The backlash against immigrants is at full boil in Tennessee.
Kit Brewer doesnâ€™t like immigrants.
â€œWhile America was harnessing electricity, while America was winning World War I, winning World War II, inventing the computer, inventing nuclear weapons [and] breaking the DNA code, what were the Mexicans doing?â€ he asks. â€œThey were making tacos.â€
He pauses to clarify.
â€œBy Mexicans, thatâ€™s kind oâ€™ a generic term for me that also includes Salvadorans, Hondurans, etcâ€¦. I donâ€™t want any immigrants from the Third World.â€ He also mentions Iraq and Sudan.
Brewer used to live in Antiochâ€”which he calls â€œHispanioch,â€ because of its large Hispanic immigrant populationâ€”but moved after getting tired of his child â€œhaving to step over drunk Mexicans in a ditch to get to the school bus.â€
â€œThank God I got out,â€ he says. â€œWhile I could still get something for my house.â€
Brewer insists that he doesnâ€™t have a problem with all immigrants, just the â€œThird Worlders.â€
â€œIf somebody wants to come here form Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, thatâ€™s fine. I would have hated to turn away Albert Einstein,â€ he says. â€œI donâ€™t think that the next Albert Einstein is going to come from the Sudan, Mexico or Honduras.â€
Brewer also thinks that Americans are inherently better and smarter people than those from other nations.
â€œLike it or not, their I.Q.s, except for Orientals, average seven to 20 points below the average American white.â€
When asked how and where he found such a statistic, Brewer cites â€œthe Internet.â€
Unlike some other people who have strident opinions about immigrants and the impact that theyâ€™re having in the U.S., Brewer doesnâ€™t differentiate between most legal and undocumented immigrants. â€œA legal immigrant from the Third World is just an illegal immigrant with a green card,â€ he says.
Kit Brewer is not alone in his isolationist leanings. Throughout Tennessee in recent months, there have been many public and private displays of sentiments that closely echo Brewerâ€™s. Some of these have been benignâ€”angry talk radio callers and ugly graffiti. Others have been decidedly less so.
â€œIt feels like hell,â€ says Nelson Espinoza, who awoke one day to find a burning cross on his lawn. â€œWe donâ€™t go outside.â€
A few months ago in Smithville, Tenn., about 60 miles east of Nashville, Cuban-born police Chief Agustin Clemente Jr. resigned his post after only a few weeks. In his letter of resignation, Clemente claimed colleagues, including the mayor whoâ€™d hired him, had used racial slurs against him.
Last year, a Southeast Tennessee man was indicted on charges of building pipe bombs that he planned to put on buses carrying Hispanic workers.
In Maryville, Tenn., just outside of Knoxville, the owners of La Lupita Mexican Store arrived at their shop one Sunday morning to find spray-painted swastikas and other white power missives all over their building. Rocks had been thrown through La Lupitaâ€™s windows. An outdoor freezer had been jimmied open, $6,000 worth of meat and vegetables spoiled. The vandals didnâ€™t take a thing.
In Nashville last year, a Koran was found defaced in a predominantly Somali neighborhood. Pages had been torn out of it, rubbed with feces and partially burned.
Last summer, the Espinoza family of Bowling Green, Ky., just over the Tennessee line, awoke to find a burning cross on their lawn. On their doorstep they found a cardboard placard, about 4-by-12 inches with a missive scrawled in black pen. On one side it read, â€œIn my country, maybe. In my Neighborhood never.â€ On the other: â€œIf you canâ€™t read this. Oddy Ouss!! (sic).â€
Nelson Espinoza, a 29-year-old, legal U.S. resident from El Salvador, was stunned by the flaming symbol of hate. â€œIt feels like hell,â€ he says. â€œWe donâ€™t go outside.â€
These incidents, and opinions like Brewerâ€™s, are part of a growing backlash against one of the largest demographic shifts in the history of Tennesseeâ€”and the nation. Between 1990 and 2000, the national foreign-born population increased 57 percent, from 19.8 million to 31.1 million according to the Knight Foundation, a non-profit research group. During this same period, Tennesseeâ€™s foreign-born population increased 169 percent, four times the national average, ranking the state sixth in the nation overall in immigrant growth.
While one in 10 Americans are now foreign born, the number for Nashville is ever higher: one in seven. And by 2020, Tennesseeâ€™s Hispanic population alone is expected to double.
