Nashville – The Understory

Here is the summary of Tenx9’s September theme “Nashville,” written by the brilliant Cary Gibson. This is the story we all told of our city. 

 

This is Nashville. It’s a place where saving face is an art form. And, according to the late Miss Addie, it’s where a massage can be better than sex. Glory! Amen! She’d have said too, it’s a place of caring.

They call this Music City. It’s a place you are supposed to be. Where dreams can come true. But sometimes your dreams come slowly. Slow enough you might get lucky enough to experience the real city and its people, its harsh ugliness and crystalline beauty.

Nashville. We’ve come a long way from segregation, forced bussing, the punishment of the brave students of the sit-in movement. People, like James Lawson, carved out a continuing legacy of peace and justice making. Now they call us the “It City”. But that’s not the whole story. From North Nashville, this looks like two cities. Under the continuing legacy of white supremacy, this too is Nashville.

Because in this town, people struggle. Especially when they’ve nowhere to call home. Where “trespassing” so often depends on who you are, or the color of your skin. So that under the neon lights of lower Broadway, folks like Johnny are ticketed for existing. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, like Johnny, you’ll be met with subverting goodness. And you’ll make it. Be that goodness, Nashville.

Nashville can be a strange and startling place for the newcomer. The South sure is different. It’s the kind of place where nocturnal musicality can prove a bizarre and perfect welcome – where the sound of what you thought was cattle slaughter in the apartment above on your first night in town can be the basis of lasting, beautiful friendship.

Nashville. Home of the Occupied Plaza. A place where “truth” is a confusing, blurred, contested thing. A place of angels and devils. So you want to change politics. Or America. Sometimes what you get instead is frail, personal, stupid, human stories and encounter. So here’s to the creative misuse of the city. Let’s make this city a home.

This city where some, no, so many, are incarcerated. People like Marcus. Marcus dreamed of murder. This city of poverty. Neglect. Abuse. Perverse habilitation. Isolation. Where the prison cell is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Where a razor turned on the self is sometimes a man’s only voice. Where a man would kill to be heard. This too is Nashville.

For the preacher’s daughter from Appalachia, Nashville was less than impressive – a conformist, country music cliché. But it’s home of the rebel too. And rock ‘n’ roll. To find something like rebellion, back in the early 80s that white girl from the hills had to go to the Rivergate Mall. Which proves that some things do change. Keep changing, Nashville.

This city of cab drivers. And assumptions. Of “contemporary” Christian music & selling religion. A city with a non-stop supply of audiences. Does everyone here want to be famous? And if not famous, as close to fame as they can get so they might feel its cold, reflected glamor? This too is Nashville: people from Virginia and people from Kurdistan in conversation. Asking questions…

Whoever you are Nashville, know what is real. Be you. Be better. Better than famous. Be goodness. Be love. Be justice. Be peace.

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