Tag Archives: Mississippi


30 Jul

Yesterday in a small community outside my hometown of Laurel, Mississippi, something horrible happened. A man held his daughter, her husband, his ex-wife, and two children hostage. The children were let go, the man killed his daughter, wounded the two other adults and a law enforcement officer. There was a standoff lasting about 18 hours that eventually led to the gunman killing himself. In addition to local and neighboring law enforcement, the Mississippi Highway Patrol was called in. It was a terrible thing for the community to hear about on a Sunday night.

Oh, hang on.

The community probably didn’t hear about it Sunday night because the Laurel/Hattiesburg NBC affiliate did a pre-recorded late newscast. Because of the Olympics. And the local newspaper website is snuggled safely behind a paywall. What that newspaper, The Chronicle, did was post updates throughout the night and into this morning on its Facebook page. I agree with my friend Desmond who said their use of social media was about the best of any news outlet anywhere. They nailed it. The coverage was timely and completely professional. They did not editorialize or sensationalize. WDAM, the local television station, said they were short staffed and didn’t use Facebook for actual news. On its Facebook feed this morning, WDAM posted the following:

Remember: Facebook is not our website. This is just where we share stuff and talk to our audience. Our website is www.wdam.com and its children – our mobile apps, and our mobile site. We don’t post all of our coverage here, and we don’t necessarily post news here as it happens.

Right. Because what a waste of time and energy THAT would be.

Could it really be there are still traditional media outlets out there that don’t understand if it didn’t happen on social media, it didn’t happen? Appears so. What The Chronicle appears to understand is that social media gets the story out there now. The internet gets the story out there now.  And that allows the print edition to do what we’re always complaining news doesn’t do anymore: Analyze, educate, and supply context. Obviously not everyone uses Facebook and Twitter. I get that. There are thousands of people in Jones County without internet access. That’s why WDAM’s fail in reporting (or not reporting) the story last night is so mind boggling to me. Then going on the defensive this morning was just weird. We were understaffed, you guys! Olympics! USA! No one reads this feed for real news!

Traditional media, social media is not making you irrelevant. You are making you irrelevant. Stop making it about competing. Stop worrying about whether or not people use their real names to comment on your website. Who the hell cares? It’s supposed to be about the story. Newspapers and broadcast news outlets can’t compete with social media. So why worry about it? There’s an opportunity to use social media to your advantage. You can be the guy who first broke the story on social media then used your paper or television studio to tell the whole story, or you can be the guy who’s hoping enough coverage of ribbon cutting ceremonies and lost pet announcements will keep you in the black. That’s doing versus hoping. No one ever won a Pulitzer or increased ad sales by hoping.

Allow Me To Explain

5 Apr

Here’s the thing. I’ve been laying low because I’m sick of national politics. I’m sick of the fact that the nation is closer to double-digit unemployment rate than not, but YET! What are presidential candidates talking about? Romney’s saying that Obama is out of touch with reality because when you’re president, you get to use gold-leaf toilet paper and diamond toothpicks. Who knew? Santorum claims them communist you-knee-versities out there in California don’t even teach American history! And Obama’s all HE STARTED IT! and pointing at the Republicans.


What I’ve been thinking is that our government works for us, and we should control the dialog. I do not find abortion to be the single most important issue in the health care debate, so I’ve not talked about it recently. I don’t think immigration is the biggest threat to our way of life, so I’ve not talked about it. Not that any of that matters. I’m just one person with no money, a couple of ovaries, and a burgeoning chocolate pudding cup habit. Just because I’ve taken away the dish of milk on my back porch doesn’t mean the conversation won’t slink over to my neighbor’s where she puts out cans of salmon for it.

The overwhelming BLECH I feel towards the national discourse overshadows things I did want to talk about. You might have started reading this blog because of a piece I wrote about a murder in my home state. I won’t go into the details here, but last June in Jackson, Mississippi James Anderson was murdered by 19 year-old Deryl Dedmon. I can now say murdered and not allegedly murdered because Mr. Dedmon pled guilty to capital murder. He was sentenced to two life sentences, one for the murder and one for the hate crime enhancement. Mr. Anderson’s family asked prosecutors not seek the death penalty. Referencing the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers whose bodies were found in Neshoba County, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill, Sr. said to Mr. Dedmon, “All the hard work we have done to move our state forward from that earthen dam in Neshoba County to here has been stained by you,  a stain that will take years to fade.” Weill told the gallery, “know that this craven act isn’t who we are. We can say this now. Maybe there was a time when we couldn’t.”

