I grew up in Nashville (the Protestant Vatican, the rhinestone-studded buckle of the bible belt, Nashvegas, etc). I haven’t lived there in a while, and I was curious about how my home state ranked against the others I’ve lived in since. The answer is… really depressing.
Tennessee is one of only two states in the union that allows creationism to be taught in public schools. In 2012, it had the most violent crime in the country. It has the highest combined state and local sales tax, with an additional tax on booze, but a high sales tax can’t fix the budget deficit if no one’s spending money. If only it could tax meth! Or marijuana — it’s illegal to attempt to legally possess pot. Maybe then it could pay its police officers and teachers better. At least Tennessee’s still making money on speed traps. Mother Jones magazine voted its state legislature as the #1 worst in the nation. It’s one of the worst states for spring allergies and asthma. It’s second worst for adult dental health, fourth worst for deaths due to strokes, and third worst for cardiovascular deaths, but its citizens are great at misusing prescription painkillers. It’s not doing so great at caring for its vulnerable citizens thing in general, especially when it comes to the unemployed and sick minorities and dying babies.
But let’s look on the bright side: Tennessee is only the third worst state for domestic violence. In a list of the worst states for women, Tennessee almost made it out of the bottom ten. And hey, ten whole states are worse for kids! Its public school teachers are still allowed to talk about gay people, and their students are testing higher on the ACT than Mississippi. Some other states have equally bad energy policies. Its chlamydia and gonorrhea rates aren’t as bad as Alabama and Georgia.
I was going to try to turn this into a cutesy article about how I live in Washington State now and all our worsts are things like “coffee humbleness” and “flannel overdose,” but the more I researched the less I felt like joking. This is what happens when you take generations of poverty, add a regressive tax system and a legislature willing to fuck its own constituents over in the name of morality, and mix in a generous dose of institutionalized sexism, racism, and homophobia.
This is my home state. I wish I could be proud of it.