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Freedom is Not Free

Tennessee is a unique and special treasure in our great country, and in my opinion, Northeast Tennessee is the most unique and special treasure within this great state. The beauty of our mountains and vast rolling fields, and the tranquility of our lakes and rivers is simply second to none. There is a distinct energy that runs through these mountains and hollers that carries a sense of true freedom, and the call to adventure. After all, it was right here in this far northern corner of the state that bold pioneers became the first to bravely venture into the unknown west of this country, and where they discovered what was then described as "the most magnificent domain in America".

Settlements followed soon after, and thus spawned the rich and thorough history of Hawkins County. It is a history that played a pivotal role in the establishment of the first nation in the human story that declared a revolutionary idea as it's foundational principle: All people, regardless of status, wealth, religion or creed, are born equally free and with the inalienable right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. It was correctly determined by these revolutionaries that those certain rights we were born with, and they exist quite literally within us, and cannot be taken from us by any human authority.

It was the merit of these ideas that embodied the spirit of our ancestors who lived right here in Hawkins county when in 1780, they volunteered to join a group of about 1,000 men- known as the "Overmountain men"- from the surrounding region to march and confront the British Colonel Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of Kings Mountain. Ferguson had famously warned them that unless they left their new homesteads and joined the Kings Army immediately, that he would "march over the mountains and hang every one of them". Big mistake- if there is one thing that folks from these mountains won't accept, it is a tyrant. Those honorable and determined men closed with and destroyed their enemy, and secured a victory over the British that changed the trajectory of the war for American independence. The battle was quoted by the great Thomas Jefferson to be "The turn of the tide of success” in our revolution. This is but one example of many that could describe the founding spirit in Hawkins County, and that is something to be proud of! It was our predecessor’s willingness to sacrifice, and their steadfast commitment to defending the ideals of freedom and sovereignty that gifted each following generation a chance to be born into a world of opportunity.

But let's fast forward to today; how has this spirit traveled with us through the centuries? Pretty well, I would say. Hawkins County: A Constitutional Sanctuary. Now that is an honorable title to hold! And so, it is no secret that the vast majority of people who have migrated to Hawkins county over the years have come here in pursuit of the freest existence, and to experience the least amount of government interference/oppression in their lives... not to mention the original populace that has long had that expectation. That vision was actualized just 20 months ago when the Resolution to declare Hawkins county a protector of our most sacred ideals was passed unanimously, with overwhelming support. But what does it mean to be a Constitutional Sanctuary?

If you ask me, and many of my friends in the community, with such a bold title comes a very large responsibility. Our community must lead the way in protecting individual liberties enshrined in our constitution, and do so with unwavering dedication. We must set the standard of protecting freedom, and provide an example for others to follow. We must truly be a sanctuary- a safe place where men and women can come to avoid the insanity that is occurring all around our nation on the daily; that insanity being the sudden shift towards totalitarian themes within government that has spread like wildfire across our republic. We must be a sanctuary in which our citizens can focus more on our families pursuit of happiness, our gardens, animals, properties and things of those sorts rather than worrying about the ever-increasing grip of government regulation and attempts to "prohibit, suppress, prevent" liberties- to use language directly from the recently proposed Resolution 2023/08/01.

It is also no secret that there has been a recent surge of civic participation within our local community directly due to the extreme nature of proposed legislation such as Resolution 2023/08/01, which was dropped from consideration last month after fierce and widespread backlash from the populace. Rightly so. The authoritarian and tyrannical themes that were present in the ultra vague call for the county to grant itself power to "regulate all uses of private property" and to be capable to "exercise police powers" in order to do so, hit our community like a shock wave. It didn't even seem conceivable that such a tyrannical proposal would ever make its way into a resolution inside of our Constitutional Sanctuary.

Private property rights are the foundation of a free society, plain and simple. There can be no personal freedom without freedom in the use of one’s property, and if a man is not free in his own backyard then he is free nowhere! I can only imagine how the Overmountain men would have reacted to a claim of such complete authority over their families and their private properties… The resolution was such a blatant overreach of government power- it was worded as if it had been authored in China- how could this slip its way into our local Tennessee government!?

I can tell you how, but you probably already know. People have admittedly been lulled to a state of complacency and disinterest in political happenings, and over time the majority has slowly relieved themselves of their sacred duty to actively shield and protect our public from tyranny by being informed and engaged in civic responsibilities. Freedoms are taken for granted, and participation in monitoring local government has dropped to nearly zero. It is simply too easy for the average person these days to find themselves too busy fulfilling their responsibilities of daily life, working, and raising their families (while also being simultaneously distracted by the endless slew of consumer-society entities) that they have become disconnected from their inherent obligations. Many are so disconnected from this responsibility that they are not even aware of the reality that is being formed for them by their very own local government.

This type of behavior has caused a pattern of the slow erosion of citizen’s rights across our state and country, mostly by unchecked and unopposed governmental institutions that have lost sight of their purpose to serve the people, and not to rule them. Once the environment has been established to favor these institutions and their agenda’s because they realize that the citizenry is not only uninformed to the specifics of their agenda- but also not willing to be a legitimate opposing force to them- there is a quick descent from liberty and prosperity to totalitarian themes and tyranny imposed upon our communities.

Thankfully, there are still protectors of our sacred rights who remain vigilant and steadfast, and it was those individuals who were aware of this dangerous proposition heading to a vote from our commission and sounded the alarm to our community. And boy, did our community answer the call! Attendance at the last commission meeting was by many estimates over 100x larger than usual, which was intended to send a message: NOT IN HAWKINS COUNTY. But simply getting that tyrannical proposition dropped from the vote is not enough to ensure that our community is safe from this new pattern of government overreach- we must make it clear that this type of legislation should never again be even considered. One of our honorable commissioners, Josh Gilliam, stepped up to the plate and decided to hear the people, and has answered us by proposing the “Listening to the People” bill. This bill guarantees that no laws or ordinances that infringe upon our constitutional rights ever get adopted in Hawkins county. Thank you commissioner Gilliam!

And so, here we are Hawkins County- our chance to set things straight is now! That is why I am making a broad call for accountability to all citizens in Hawkins County: Step into action, fulfill your duty, and honor all those in history who have sacrificed for us to be free! Call your district commissioners and express to them your expectation that they represent our citizens accurately and vote in support of the “Listening to the People” bill. Your commissioners' contact information can be found online at Then, show up to the county commission meeting on Monday, September 25, 2023 at 6:00 pm at the Hawkins County Courthouse in Rogersville. Come to display your commitment to defending our constitutional rights, and show our government representatives that we are not just a “vocal minority” as claimed. I ask that we all come to the courthouse in a civil and respectful manner, and allow our commissioners an opportunity to display their intention to serve us faithfully. Give them a chance to do their job and to protect our community from tyranny by voting in favor of the “Listening to the People” bill. With any luck, we can succeed in accomplishing our goal in a graceful exchange and all move forward in a positive direction. Let Hawkins county lead the way, and be a beacon for freedom around the country!

 Dane Chisholm - Leader, UCHC

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