Even now, even as I want to write about what it feels like to hear someone take responsibility, even as I want the world to see my home in a positive light, even as I want to talk about how I am so happy to be wrong about the piece I wrote in which I voiced my opinion that Mississippians would look away from the murder of a black man by a white man, I hesitate. I hesitate because I want to talk about how two lives were ruined. Mr. Anderson lost his, and Mr. Dedmon will never leave the prison grounds. And our conversation parameters tell me I cannot feel sympathy for both sides. Our social contract dictates I must take a side. So I say up front, Mr. Dedmon deserves every day he sits in that cell. The people who were with him deserve punishment. And when I read that Mr. Dedmon feels remorse and has now found God, I roll my eyes and think of course.  You feel remorse that you got caught.

We have created an either-or world where being right means we can do what we want. Arizona lawmakers wrote a bill that would allow employers to find out why female employees on company insurance were using contraception. Tennessee lawmakers want to publish names of abortion providers and detailed demographic information about patients. Alabama allows police to stop people they have a “reasonable” suspicion to be illegal. And all of this is because the other guy should not be able to have his way. You don’t agree with what I believe, so you are less than I am. You are not as moral as I am. You are not human in the way I am, and I may deny you rights because of it.

Debate has changed its meaning just like what it means to be conservative has changed. It’s tiresome. And it’s mainly tiresome because most of the people I know don’t really live on one end of the spectrum or the other. Most of us are stuck here in the middle where we may give a point to this side one day and the other the next. That’s the way life works. It drives you crazy that your husband leaves his clothes in a heap on the bathroom floor, but you take it in stride because you love the way he folds you up to him when you’ve had a terrible day.

I think in order to keep writing–which is something I love to do and feel incomplete when I don’t–I’m going to keep to the mundane, profane, and urbane. More to come. Really.

(UPDATE: No sooner had I gotten this post published did I come upon this piece which discusses what goes wrong when talking about two sides of an issue. It’s a great piece, and I hope you’ll read it. Top 10 Misguided Responses To Calls for Compassion)

A Challenge

13 Feb

Hi. My name is Susan and I was a high school drama nerd.

I was a member of the National Forensics League. If you give me a minute, I could probably remember my rank. I faithfully got up–generally before dawn–most Saturday mornings between September and the first weekend of May, PUT ON PANTYHOSE, grabbed my Walkman, and stumbled to a school bus which then took us to such exotic locales as Monticello and Clinton, Mississippi for speech and drama competitions.  I don’t want to brag, but I could do a “Clear Glass Marbles” that would make a dictator cry. I was kind of a big deal. Not really, but I did hear these girls talking about me once. They were really glad they weren’t in a round with me. I dominated.

Point being, we never had to pay for much more than lunch and snacks when we went to these tournaments. But as we all know, art, choir, drama, band, and other classes which might be construed as artsy-fartsy aren’t important in high school.  No, the fact that I had to learn discipline to get up that damn early, memorize two or three different pieces, speak for 3 to 5 minutes on a subject pulled from a hat, build a stage set, and find out that pantyhose stuffed with newspaper makes an excellent fake turkey are not things that are important for kids to learn.

My high school, Laurel High, has gone through some changes in the twenty-two ten years since I was graduated. But one thing that hasn’t changed apparently is that there is a ton of talent in that school. It seems the Select Choir has been asked to sing at Carnegie Hall. Yeah, a choir from Laurel, Mississippi has been invited to perform at the Octavo Series which will be conducted by Dr. Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf Choir. The thirty-five member choir has raised most of the $60,000 to go, but I just read today they are about $5,000 short.

If you are reading this, you probably know me. If you know me, you might have been in school with me. If you were in school with me, we probably went on some trips together. I am challenging you, Laurel High alums, to make up the difference. Look, there are enough of us that $20 here and there could get these kids to New York. Can you imagine? And even if they hit the $5,000 tomorrow, we need to pony up some Benjamins. There are likely to be kids who will need suitcases, clothes, incidentals.

Guys, I ain’t too proud to beg for these kids. The opportunities I had to take trips like this changed my life, no kidding. For the first time in my life, I realized I was good at something. It’s time to replace what was given. Even if you didn’t go? SO WHAT? Think of the warm, smug feeling you’ll have knowing you helped send a kid from the Piney Woods of Mississippi to New York.


Here’s how:

Donations may be sent to:

Laurel High School in the name of LHS Choir.

1100 W 12th St

Laurel, MS 39440

You may contact the choir director, Leander Bridges at 601.649.4145 or email him at lbridges@laurelschools.org.

The Battle, Not The War

9 Nov

I’m trying to do a big girl grown up piece for Like The Dew. I’m having trouble stringing everything together. Fortunately, you dear people are used to my semi-coherent ramblings, so I don’t feel bad for just posting a bunch of stuff and letting you sort out the meaning. Like reading tea leaves. Or entrails.