In the blink of an eye, we have gained tens of thousand of new neighbors. But not everybody here is in a welcoming mood. Thereâ€™s a cold and creeping feeling among nativists that the traditional American way of life is under attack. For them, itâ€™s a culture war on a grand scale. Itâ€™s about disrespecting the American flag, singing the national anthem in a foreign tongue and salsa eclipsing ketchup as the countryâ€™s No. 1 condiment.
Katherine Donato, a demographer and professor of sociology at Vanderbilt who specializes in migration between Mexico and the U.S., explains the roots of this backlash succinctly. â€œWe are in this place in 2006, in large part because of politics.â€
She says that politicians have exploited the fear and anger surrounding the issue for political gain. Even a cursory look at this political season seems to bear out this observation. The candidates in last summerâ€™s overheated Republican U.S. Senate primary in Tennessee were not only competing for a chance to take on Democrat Harold Ford Jr. Each battled mightily to be perceived as the candidate who was â€œtoughest on the immigration issue.â€ Ford himself also used the issue to his advantage. He voted for the House immigration bill that would make felons out of church groups that feed, clothe or otherwise help undocumented immigrants. He touted the vote in ads that decried the â€œhundreds of miles of unprotected [U.S.] border.â€ (He was, in fact, to the right of his ultimate GOP opponent, Bob Corker, on the immigration issue.)
In the final days of this monthâ€™s election, failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Bryson began running a political ad featuring the daughter of a Mt. Juliet couple killed in a car accident by an undocumented immigrant. He was allegedly drunk behind the wheel.
Even local politicians have gotten in on the act. Metro Council member Eric Crafton recently proposed a law that would require all Metro business to be conducted in English. The bill passed on the second of three readings before the council on Tuesday. In a recent Sunday Tennessean op-ed, Crafton compared undocumented workers to the barbarians who sacked Rome, saying that historyâ€™s largest and most powerful empire was â€œoverrun with illegal immigrantsâ€¦who at first worked as servants but then came so fast they did not learn the Latin language or the Roman form of government.â€
Critics of Craftonâ€™s bill say the law in its original form is completely unenforceable and probably unconstitutional. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill. It has since been watered down so much that its continued existence is puzzling.
And then of course there is talk radio. Last spring, at a rally against illegal immigration, talk radio host Phil Valentine suggested that when people cross the border illegally, we should â€œshoot â€™em.â€ The crowd, over 1,000 strong, cheered in delight. Onstage with the broadcast personality were three state lawmakers: Sen. Bill Ketron, Rep. Tom Dubois and Rep. Glen Casada. On Nov. 6, the day before Election Day, Valentineâ€™s syndication company announced that his show would go national in January.
This heated rhetoric has had its intended effect. When two protesters showed up at another anti-illegal immigration rally last month, they were shouted down as â€œappeasersâ€ and â€œtraitors to America,â€ among other choice descriptors. â€œThose people really hate this country,â€ one of the rallygoers said.
Besides politics, this nativist movement is rooted in some very real fears about a rapidly changing way of life and pressures on the American social and governmental system, Donato says. â€œThis backlash has occurred in places that have no history of the foreign born being around. Now, in a matter of 15 years, immigrants are in every corner of the country.â€
Sen.-elect Bob Corker, who has spent most of the last year crisscrossing Tennessee in his bid for the U.S. Senate, has seen some of the frustration that this change has wrought. â€œItâ€™s real, the discontent out there,â€ Corker tells the Scene. â€œIt could be [from] a school teacher or a school administrator in a school where theyâ€™re dealing with No Child Left Behindâ€¦. Everybody in the classroom has to move along at the same pace and yet there are people there who are putting a burden on the school [because] English is not the language that they speakâ€¦. Maybe [itâ€™s] a county commissioner whoâ€™s sitting on a public hospital board and thereâ€™s tremendous amounts of free care thatâ€™s givenâ€”because if you show up at the emergency roomâ€¦youâ€™ve got to be cared for.â€
Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall says that immigrants have had a significant impact on his department.
â€œOne out of 10 people arrested in Davidson County is born outside of the U.S.,â€ Hall says. Five years ago, that number was one in 20. Hall says that he has â€œno idea,â€ how many of those arrested are here illegally, but his department has applied for a federal program that would help identify illegals and begin deportation proceedings against them.
Corker says the impact that immigration has on public safety, health care and education cries out for sober policy, but local lawmakers with nativist leanings have different solutions in mind.
