirelessly to keep our government small.

The liberal minority is forged of a series of smaller factions seeking to gain their individual but collective rights for women, the ethnically disenfranchised, those persecuted by religion, the elderly who have been forgotten due to a lack of wealth.

The more fiercely independent groups standing their ground, but working alongside their allies to make sure that the two weighted sides stay on their toes.

Inside these bubbles and pockets, things may seem quiet and normal. The enemy is clear, the mission is strong - we know exactly who we needed to vote for so we can move along with our lives.

The election may be over now, and the rhythm of the political cycle has come to an end for most. And while things may seem quiet here in the new normal: it's time to cue up Mr. Wheaton, because it is midnight in Germany and a faction has been working to make sure that we feel comfortable with our eyes closed.

While we were arguing about Black and Blue lives, while we were proudly championing our individual perspectives on mask-wearing in public, while we were taking sides on where to locate current and future AirBnBs, this quiet faction has duped us all. Tennessee is one more card closer to a darker future with a seemingly innocent rule about how we protest.

On the left, Black Lives Matter and its supporting organizations have rallied a cry against the legislation as it was targeted specifically to combat them. Those supporting the police on the right have stood up for the safety and the order of law that it has instilled. Now it is time for both sides to take off the blindfolds so we can work together to stop the real enemy - fascism.

Let’s start with the cost. Your vote. If you mistakenly camp on state property the very first thing you could lose is your vote. But, wait, you say. This doesn’t have to do with people camping, it is how people are protesting. Oh, dear friend, I wish, I sincerely wish, you were correct.

The “small government” advocates who wrote this legislation have actually created a separate reality from the one you may know. The very definition of camping is not up to the courts, not up to the scenario, not up to the motive, but up to the individual arresting officer.

Let’s take the “Let Us Worship” event that took place on the green at City Hall on Sunday, October 11. Hundreds of people gathered at not just any park, but the park that surrounds one of our state’s courthouses. Our leaders are deliberating on how to respond to the group who gathered unannounced, without permits, who did not adhere to safety protocols in place from the pandemic.

In this instance, the police stood by and allowed the event to occur. But what if the social makeup of the force changes over the years? What if the more progressive mayors of Tennessee work to restructure the political makeup of the force?

A liberal police officer under a liberal leader in Tennessee will be able to determine whether or not someone was breaking the very law they were enforcing. While this has been applied to many a conservative viewpoint recently, the actual legislation does not mention a specific frame of reference. Any individual who picks up the janitorial badge will be able to institute their will in regards to those occupying state and municipal property.

The acting officer could have constituted the “Let Us Worship” event to be an occupation of the capital, and those worshipers could have all received a felony charge - losing their right to bear arms, and losing their right to vote.

If you look at the legislation from this perspective, it makes you wonder how this specific language passed the enumerated Republicans in the General Assembly. How did such a big government overhaul, such a massive infringement on rights make it into law in Tennessee?

We are seeing this on a national level as well, but the signs are abundantly clear back at home. We recently returned to the polls and cast our votes for state leadership. How many of us took the time to actively research who these candidates are and to whom they have allegiance? How many of us put our faith in a party platform to ease our decision?

Our eyes have been closed. It was the rules. There is nothing we can do about that. Many, if not most, of us chose to play this game fairly. Moving forward, we must work together and be more diligent about our representation. Regardless of which direction you lean politically, there is a group working in silence to undermine our democracy.

It’s time to open your eyes and start to sniff out the fascists. Now more than ever, we must put aside partisan opinions and work together to identify them. Though this cycle was an intense time in our lives, creating a divisive atmosphere in our country, most of us believe in a stronger America.

Republicans and Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, Socialists, and Independents: we all have an individual viewpoint, and that most likely won’t change. What is at stake now is our Democratic Republic.

Our collective opponent is playing us in a game they have disguised as business-as-usual. This time, the antagonist isn’t Hitler, despite certain outlandish statements that may be thrown into the wind. For the most part, we have been losing, but now that they have gotten careless enough to expose themselves here in Tennessee; I think the Volunteer state will find the strength to defeat them.

Below is HB 8005:

Download PDF • 83KB

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