It was 11:30 p.m. on a hot June evening. I was sitting in my car, locked in wall to wall traffic, wishing I had taken a different interstate route back to my frilly downtown Nashville apartment. Traffic had been creeping slowly for half an hour, and then lurched to a complete halt in the middle of the night on a Sunday. It was at approximately that moment that Last of My Kind by Jason Isbell, a song I’ve heard hundreds of times, came over the radio with renewed force and meaning.
“I couldn’t be happy in the city tonight.
Can’t see the stars for the neon light.
Sidewalks dirty and the river’s worse,
underground trains all run in reverse…
Am I the last of my kind?
Am I the last of my kind?”
“What on earth am I doing here?” I asked myself. Right then and there, I knew in my gut that it was time to come home. My six month business trip in Nashville had been educational and fun, but I discovered quickly that it was not my home.
From February to August I worked in the executive branch of state government, lobbying legislators and tracking bills for the Department of Revenue. I got a good long look behind the curtain, and came to the decision that it was just not for me. Many of our political leaders are honest, intelligent and godly men. I hold people like Reps. Jason Zachary and Jeremy Faison or Governor Lee in the highest regard both personally and professionally. Additionally, the assistants, lobbyists, liaisons, and great people at the Dept. of Revenue welcomed me with open arms, and did their best to make me feel at home in Nashville.
However, as has been thoroughly reported on and covered elsewhere, an extremely divisive and morally ambiguous element came to prominence in state government during my time in Nashville. Sadly, to some in politics the Bible is as merely a heavy tomb that can often be used to bludgeon their foes.
This is not a primary reason for my departure. Rather, it served to show me just how good we have it in East Tennessee, and particularly how good I have had it working for Congressman Tim Burchett, a politician who has built a career on one guiding principle, keep your dadgum word. In an era in which republican politics is dominated by “sheep in sheeps clothing”, Tim isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade, and to stand and fight when the time calls for it. I am beyond excited to get back to working for him.
“So many people with so much to do.
Winters so cold my face turned blue.
Old men sleeping on the filthy ground.
Nobody else here seems to care,
They walk right past them like they ain’t even there.
Am I the last of my kind?”
My friend Alex Zimmermann once dubbed Nashville The Land of Soy Milk and Honey. It is wrought with instagram influencers, eight dollar coffees, and a hustle and bustle that is too foreign for this Knoxvillian. Russel Kirk wrote that “veneration withers upon the pavements.” This simply means that an element of our humanity, our reverence for God and life that is naturally fostered by the sight of stars and the sounds of mountain streams, gets lost in the concrete jungle. Nashville is a fast paced city on the cutting edge of every trend and fashion, full of people who tore up their roots and set out to hit the big time. Crazy as it may seem, the bright lights and posh amenities of the city just don’t hold much appeal for me. I’d pit Long’s Drug Store or Chandler’s Deli against any crêperie or coffee shop Nashville has to offer.
Ultimately, Knoxville is home to my family, biological and otherwise. I miss the afternoon’s at grandma and gpa’s, the poker games with the guys, the campaign trail with Tim, and the meal’s at Aubreys with my family far more than I loved anything I found in the city. To me, you cannot put a price tag on the life I have back home in Knoxville, and I doubt anything going forward will be able to lure me away again. It’s good to be home.