Ken Cherry, a Springfield town alderman, recently told a television reporter that if he hears someone speaking Spanish, he â€œtends to think theyâ€™re illegal.â€ This is after he said that heâ€™d like to ban any and all undocumented immigrants from Springfieldâ€™s public parks. He also added that heâ€™d like to see undocumented immigrants â€œholed up in a barbed wire tentâ€ until he could â€œhaul them up to where they came from and turn them loose.â€
Sheriff Hall says heâ€™s taken aback by such vitriol. â€œI was on one of these radio shows,â€ Hall says, â€œand [they were] asking me, â€˜Well, I think you need to round all of these people upâ€¦what do you think?â€™ â€ Hall was aghast. â€œThis was the host, not a callerâ€¦. There is an element of people out there that scares me to death.â€
This kind of rhetoric tends to frighten the immigrant community, whether theyâ€™re here legally or not.
Corker says that he fears long-term prejudice against immigrants in Tennessee, unless Congress can develop reasonable policy for both securing the borders and allowing those here illegally reasonable time to comply with immigration regulations.
â€œI had two people come up to me last night,â€ Corker says. â€œThey were Hispanic, and you could just sense when they talk to you that people are looking at them and thinking that theyâ€™re here illegally, because thatâ€™s the topic of conversation.â€
In Nashville, itâ€™s not just conversation.
Thereâ€™s a giant electronic sign towering high above I-40, and for a number of weeks last spring, the sign, owned by an air-conditioning repair company, had a bold message. â€œIMMIGRANTS,â€ the sign flashed. â€œIF YOUâ€™RE ILLEGAL, GO HOME. IF YOUâ€™RE LEGAL, WELCOME TO AMERICA. SPEAK ENGLISH.â€
The Marshall County Memorial Library is a short drive from the town square in Lewisburg, Tenn. Inside and out, it is every inch a small-town library. Thereâ€™s a small childrenâ€™s section with a selection of Mad About Madeline books. Next to that, a large shelf full of PBS documentaries collects dust beside popular DVDs and videos. A poster commemorating the 1984 Marshall County Tigers high school football teamâ€™s undefeated state championship run hangs by the front door.
Every month, the library board meets in a windowless, cinderblock room behind the checkout counter. When they met in September, it was most definitely not business as usual.
Thatâ€™s because Robin Minor showed up. Minor, a social studies teacher at a nearby public school, was infuriated that Spanish-language books were being made available at the library. A round, doughy white man with a small brushy mustache, his hair parted severely to the right and plastered to his skull, Minor stood in pleated khakis, tugging the sagging waist of his pants upward as he addressed the small group of about a dozen library board members. Next to him hung a painting of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
â€œThere shouldnâ€™t be any Spanish-language books in this li-bary,â€ Minor said. â€œI would like to see a policy that if somebody is going to donate a book to this li-bary, where English has been the dominant language since 1836, letâ€™s make those books be donated in English only.â€
His diatribe lasted for perhaps two minutes, punctuated by the frequent refrain, â€œThere shouldnâ€™t be no books in here that I canâ€™t read.â€
Eventually, the boardâ€™s president, John Rawe, spoke up. Rawe, a kindly looking older gentleman with long limbs and cowboy boots, pointed out that the Spanish-language collection was very small. He said that the library had books in many languages, including French, Japanese, Yiddish, Swahili and Russian. It is, after all, a library.
â€œDid you spend money on them (sic) books?â€ Minor spat.
â€œAt one time, yes.â€ Rawe answered. He added that many of the books had been purchased some 20 years before.
â€œWell, you shouldnâ€™t have spent money on that either,â€ Minor said. â€œIf youâ€™re spending one penny,â€ Minor said, brimming with vitriol, one pudgy finger wagging in front of his face, his other hand hitching up his pants, â€œone penny is one penny too much.â€
Shortly thereafter, Minor stomped out. The library board members shook their heads. â€œThis is America,â€ someone muttered.
As Minor left in a huff, he may have been unaware that he barreled right past Nellie Rivera, a bilingual U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent who moved to Lewisburg with her husband to get away from the heat and hurricanes of Florida. She says she took the job at the library, where people call her Ms. Bubbly, just to have something to do a few days a week while her husband runs a gas station in town. She quickly became a community asset, building a small collection of Spanish-language books and magazines. She brought most of themâ€”including a well-worn copy of People en Espanolâ€”from her own home and also solicited donations. The entire collection takes up less than half a bookshelf.
