Friday, October 19, 2007

where I live

Alas, I cannot find anywhere the Robert Smigel "Blue Christmas" TV Funhouse that calls the giant red state I inhabit "Dumbfuckistan." The giant red state that is all the red states squished together, the ones between the enclaves of un-affordable blue states.

Mississippi isn't nearly as bad as everybody thinks it is. Whenever you see Mississippi in TV shows and movies, it's usually a version of 1965 Mississippi. People do not get lynched here anymore. Old white men do not stand around gas stations chewing on straws and squinting at yankees who are about to uncover the civil rights murder no southerner was smart enough to solve. People do have running water and electricity, and hardly anyone wears overalls. We do all own shoes. We have movie theatres and sushi and health food stores and spas and museums.

But it does suck. A lot of people are poor here. Really poor. Public education? It sucks. So poor people aren't very well-educated. They smoke when they're pregnant. They leave their kids in front of Cartoon Network 24/7. They give babies sweet tea in their bottles. Not from meanness or stupidity, but sheer ignorance. Just don't know no better. Most educated people give lip service to equal rights, but the level of ignorant racial bigotry just beneath the surface is sometimes mind-boggling. The misogyny is even less hidden. Homophobia? It's what's for breakfast.

On top of poverty and ignorance, slather on a layer of evangelical christianity of varying stripes: southern baptist, pentecostal, church of christ, megachurch, you name it. Whatever it is, it don't like no homos, no jews, no evolution, and it sure as shit don't like no democrats. Not the yankee kind anyway. Because Mississippi Democrats are nearly indistinguishable from Mississippi Republicans.

To wit: we have a gubernatorial election coming up. Our incumbent, Haley Barbour, is a former lobbyist for big tobacco and big oil. He is anti-gay rights, anti-abortion, pro-development, pro-business, and a Republican. His opponent, John Arthur Eaves, carries a bible around in his ads. He is anti-gay rights, anti-abortion, pro-prayer in schools, pro "family values," a personal injury lawyer and a... Democrat?? Huhwhat? As far as I can tell the DNC is having nothing to do with Eaves. I have no idea why he's even registered as a Dem, except that it allowed him to get on the ballot, because Barbour would've knocked him out in a Republican primary. So basically, we have one godbaggy republican, or the other.

I live here, and there are things about it that don't suck. The landscape is nice. The food's pretty good. People are generally courteous to one another, and the cost of living is low. There's a lot of music and literature to be had.

On the whole, I tend to blame evangelical christianity and its bedfellow, red-state republican brainwashing, for most of what is still wrong with Mississippi. If anybody in charge gave a shit about anybody but rich, white, heterosexual christians, the public school system would work. Welfare and Medicaid/Medicare would be fully funded. Everyone would have access to reproductive health services, day care, and post-secondary education. But that's not the case. The poor keep on getting poorer and more ignorant; and the rich? They get richer and build bigger walls around their gated communities.

And those gated communities don't look a damned thing like Mississippi. They look like Phoenix, and Houston, and Atlanta, and every other boring cookie-cutter McMansion gated community in America. It's their loss, but it's also our loss. If I were anything but white and hetero, I would've never moved here. There is an as-yet undocumented brain drain (I'm willing to bet) of talented and brilliant African-American and homosexual Mississippians who just had to get the hell out. It's not about violence, or structured bigotry, though. There just aren't many opportunities for people who don't meet the honky heteronormative model.


Hazel Stone said...

And I thought Missouri was bad when I left for the Frigid North...

Jezebella said...

I have been to Missouri. It IS bad. It's got all of the bad qualities of the South and none of the good ones. At least we've got an up-side, yeah?