Mississippi is a paradox. On the one hand, our history is littered with the horrors of racial strife. On the other hand, we really are the hospitality state, welcoming all kinds to our fair country. We talk bad about illegal immigrants, then invite them in for coffee. We sing about Jesus on Sunday, while we whoop it up in the honky tonk on Saturday night. We shake our fists at the government, all the while sticking out our hands for cash from Uncle Sam. It’s a puzzle.
There is a disconnect in the Mississippian psyche. We hold ourselves out to be one thing to the world at large, be we often behave differently one-on-one. We make a leap from our staunch beliefs and our unyielding values to the reality of a very gray world. And we do it without missing a beat. In fact, we leap back and forth over this paradoxical chasm without thought or effort.
When I heard that former Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned more than 200 criminals and that a handful of murderers was in the mix, I was stunned. It seemed so out of character. Barbour is a hard-core conservative, dedicated to putting those criminals UNDER the jail. He values laws and rules. By gosh, he’s a Republican, not some namby pamby, soft Democrat!
But he’s also a Mississippian, accustomed to living in a paradoxical state. Several of those pardoned criminals worked in the Mansion. I imagine Barbour talked to these men on a regular basis. He got to know them. They probably shared their stories. Somewhere in the middle of that conversation, he leapt from hard-core, anti-criminal values to a whole bucket full of grace.
I’m not saying it was right. I’m just saying that I’m a Mississippian, and I can see how it happened.
Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and her website is www.newper.com.