Thereâ€™s a sizable Hispanic community in Marshall County, and word soon got around that Rivera was there to help. She began offering free reading lessons to Spanish-speaking children at the library once a week. She also taught Spanish speakers how to use the computer. Rivera says that the lessons are taught in both Spanish and English.
A month after she started working at the library, the phone calls started.
â€œA lady kept calling and saying that she didnâ€™t want her taxes going to buy Spanish books,â€ Rivera recalls.
Riveraâ€™s boss, Jan Allen, dismissed the caller, but still more came in. They complained about the books, the reading lessons, even the fact that Hispanics used the library at all.
â€œOne person said she will no longer use the library as long as Hispanics are using the library,â€ Rivera says.
One woman called Allen and asked if sheâ€™d checked her employeesâ€™ Social Security numbers and immigration documents.
Allen was appalled. â€œI looked at her being bilingual as a plus when I hired her,â€ she says. â€œNellie also knows sign language.â€
Meanwhile, out in the parking lot after that library board meeting, Minor spouted off to a group of sympathetic friends. In his middle school classroom, he made sure that everybody spoke English and that there were no books that he couldnâ€™t understand. He and his friends agreed to call â€œall the talk radio shows in the morning.â€
Nativists like Brewer and Minor often use experiential and anecdotal arguments such as, â€œmy neighborhoodâ€™s ruinedâ€ or â€œI canâ€™t read Spanish.â€
â€œThey made Kunta Kinte say â€˜Toby,â€™ â€ Rev. T.J. Graham shouted. â€œIf itâ€™s good enough for Toby, itâ€™s good enough for me,â€ he said of the English language.
But thereâ€™s also a powerful factual argument that nativists useâ€”that immigrants, both documented and otherwise, take jobs from native-born Americans.
The evidence seems boundless. You canâ€™t swing a ball-peen hammer at a construction site without hitting a Guatemalan national. Every morning, Home Depot parking lots and street corners in Hispanic neighborhoods across the country are jammed with day laborers looking for piecework. Fast food restaurants, chain drugstores and gas stations are veritable United Nations of minimum wage workers.
The overwhelming majority of those who come to live in the United States from other countries come because they want jobs, and theyâ€™re generally able to find them. Wouldnâ€™t it stand to reason, then, that there are fewer jobs for the rest of us? According to some economists, demographers and social scientists, the answer isnâ€™t that cut-and-dried.
Daniel B. Cornfield, a professor of sociology at Vanderbilt whose expertise is in labor and migration, was the lead investigator for a 2003 study commissioned by Metro Government called the â€œImmigrant Community Assessment.â€ It gives an exhaustive accounting of the needs and impact of this large and growing population in Middle Tennessee.
â€œThere is no dramatic effect on the Nashville labor market by the influx of immigration,â€ Cornfield says without ambiguity.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the immigrant population of Nashville quadrupled between 1990 and 2005. Cornfield compares this data to unemployment numbers from the labor department recorded during the same time period. The result? Unemployment didnâ€™t fluctuate by more than two percentage points up or down during this massive influx of both legal and undocumented immigrants. Cornfield speculates that this influx may even have â€œsustained the robustness of the labor market in Davidson County.â€
There are many social scientists who share this view. David Card, an economist at University of California at Berkeley, has conducted numerous studies on immigration and its effect on labor markets. One of these examined wages in Miami immediately after 125,000 Cubans showed up practically overnight and started calling it home. Card found that wages for unskilled workers in Miami were virtually unaffected. For black workers, wages actually increased. In other cities during this same period, wages for this population were down.
Cornfield is quick to point out that there are few recent studies examining how unskilled factory workers or those with degrees from technical schools fare when competing against foreign-born U.S. residents. He acknowledges that people in these backgrounds may be more adversely affected than professionals or those with a college degree.
Katherine Donato is also skeptical of the idea that immigrants are responsible for unemployed Americans, but she cautions that the jury is still out. â€œThereâ€™s no empirical evidence that clearly illustrates that immigrants take our jobs,â€ she says. â€œHowever, most of us believe that it certainly is possible that immigration could lead to competition in local labor markets.â€
Professor Card at Berkeley is less circumspect. Last summer, he told The New York Times Magazine that â€œif Mexicans were taller and whiter, it would probably be a lot easier to deal with.â€
As the last light faded from a clear, chilly late October afternoon, the Reverend T.J. Grahamâ€”a local AM radio hostâ€”took the microphone before a sparse crowd in downtown Nashvilleâ€™s War Memorial Plaza. This was the second â€œanti-illegal immigrationâ€ rally in the plaza for Graham, an immensely corpulent black man with eyes that bulge a full quarter-inch out of his head.
