Friday, June 19, 2009

Goodbye, Tim Chavez

Tim Chavez used to drive me crazy way back when. I remember reading his Tennessean columns in the mid-1990s and thinking about them the way I now think (on the rare occasions I even read The Tennessean) of Saritha Prabhu's dreck: knee-jerk conventional wisdom-style liberalism (although Tim was a much better writer).

But then this weird thing happened: Tim started questioning some of the shibboleths of those on his political "side of the fence." It wasn't that he had turned on them, really, (though, certainly, some thought that): it was that he had come to the realization that--sometimes--folks on his side sometimes let ideology get in the way of reality (which happens all over the political map, by the way).

I got to know him pretty well after that, and while he never went into too much detail with me, something happened when he was volunteering (or something) with Metro public schools. He got a wake-up call of some sort, and he came to believe that conventional "liberal" solutions or prescriptions for public education weren't working, at least not for those on the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. He wanted to look at other ideas--even those proposed by conservatives--but became disillusioned when his usual compatriots--Democrats, unions, etc.--didn't want to go along, vested as they very much were in the status quo.

This realization made him more open to conservative types generally, but while some conservatives started to think of Tim as one of their own, he really wasn't. Tim's passion was bettering the lives of the poor and underprivileged, walking--as he saw it--in the footsteps of Jesus. And when he thought that conservative types had better ideas than liberal types in that regard, he said so.

If you want to honor Tim's memory, here's one way to do it: don't always assume that someone who takes a position is doing so because they are a Republican or a Democrat, or a man or a woman, or a conservative or a liberal, or a white person or a black person, or a rich person or a poor person, or married or single, or a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim or an atheist, and that therefore they hold that position because of what they are.

To be sure, the opinions of many people (perhaps even most people) are largely determined by these things. But there a few people who have a real passion beyond their own identities. They are few and far between, but they are out there, and are usually the ones most worth reading and listening to. And now, alas, we just lost one of the best.