Backtrack: last week, Wayne Besen and Truth Wins Out called for the termination of high school principal Dorothy Bond who warned gay students that they were "not in God's path." Although Bond resigned within hours of the fracas, the petition went through to members of the school board. The following was the email response Daniel Thornton sent to Truth Wins Out and other petitioners:
Mr. _____, Thank you for your email. I appreciate you taking the time to write about your concerns. Unfortunately, I don't believe anything else will be done. Haywood County, Tennessee has many issues bigger than this and they haven't been dealt with either. The good ole boy system is alive and well in our community and has created haven for the select to operate. Several have tried for a long time. They leave, forced to shut up, or are killed. I wanted to respond to your email so that you know it was received. I also wanted to give you more insight into our community.
The possibility of a hoax via hacked email exists, but so far, Thornton hasn't spoken out about it. I spoke with Wayne Besen, the recipient of the email, who feels that the email is genuine.
Nevertheless, "They leave, forced to shut up, or are killed" is too strong to be dismissed.* The shocking sentiment is there: Haywood County is still stuck in the violent era of blatant, violent racism and bigotry fueled by Right Wing Christof*scism.
"Every Child, Every Teacher, Every Community Deserves Excellence"
(motto on the Haywood County School District website)
Then again, Haywood still reflects much of what we have seen in Tennessee in the past months regarding gay teens and bullying: from the "Can't Say Gay" bill to a proposed bill protecting bullying on religious grounds, Tennessee has held its head high in bigotry. And while the teen suicide rate in Tennessee is (slightly) on the decline, the efforts of religious groups to keep "gay" out of the classroom are still virulent enough to overturn any inroads made in suicide prevention.
Beyond Gay Teen Suicide and Bullying
The Thornton email goes beyond the issue of teen suicide, bullying or overly righteous principals: the "good ole boy" network seems to be alive a well and such a network always impact a good many community areas. The subjects of racism and rampant political cronyism are definitely on the table. What further stories lay in the background, shading Haywood County's past are likely to make the County look more like a scene from "Deliverance" than from The Dukes of Hazzard. The implications of the email are no comedy.
The "good ole boy" network has national political implications as well: we all knew it was part and parcel of the George Bush legacy. And certainly know that New Gingrich is part of such a network: the network has been a substantial part of the GOP for more than half a decade. The extent to which is has been weakened may simply distract us and lull us to thinking that it no longer exists.
Tennessee has shown us that it exists. Maybe just as violently as it ever has. Which brings us to the man of the moment: Daniel Thornton. Research shows him to be a local realtor with a probable family history (the local airport is named Thornton Airport). Beyond that, who he is and if he indeed wrote the (now infamous) email will come to light within the next hours. Has he put his life and life of his family at risk?
Only Tennessee knows.
*If it hasn't already gone viral, hopefully, this article will help it to.