Mississippi has great peopleBy CAROLE BAILEY,
So it's been a while since I've written. Got a little lost in becoming a new grandmother; the best new chapter ever. Plus Miss Middle got engaged and many months later - married. Joyful occasions, for sure, but busy none the less.
I had an interesting thing happen recently. Let me tell you about it. It's amazing to me how sometimes people can come into my radar when I'm not looking. I'm not even aware of them. Then one day I'm minding my own business. I'm looking at Facebook and I read a little post by Marshall Ramsey. Marshall is a treasure for Mississippians. He is a true ambassador for our state. I love his column. I love his cartoons. He makes you feel like you're sitting down and just having a conversation with him. I enjoy that kind of writing. Reminds me of Lewis Grizzard or Erma Bombeck. Miss them both. Marshall's very funny. He's also not only extremely creative with his cartoons, but an outstanding speaker! But that's just part of my story.
So I happen to read this column by Marshall Ramsey and he is furious. He had just read a tweet by very well known author Joyce Carol Oats, who had the audacity to tweet about Mississippians being ignorant. Now this has to be a public relations nightmare for her PR people. How stupid to put a whole state in one very critical category, unless she needed the attention. Big mistake! She tweeted about the Biloxi school district taking the classic book “To Kill a Mockingbird” out of their library. OK, well, I understand why people would be mad about that, but her tweet about our whole state really infuriated me. She said, "If Mississippians read, Faulkner would be banned." I'm sorry - what?
I have to wonder if Ms. Oats has ever been to Mississippi? My guess is that she hasn't. Because if she had, she never would've said a comment that asinine. Talk about going global. Years ago the Cirlot Agency in Jackson had the best PR campaign for our state. It was called, "Mississippi-Believe it!" To say it was a hit is putting it mildly. They addressed several of the "assumptions" that ignorant people have about our fine state. For example: Mississippi-Believe It! Yes, we wear shoes. A few of us even wear cleets (and names many famous athletes). Mississippi-Believe It! Yes, we can read. A few of us can even write (and names just a few of our many well known authors). There were several more, but you get the picture.
Now recently Miss Middle in our family got married in Oxford. She married a wonderful young man from Virginia. So the weekend of the wedding I'm meeting all these new Virginians who I really liked. And guess what? They really liked the Mississippians. So as an icebreaker with some of them, I'm laughing and saying, "Have you ever been to Mississippi before? As you can see, we do wear shoes. I have all my teeth. We read - have you been to Roanoke yet?"
They would laugh and most of the time they would say, "I've never been here but I've always wanted to come." Very gracious indeed. (Now - this happened about a week before Ms. Oats’ dumb tweet.) Let's just say, the Mississippians fell in love with the Virginians and the Virginians fell in love with the Mississippians. No preconceived ideas anymore.
I told them that when they watch the news at night, we always seem to be on there and it's not for anything good. I told them not to believe everything they hear. Some of it is justified but we also seem to be the doormat that the press likes to pick on, which really irritates me. But our people are wonderful.
We have some of the best people in the nation. We may be the poorest state, but we are also the most giving. Right now we have a campaign that's about to start to raise $180 million for University of Mississippi Medical Center to build a new facility for the Children's Hospital. It hasn't even started and they've raised almost half of what's needed. Also, Jackson hosts the Sanderson Farms Golf Classic annually. It raises a lot of money as well and donates more than a million dollars to UMC for the Children's Hospital. Plus there are many other great things going on here but you'd have to come here to know more about Mississippi. These are just a couple of recent examples.
Marshall Ramsey wrote a book a while back called “Chainsaws and Casseroles”. When I first heard the title I was really confused. I thought what the heck? Then I realized it was about Mississippians helping each other after Katrina. Where there was a need, people just showed up with a chainsaw and a casserole. Those two words are not normally in the same sentence, are they? We don't complain loudly about how no one is helping us. We just get in there and do what needs to be done. We watch out for each other. We have each other's back. What's wrong with that? Um, nothing. Not a thing. I think it says volumes.
When we said our goodbyes to our new Virginia friends, they said they couldn't wait to come back. I know, what else do you expect them to say? Well, all they had to say was that they enjoyed it, and thank you for everything. But you know what, they didn't. They talked on and on about how everyone was so kind and nice, how the Mississippi hospitality that we are known for made them feel welcomed. It was a great weekend - for many reasons.
So, Ms. Oats, as I am sure you will never hear about my little column, I would like to invite you to come visit our fine state. Although I think you really alienated yourself from many Mississippians who, by the way - can read, can write, can wear shoes, play athletics and wear cleats, we have our teeth, and believe it or not we are great people. Your ignorance is shining brightly on you. You have my deepest sympathy.
Bless your heart.
Carole Bailey is a Northsider.