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No. 644: What's An American?
Photo by Jason Leung / Unsplash

No. 644: What's An American?

📅 Today, Davis talks about America and Americans, and Megan talks about politics and politicians.

Good afternoon, everyone.

A question that’s consistently dogged America over its history is "what it means to be an American." In IM–1776, Darryl Cooper and Lafayette Lee wrangle over this question, taking it on from a variety of different perspectives. I found their dialogue enlightening on a number of fronts and found many of the questions posed mirror what we grapple with here.

When we talk about "local concerns" or "local media" or anything that's prefaced by local, we are talking about a particular place. And every place comes with its unique set of identifiers whether it be the flora and fauna that thrive there or the type of people that settle there.

From these conditions arises an identity that is attached to that place. Having lived most of my life in Nashville, I feel very connected to the city, even as it changes into something that increasingly feels unfamiliar.

"A healthy society is one in which local identities are nested within larger, more inclusive identities, with each identity nourished by those it contains and in which it is contained," intones Cooper. "A person’s primary loyalty should lie with his family and friends, and next with the family and friends of those in his primary group, and so on. When loyalties are structured this way, the local community is not an abstraction, but the sum of those primary relationships."

Too often when we talk about "community," we mean something other than the very real attachments and relationships that form that community. To careerists in city government, the community they speak about—with rare exceptions—are the other political careerists with whom they compete, not their fellow church members (few attend church) or next-door neighbors.

We can only speak adequately about “the Nashville community" and Nashvillians with any sense of groundedness if we have identities nested underneath it that give it form. To best represent Nashville, a representative or leader's identity should be grounded in place, not in the striving careerism and uncompromising ideology that defines so much of local government.

People are "increasingly identifying with race, ethnicity, gender, ideology, and sexual orientation," as Lee observes. "This is no accident, and a primary driver of this fragmentation is the intellectualization of citizenship and identity."

It's a very thought-provoking read worthy of your time.




From Megan Podsiedlik

On Tuesday, Councilmember Sean Parker of East Nashville retweeted a post from David Duhalde, chair of the Democratic Socialists of America Fund, regarding the art of political persuasion. 

Duhalde’s post added more insight to a different thread. Made by a Minneapolis policy researcher named Will Stancil, it begins with: “Guys, when the GOP says ‘The economy is bad’ the correct answer is ‘Actually the economy is super strong,’ not some convoluted dodge where you go ‘I hear your pain and acknowledge your misery and yes I agree BUT ALSO, AND IN ADDITION, AND HAVE YOU CONSIDERED.’"

Duhalde quoted-tweeted this and denounced it by adding, “I will break to say this is just wrong to connect with anyone. Any decent canvassing and organizing will teach you that.” 

You’re probably wondering why this is newsworthy. It’s not. But Parker’s retweet reminded me of how important it is to recognize well-worn tactics used in American politics. Similar to political correctness, the shame–blame–redirect game is deployed almost like clockwork by influencers, policy wonks, and especially local media.

For example, never one to let a good opportunity go to waste—even during a deep freeze— Nashville’s News2 published an article titled, “Winter storms: Why is it so cold if the planet is warming?” In platforming the article, originally published in NewsNation and written by Chicago reporter Katie Smith, the piece offers little local relevance, except to hammer home the ever-present climate narrative. An article tailor-made for an Illinois audience has somehow made the corporate media rounds, with reprints in The Hill, News 4 Buffalo, Everything Lubbock, Oklahoma Citys KFOR, you get the picture. 

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So, let’s look at how these tactics are used in Tennessee politics. Last year, a series of bills cropped up attempting to penalize lawful gun owners who failed to lock up their firearms in their vehicles. Locally, the narrative that surrounded 2023’s regular and special sessions linked the legislative need to the uptick in guns stolen from cars. While gun theft is now a felony in Tennessee, the narrative that more laws will solve the problem continues to resurface and was once again heavily circulated by the media following Metro reports this fall. 

Similar vehicle lock box legislation is set to resurface this spring: Justin Pearson’s five-hundred-dollar penalty has already made its way onto the Civil Justice Subcommittee’s calendar. 

Despite the ongoing struggle major Tennessee cities have had with gun theft from vehicles, their district attorneys continue to be lax when prosecuting the actual criminals, leading to repeat gun theft offenders. Such is the case with Corye Stone, who in November was booked for carjacking a 66-year-old woman at gunpoint in the Charlotte Pike Kroger parking lot. The incident occurred despite the fact that criminal records show Stone had been arrested for firearm theft on three separate occasions since June, 2023. This, all while Democratic legislators are determined to penalize gun owners.

Of course, this is far from the only example of how the art of political persuasion works its audience in Tennessee. Context, framing, social pressure, tragedy—you name it— all are subject to becoming source material when it comes to a political narrative.


Nashville's WeGo wins $10.7M in state funds for improved bus stops. See where (Tennessean) The state funds, awarded through the IMPROVE Transit Investment Grant, will contribute to a new southeast transit center at the former Hickory Hollow Mall, pedestrian improvements along Trinity Lane and Murfreesboro Pike, and bus stops along Nashville's most dangerous corridors for pedestrians.

Bill Expands Ban On Common Core Materials From Being Used In Tennessee Schools (TCN) State funds could be withheld from any district in which a teacher intentionally violates the ban. The 2021 law was implemented to close a loophole in the event that teachers might still be using Common Core materials.


  • Inside Cannery Hall: Box office now open ahead of January shows (NBJ)
  • Edley's Bar-B-Que expands to Gallatin (NBJ)
  • Church site in The Nations offered for $1.4M (Post)
  • Hillsboro Village set for cocktail bar (Post)


View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide.


🎻 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest In Concert @ Schermerhorn Symphony Center, 7:30p, $48+, Info

🎸 Zephaniah Ohora & Friends @ Dee's Lounge, 9p, $10, Info

🍀 Live Irish Music @ McNamara’s Irish Pub, 6p, Free, Info

🎸 Kelly’s Heroes @ Robert’s Western World, 6:30p, Free, Info

🎸 Open Mic @ Fox & Locke, 6:30p, Free, Info
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In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 643: The Great School Choice Debate
📅 Today, Davis gets ready for his conversation with Corey DeAngelis, and Megan rounds up some news about the pending transit referendum, TVA, and gun legislation.
No. 642: Country Music Doesn’t Have a Diversity Problem
📅 Today, Davis talks about country music again, and Megan talks about the winter storm we’ve witnessed this week.
No. 641: The Youth Are Alright
📅 Today, Davis talks about the politics of young people, Jerod reviews Alexander Payne’s new movie The Holdovers, and Megan breaks down the ELVIS Act.
No. 640: Beyond Compliance
🇺🇸 There’s more to life than complying · The AG takes on Meta · Rejecting federal education funds · Much more!
No. 639: Racking Up Time
⏳ Who talks the most · Bret Easton Ellis’ new novel · Epstein flight logs · Much more!


  • 🎞 The Holdovers is the ultimate fable of academic populism. (Read)
  • 📖 The Anti-Nostalgia of Bret Easton Ellis: A review of The Shards (Read)
  • 🖊 G.K. Chesterton's commentary on Nashville and the broader South from his 1921 tour of the US still resonates (Read)
  • 🏘 The double-edged sword of prosperity in Tennessee's small towns (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.