Before the proceedings officially started, he preached to a small group of reporters about the effects that â€œanchor babiesâ€ and border jumpers were having on Tennessee and the nation.
About 35 people had gathered for the rally, among them loyal listeners, a local television news crew, a radio reporter and some of Nashvilleâ€™s homeless, who appeared to have taken semi-permanent residence in the park. Also present was a middle-aged woman accompanied by a small band of children wearing Halloween costumes.
And of course there were politicians. Though strictly B-listâ€”a couple of Metro Council members and a Green Party U.S. Senate candidateâ€”their presence only reinforced the notion that politicians, be they great or small, leap at the chance, any chance, to sound off about the scourge of illegal immigration.
The rally started with a prayer led by Rev. Graham. All assembled bowed their heads. One of the trick-or-treaters, a little pudgy girl in a witch costume with green face paint, doffed her pointy witch hat and held it behind her solemnly. Next to her, a little boy in a pirate outfit did the same.
Shortly thereafter, June Griffin addressed the crowd. Last August, the 67-year-old was arrested for walking into a Mexican grocery store in Dayton, Tenn., and ripping a Mexican flag off of the wall. She left the store, flag in hand. Griffin would later tell a Chattanooga newspaper that flying the Mexican flag on U.S. soil was â€œan act of warâ€ that â€œinsulted my citizenship.â€
She seemed a very angry woman as she stood before the crowd. The light faded on the large, concrete plaza and the crowd felt very small as darkness approached. â€œWe are not interested in the tower of Babel!â€ Griffin screeched, her voice cutting high and thin through oncoming night.
She demanded that newly arrived immigrants be required to pledge that they will learn to read, write and speak English. Also, they must â€œrepudiate foreign allegiance.â€
Griffin spent a good deal of time doing some repudiation of her own. She excoriated the Mexican government for not taking care of its citizens and suggested that Washington get tough with its neighbor to the south. Perhaps referring to General Santa Anna and the Alamo, she said, â€œWe already whipped one of them down there with Davy Crockett.â€
Griffin may have forgotten that Crockett died in that battle, which Santa Anna and the Mexican army won. Facts of history aside, her feelings have struck a deep chord with many in Tennessee and nationwide.
For many, language is at the heart of this. They think that many of todayâ€™s immigrants do not want to learn English or are too lazy to do so.
On a recent afternoon, Rev. Graham had two Hispanic American guests on his radio show to talk about how immigration has affected Tennessee. One of the guests, a young, attractive marketing specialist, suggested that learning other languages was a good idea in principle. â€œI would love to be able to speak many languages,â€ she said. â€œIt gives you a broader cultural understanding.â€
Rev. Grahamâ€™s listeners apparently didnâ€™t share her intellectual curiosity.
â€œIf sheâ€™s so interested in languages,â€ one caller practically screamed, â€œwhy doesnâ€™t she get out of the field sheâ€™s in? Go back to college and study languages or travel the world or something!â€
Another caller said, â€œThereâ€™s a plot by these people to take over the country.â€ Rev. Graham nodded sagely behind the microphone. â€œI know it,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ve seen the websites.â€
The caller then advocated for â€œU.S. citizens [to] rise up and take this situation into their own hands.â€ The caller added, â€œI have no problem with legal immigrants,â€ before hanging up.
Rev. Graham has done his share to add fuel to the language debate. At his October rally, he recalled that when his ancestors were brought to America in bondage, the consequences for not learning English were dire.
â€œThey made Kunta Kinte say â€˜Toby,â€™ â€ he shouted to the assembled protestors, referring to the movie Roots. Rev Grahamâ€™s voice grew to a shout as the diminutive crowd cheered. â€œIf itâ€™s good enough for Toby, itâ€™s good enough for me,â€ he said of the English language.
Ironically, it seems that many of Middle Tennesseeâ€™s immigrants feel the same way.
Cornfieldâ€™s study included focus groups with intense discussion among a wide array of immigrants from many countries and continents. He says that one of the top priorities of many of the immigrants that his team spoke with was increased proficiency in English.