Here are some thoughts about yesterday’s personhood vote:

  • I’ve been asked a couple of times today if I was surprised about the outcome of the election. No, I wasn’t. Understand, however, I’d be saying the same thing had personhood passed.
  • Normally I’m not a political wonk. I don’t study the numbers like baseball fans study statistics. I did wonder how the poorest counties, the Mississippians who could least afford for this amendment to pass, voted. I looked at AP results by county. Turns out, of the twenty counties (of 82) in Mississippi with the lowest per capita incomes, only two (Marion and Greene) voted to ratify. One showed a tie (Benton) and two were not reporting results (Tunica and Wilkinson).
  • Was there an income gap? Of the five counties with highest per capita income, only Lee County voted yes. Tupelo is in Lee County and is the home of Donald Wildmon, former leader of American Family Association and a vocal anti-choice leader.
  • Here’s what I think. I’ve got nothing to back me up on this, just my gut. I think there were many Mississippians who felt they had to publicly support personhood, then got in the voting booth and voted what their consciences and good sense told them. I think there were women with husbands supporting the measure who, in the privacy of the voting booth, decided to stand up for all the women this would impact.
  • I think Mississippians saw beyond the slick websites and highly-paid lobbyists to see this was a purposely vague amendment with dangerous ramifications well beyond banning abortion.
  • Remember, the overwhelming majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose. That little fact gets lost in the fray.
  • Like MacArthur and herpes, this issue will be back. Personhood proponents are well-funded zealots who will not go away.
  • I think this amendment scared people into paying attention. I think voters will remember this and make an effort to educate themselves better on ballot issues.
  • Tennessee, you’re next. There’s an amendment out there saying that women do not have a constitutional right to an abortion.

Some Thoughts Before The Vote

7 Nov

I’m not the brightest knife in the six-pack. Shut up. (I used to have this friend who always got her clichés wrong. It was hard to beat a dead horse when he was down. Things were slow as vinegar in April) I just have my own way of learning. It must work because last week I was watching this super-neat NOVA program called “The Fabric of the Cosmos” and they were talking about something and I was all Higgs particles! He’s talking about Higgs particles, y’all! And then I went on to discuss the Large Hadron Collider, AS I DO, and Chuck got all glassy-eyed like I do when he’s talking about hunting rifles, and I was all point well taken.

I’m not saying he’s not interested in the Hadron Collider or doesn’t get it, I’m saying he knows having it explained by someone whose only physics classroom time came from half a semester of high school physics taught by the soccer coach makes him assume I’m leaving some important stuff out. And admittedly, describing the Large Hadron Collider as, “This particle accelerator thing where they want to smash atoms together to see what they throw off and do a bunch of science, ” is not the most comprehensive explanation out there.

The other night I was reading something having to do with all of the above and I started thinking about eyes. The human eye is much used by creationists and proponents of intelligent design to discredit evolution. How, they say, could such an intricate thing come about by evolution? Does it not show the force of something greater? Well, no, I don’t think so. If the eye were to have been created as-is by some God-force, why is it so intricate? Why not create something that’s easy for its owner to understand and therefore easy to fix when broken?

The thing about using God as a means to explain science is that there’s a whole lot of And Then A Miracle Happens in the explanation. It’s no different from my boneheaded attempt to explain the workings of the world’s largest particle accelerator. Science and religion can absolutely coexist, but they do not need to be confused with one another.

Mississippi’s personhood vote tomorrow has been making me think a lot about the intersection of science and religion. I haven’t heard anyone make an argument FOR pershonhood that does not have a basis in religious belief. I don’t believe religious people need to leave their beliefs at the door, but I do think that faith must guide secular decisions, not overwhelm them. Personhood is a secular issue.

Personhood says that your rights are no different from the rights of a clump of cells. Personhood says that you, with all your thoughts, your conscience, your consciousness, don’t deserve any more special consideration than the products of conception.

Mississippi, you think you’re sucking from the government teat now? Wait until Personhood is the law of the land. How many more people will it add to your welfare rolls? How many doctors will stop practicing because they can’t get malpractice insurance and because they fear criminal prosecution? How many more police, public defenders, district attorneys, and prisons will you have to add? How many businesses will leave? How many businesses will never open? How much money are you willing to spend? Because if this amendment passes tomorrow, the cash registers of lawyers start heating up. Personhood will immediately go to court and it will stay there for years. And Mississippi, you will pay for it.

It seems that the people behind the personhood initiative have done a good job at making voters think this issue is easy. That it’s black and white. If you’re against abortion, you vote yes. If you’re a godless communist, you vote no. This vote is not about religion. It is about rights. It is about defining man-made law. No one wants to amend religious text with this vote. You are not defying God by opposing this measure.

I know that I’m sort of preaching to the choir with this piece. If you’re reading my blog, chances are it’s because you tend to agree with me. Either that or you just have too much time on your hands. And are a masochist. I guess what I’m asking is that you not go ignorantly to the polls. Read the amendment. Think about what it really means for you and your family. Think about how it’s going to impact your business. If you pray, pray about it. Voting no does not mean you sanction abortion. It means you care about your family and your community. It means you respect the law. It means you understand issues are never just black and white. It means that you are not so gullible as to let a bunch of well-paid lobbyists create a big government theocracy in your backyard.

