The Dark Ages was a period in European history set approximately between 800 A.D. until the onset of the Renaissance. The common thread throughout this period was the dominance of Christianity and the repression of all art, science, and progress that was not Christian in nature.
A new Dark Ages appears to have descended upon Tennessee via our Christian-centric General Assembly. Consider the following legislation that has been proposed or passed: a bill making "Sharia" law illegal; a bill requiring public school science teachers to teach creationism as a valid alternative to evolution; a bill making it illegal for public school teachers to even mention homosexuality prior to the ninth grade; a bill redirecting funding for women's health services from Planned Parenthood to the county health department (which isn't equipped to use the money); a bill outlawing non-discrimination ordinances passed at the local level, overturning a measure passed by the Nashville city council.
In addition to these embarrassments, the legislature has also proposed more new gun-rights laws, interfered in the local battle to determine the future of Memphis and Shelby County schools, and outlawed collective bargaining for teachers. In short, the Republican-dominated state legislature is acting in direct contradiction to its stated philosophy of "less and smaller government," favoring instead intrusive state-mandated legislation of conservative-Christian social mores over what should be local matters — education, civil rights, and public health.
The original Dark Ages were so named because theocracy became so oppressive that progress in science, the arts, and literature came to a halt. Paintings had to be religious in nature. Non-religious books were not allowed. And because the Bible alluded to the "four corners of the Earth," the knowledge that the Earth was round — long-held by the ancient Greeks — was deemed heretical. The Bible said the Earth was square, said the theocrats. And if you disagreed, they came up with a little thing called the Inquisition to make sure you didn't voice those beliefs very long.
The GOP yahoos in Nashville don't represent mainstream Christianity. They certainly don't represent anything resembling true "American values." But they are theocrats, intent on forcing a backwoods evangelical philosophy on the citizens of Tennessee, one rooted in ignorance and bigotry.
The new Dark Ages are upon us, my friends. How long they will last is up to us.
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...
The U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, but there are many who will tell you that we're still fighting it and will find evidence of such in Jackson Baker's cover story about the current battle over General Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue and gravesite in Memphis ...