The Back Road: Chilling reads from Green Bay to Tennessee to the Supreme Court

The Back Road: Chilling reads from Green Bay to Tennessee to the Supreme Court

Andrew Malekoff

Since retiring from full-time employment 10 months ago, one of my resolutions was to catch up on my reading. Although I’m not too particular, I do favor historical fiction, anything on organized crime, and biographies on great athletes.

The athletes don’t have to be human. For instance, ‘Seabiscuit: An American Legend’ is one of my all-time favorites. If you haven’t already read this classic about the thoroughbred racehorse by Laura Hillenbrand, you will find that Seabiscuit is every bit as unforgettable as any Damon Runyon character.

Another favorite is ‘When Pride Still Mattered’, a biography of the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. The book contains a memorable chapter that details game conditions surrounding the ‘Ice Bowl’, the 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys. Game time temperature was 13 degrees below zero.

Murder mysteries book jacket endorsements often use the word “chilling” for marketing purposes. In his Lombardi biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss gives new meaning to the term; so much so, that I almost grabbed my down jacket reading the ‘Ice Bowl’ chapter.

I read both of these works years ago, when I tackled books in obsessive spurts, usually during vacations from work. In time, my reading frenzy would dissipate and I wouldn’t make my way to another book-for-pleasure for many months.

In anticipation of retirement, I started a reading list based on recommendations from family and friends.

The best suggestions of contemporary works came from my wife Dale, a voracious reader. Her recommendations of novels have allowed me to gradually catch up with notable books that passed me by. It helped that most of them were already on our Kindles. Each book reinforced how critical good fiction is in revealing universal truths and activating empathy.

Among Dale’s early recommendations was the most recent book I read entitled, ‘Before We Were Yours’ by Lisa Wingate. It is a fictional account of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society (TCHS), a Memphis adoption center, whose director Georgia Tann (real person) authorized the kidnapping and sale of poor children to wealthy families.

In researching more about Tann, I found that TCHS operated in Memphis from 1924 to 1950. Roughly 5,000 children passed through its doors and an estimated 500 children died while in its care.

At the same time I was reading about Tann’s house of horrors, also deserving of the adjective “chilling,” news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s intention to eradicate women’s reproductive rights came to light. I was reminded of the late comic George Carlin’s bit about pro-life conservatives.

Carlin quipped that after giving birth, “They don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No neo-natal care, no day care, no Head Start, no food stamps, no school lunch, no nothing. If you’re pre-born your fine. If you’re pre-school you’re [screwed].”

Supreme Court Justice Amy Comey Barrett is reported to be a proponent of “safe haven” laws. They allow women to opt out of forced parenting in lieu of the right to abortion, by anonymously surrendering their infants for adoption shortly after birth. They are then protected from criminal liability and prosecution for child endangerment, abandonment, or neglect.

Justice Barrett adopted two children from Haiti after the 2010 Haitian earthquake, “when the US government allowed Haitian children to be scooped up and sent from the country with little to no proof that they were orphans or had been voluntarily relinquished,” asserted Seattle attorney Carolyn McConnell in a May 6 piece she wrote for Jacobin Magazine entitled, “‘Safe Haven’ Laws Are Key to the Right’s Push to End Women’s Right to Abortion.”

I think it is fair to say that the term “chilling” also applies to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion draft overturning Roe v Wade, in which the Court ruled in 1973 that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

I am afraid that reading ‘Before We Were Yours’, about the terrifying reality at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society that it is based on, is quite likely a foreshadowing of what is to come, especially if the rigged U.S. Supreme Court has its way.

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