The Shutdown 

Ted Cruz and the GOP shutdown; Shelby County historian Ed Williams, RIP

So it did happen, and here we are in the first week of what we still hope will be a temporary shutdown of federal services, a predicament owing entirely to the blackmail tactics of Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz and his Tea Party ilk who are

click to enlarge Senator Ted Cruz
  • Senator Ted Cruz

— let us be clear about it — not "conservatives." They are right-wing anarchists who despise government — any kind of government, including the of-the-people, by-the-people, and for-the-people kind.

The issue is not Obamacare, as he and his fellow government-haters pretend. It is the public process itself, the time-honored and constitutionally ordained way in which our free people have been ordering their most important affairs for the two-and-a-half centuries since we won independence from the British crown.

It is clear from the election results of 2012 that the nation's voters endorsed the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, or at least consented to the implementation of the act, a tentative first step toward better, more widespread, and less costly public health care. Even the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, acknowledged that Obamacare was the law of the land, before he surrendered to the minority Tea Party members of his caucus, who were encouraged by Cruz to revolt against the speaker.

What we see happening now in the halls of Congress is not democracy, and it is not protest. It is an attempt at a coup, the kind of thing you would expect to see in a banana republic but never in our own.

Ed Williams

click to enlarge Ed Williams
  • Ed Williams

The man who for almost two decades has served Shelby County as its official historian has now become a revered part of that history. Ed Williams, who died at his home Sunday night at the age of 78, had been an integral part of the county's political and governmental nexus before being appointed to the historian's position by the Shelby County Historical Commission in 1997.

A man of dry wit and dispassionate judgment, he was also a pillar of the Republican Party, and, even though it has become unfashionable for partisans of the GOP to describe themselves as "moderates," that is what Williams was. A graduate of East High School, who was schooled at Auburn University and the University of Memphis, Williams was an engineer but found himself attracted to public life. He won his first race, typically a gentlemanly one, for the state House of Representatives over Democrat Charles Burson, who in later years remembered Williams as fondly as Williams did Burson.

He would later serve four terms on the Shelby County Commission during the period when there were no partisan primaries for that body and was a go-between and facilitator for all factions on the commission. He held positions in the county trustee's and assessor's offices and was serving as the county's environmental coordinator before he took up his historian's duties.

Whoever gets to be Shelby County historian after Williams, who was a friend to many in the public sphere across party lines, will have big shoes to fill — and some serious and respectful documentation to do on their predecessor in the job.

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