Click to visit Mississippi Secretary of State website

You Totally Should (NOT) Write About That

4 Oct

Here’s the thing about having a blog. When you go to do something with friends, you get one of two reactions. Either a frightened, “Is this gonna end up on the blog?” or “I can’t believe you didn’t write about that.”

You can’t win. Your friend will prowl the blog looking for evidence you wrote about that time the two of you got kicked out of a Dollar General because they had caftans and you insisted on trying each one on and modeling it throughout the store while your friend composed a lovely running commentary describing the quality of polyester used. If it’s not there, you will be subject to a dressing down about your inability to recognize a funny story because that right there was comedy. OR you will choose to write about that time in college you came out of the bathroom at some dive and found her on top of the bar dancing to “Rhinestone Cowboy”, and even though you never mentioned her real name, said what city it was, and the song was actually “Can’t Touch This”, she is MORTIFIED BEYOND BELIEF and will seriously consider taking away your godparent privileges.

This weekend I went down to my ancestral home of Laurel, Mississippi. I mentioned it briefly yesterday, but I didn’t have a lot of time to write about it. While I was there I hung out with my old friend JASON JASON JASON. I want to make sure you know his name because yesterday I got a call along the lines of, “Dude, seriously? I didn’t even rate my name getting mentioned?” So I told him I never know how people are going to react to being mentioned by name. Then JASON said it was fine to call him by name as long as I didn’t tell the story about the time we went cow tipping and he ended up drunk and on a tractor singing that song about the tumbling tumble weeds. Kidding! That didn’t happen. Or did it?

Point being, we went to this Loblolly Festival in downtown Laurel to hear two very excellent bands, Fat Man Squeeze and Blue Mountain. You probably know Blue Mountain, but you may not know Fat Man Squeeze. You need to. You need to know a band that has a bluegrass song about Obi Wan Kenobi. The Food-On-A-Stick Lobby was well represented at Loblollypalooza ’11.  So was the Mesh Netting Lobby.

Y’all, Imma take the music down and dim the lights. I’m fixin’ to get serious. We need to talk about dog tutus. Honey, your dog does not need a tutu.

When you put a tutu on your dog, he starts plotting ways to get you back. Things like waiting until you’re all dressed up to go out to dinner and then crapping all over your new shoes. Or dragging his butt all over your new carpet. I promise you there will be a 75% increase in butt dragging the moment you bring home a tutu for Fido. Your dog does not like to wear a tutu any more than she likes having her toenails painted. Just stop. Please? I’ve never seen so many booths filled with dog tutus in my life. Okay, honestly? I’d never been to a crafts fair where there were dog tutus, but I don’t get out much.

The Mesh Netting Lobby would also like you to buy a wreath this year. For any occasion. ANY occasion. Approximately 521,309 yards of net is used to make a wreath. Or swag. You could also have a swag. Birthday? Mesh wreath. Saints game? Mesh wreath. Graduate from dental school? Mesh swag. Case of the Grumpy Mondays? Mesh wreath.

You like magnolias shot through with mesh and metallic? BOOM…

Perhaps you want to celebrate your love of flip flops? BAM…

Do you love both mesh AND John Deere tractors? It’s your lucky day, mutha humpa…

One would THINK that at a festival named after a pine tree, there would have been a number of wreaths made of pine. ONE WOULD BE WRONG. I think, perhaps, in a bit of meta-carving, one of the guys carving figures with a chain saw was carving a pine tree, but we weren’t entirely sure. There were also a number of booths displaying these yard signs painted like pumpkins and ornaments and you can get your family’s name or initials painted WHILE YOU WAIT, no less. I believe most of them were supposed to look like this,

but ended up looking more like this.

There were also a lot of t-shirts for sale that looked something like this.

Yeah, for every cool booth, there were 300 booths filled with that kind of crap. Listen, if THAT’S the bar for creative expression, I really don’t understand why I don’t have my own sitcom. For realsies.

Other than that, it was a good afternoon. Beers were drunk. Babies were cooed over. Meth heads were dancing.

Duuuude. You know there’s always that one guy? You know the one.

This is last year’s dance. He was waaaaay better this year. Those classes really paid off.

Free entertainment, folks. You can’t beat that with a stick. Even though you might want to. Over and over and over again.

Loblolly Festival

3 Oct

You know what a Loblolly is? It’s a yellow pine. There was a Loblolly Festival in my hometown this past weekend. My friend and I rolled up to the sounds of dueling chainsaws.

Yeah, baby. Dueling chainsaws. What did you do this weekend? Bet it wasn’t carve a grizzly bear from a log.