â€œOne of the biggest complaints throughout our focus groups was the scarcity of English-language instruction,â€ Cornfield says. â€œParticularly,â€ he adds, â€œinstruction above the beginner level.â€
But language isnâ€™t the only issue. There is a palpable feeling among nativists that this new wave of immigrants isnâ€™t interested in embracing American culture the way previous generations of settlers have.
Bob Corker has seen it firsthand. â€œThereâ€™s a sense that thereâ€™s thisâ€”almost this differentâ€”culture thatâ€™s being created here, and I think people are concerned with having people come into our country that are not being assimilated,â€ he says.
Tom Kovach, a Republican candidate who ran against incumbent Democrat Jim Cooper for the U.S. House this fall, is somewhat more blunt. â€œThey donâ€™t want to be Americans,â€ he says.
Kovach is a contributor to a conservative commentary website, and in one of his postings he calls Martin Luther King a â€œJudas goat,â€ who was a â€œwilling cog in the KGB machine against America.â€
Kovach says that previous generations of immigrants came here to integrate. But not todayâ€™s immigrants. â€œThey,â€ Kovach says, â€œwant to weaken our country.â€
Delfina Espinoza, a 52-year-old woman who has been active in the anti-illegal immigrant movement in the Clarksville area, agrees.
â€œThey donâ€™t want to become American citizens,â€ she says. â€œThey donâ€™t want to assimilate.â€
Espinoza was born and lived most of her life in Texas, though her family is from Mexico. Sheâ€™s married to a former U.S. Border Patrol agent. The two met when he pulled her over one day, thinking she had crossed the border illegally. Espinoza has worked as a translator in hospitals and says that sheâ€™s witnessed the resistance of immigrants to adapt.
â€œThey donâ€™t want to change their way of life,â€ she says. â€œThatâ€™s what it boils down to. Mexicans are Mexicansâ€¦. Iâ€™m proud of my heritage, but Iâ€™m an American. My oath is to America. My allegiance is to America.â€
Itâ€™s true that many immigrant groups are slow to adapt to American culture. According to Cornfield and his research team, itâ€™s not because of some kind of cultural intransigence or laziness. Many immigrants interviewed in Cornfieldâ€™s focus groups said they very much wanted some way to learn about daily American life. Cornfield says they were interested in everything from the experience of â€œshopping in a big supermarketâ€ to gaining financing for purchasing a home.
According to the study, immigrants want to understand the English language and culture; many of them just donâ€™t yet.
â€œOne lady said she will no longer use the library as long as Hispanics are using the library,â€ says librarian Nellie Rivera.
Tom Kovach has little time for the academics at Vanderbilt who have spent careers studying the very components that make up the mosaic of modern American immigration.
â€œOh,â€ he sighs, when asked about Cornfieldâ€™s study. â€œYou mean those â€˜experts.â€™ â€ He makes air quotes with his fingers, illustrating his disdain, before launching into a diatribe against Katherine Donato, whom he particularly dislikes.
For politicians, itâ€™s easy to frame the complexities and contradictions of integrating an immense new population in terms that are sure to have the greatest emotional effect. Telling voters that immigrants are taking our jobs, invading our borders and wiping our culture off the face of the earth simplifies the issue and lends itself to easy solutions. Seal the borders. Arrest, detain, deport. Felonize the undocumented. Fine those who hire them.
It also creates an atmosphere of militant resistance. As the caller to Rev. Grahamâ€™s radio show said, â€œIf the government doesnâ€™t solve this problem, then U.S. citizens [will] rise up and take this situation into their own hands.â€
Back at the Marshall County Memorial Library, John Rawe, the library boardâ€™s president, stands shaking his head at the antics of Robin Minor, the man who thought that all books in the library should be in English.
Rawe talks about a vacation he took recently with his wife to visit her ancestral homeland in Ireland and Scotland.
â€œWhile I was over thereâ€ he says, â€œI really came to understand the South. Over there, just like in the South, thereâ€™s an attitude of, â€˜Iâ€™ll fight you any way I can.â€™ â€ Here, Rawe says, if thereâ€™s a threat, people and those close to them rise up.
He puts up his fists. A gold ring etched with a horseâ€™s profile in a diamond horseshoe shines in the dull, fluorescent, library light.
â€œAnd if I have a friend and someone fights him, thatâ€™s my enemy too.â€ The old man drops his fists and shakes his head. â€œThatâ€™s why weâ€™re the Volunteer State.â€
Author: P.J. Tobia
News Service: Nashville Scene