State Rep. John Ray Clemmons is a Democrat in Tennessee’s House of Representatives, and he thought maybe, what with all the hate and division in our politics these days, it might be a good idea to reaffirm the state’s opposition to generally nasty people. So he introduced a resolution denouncing neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups and calling on law enforcement to make sure they’re not up to anything violent. It didn’t even name any particular groups. Here’s part of the text of his civic-minded resolution, written in reaction to last year’s hate rally in Charlottesville, Virginia:
“[W]e urge law enforcement to recognize these white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups as terrorist organizations and to pursue the criminal elements of these domestic terrorist organizations in the same manner and with the same fervor used to protect the United States from other manifestations of terrorism.”
It took all of 36 seconds to be shot down by the House State Government Subcommittee last week. The single Democrat on the committee, state Rep. Darren Jernigan, made a motion to discuss Clemmons’s resolution. After none of the four Republicans on the committee would second the motion, the chair, Bill Sanderson, gaveled the resolution to oblivion and the committee moved on to other business. No second, no further consideration, no vote on condemning neo-Nazis and white nationalists.
While Rep. Clemmons expressed astonishment that the resolution didn’t even get discussed and Rep. Sanderson wasn’t talking about why he gaveled it down, one of the others on the committee, state Rep. Bob Ramsey (a dentist and a Baptist — everyone on the subcommittee lists a church affiliations in their bio) explained to local teevee station WZTV that the language of the resolution itself was simply too vague, don’t you see:
Ramsey says he and his fellow legislators “condemn white supremacy and other hate groups.” The issue, is “we have no real definition for a white nationalist or neo-Nazi group.”
“We have no expertise on it,” Ramsey says. “How could we determine these groups are terrorists? We don’t know the federal guidelines on terrorism.”
Heavens, it sure would be inadvisable to rush in and condemn Nazism without really knowing for certain what a “Nazi” is. Or a “white nationalist.” Are we even sure that’s bad?
Ramsey went on to explain that some people just seem like maybe they’re out to stir up trouble, you see:
Many of these resolutions can be divisive and embarrass one side of membership or the other. That’s how we felt about this one. We felt it needed to be more detailed and not so general,
Mercy sakes, you certainly wouldn’t want to go around bad-mouthing “white nationalists,” now would you? After all, what if someone just really loves America a lot, and is white? Are you going to call that person bad, or compare a patriot to a Nazi (if that’s a bad thing either)?
It is possible the committee could reconsider the resolution if the language were re-worked, maybe, so that it’s absolutely clear just which particularly bad kinds of “Nazis” were being condemned. Probably the ones that want to take away your guns and institute socialized medicine, because those are the worst.