ERROL CASTENS: Coffee Clutchers go bear hunting

“Far be it from me to equate a little squabble over cartoon characters with a war that killed 600,000 Americans,” Chester said, “but the effort to replace Colonel Rebel has the markings of a Lost Cause.”
Several of the Coffee Clutchers were sitting in Arthur’s on Thursday after the announcement that the Rebel Black Bear had been chosen as Ole Miss’ new sidelines mascot.
“Nobody outside of officialdom seemed to be particularly excited about any of the finalists,” Clyde said.
“But the Rebel Black Bear represents Mississippi,” Mark asserted. “‘The Bear’ was one of Faulkner’s greatest works. And the Teddy Bear was inspired in the state when Theodore Roosevelt went on a hunt in the Delta and declined to kill a confined bear.”
“I’d bet diamonds to donuts that the percentage of folks at any Ole Miss football game who’ve ever read ‘The Bear’ is in single digits,” Maurice said.
“And we really want to remind people that Mississippians never thought twice about shooting chained animals until someone from New York felt it necessary to point out the unsportingness of it,” Peter added.
Bud chimed in, “And just how long do you think it’ll be before opponents start calling Ole Miss ‘the Booger Bears’?”
Rob mentioned – noting again that the magnitudes are incomparable – that the whole mascot replacement process was akin to the adoption of federal healthcare reform.
“Now, I understand the arguments against Colonel Reb’s Old South image,” Rob said. “In both the mascot case and health care reform, you had publics that largely acknowledged some changes were needed, but the people wanted to address what was wrong without jeopardizing what already worked for most people.
“And in both cases, leaders convinced of the rightness of their own views overruled clearly stated public opinion.”
Maurice took a long sip of Community dark roast and sighed.
“It seems to me that in the collective effort at the New Ole Miss to be tolerant and respectful of the opinions of minorities, both racial and otherwise, there’s an important element lacking,” he said. “That would be tolerance and respect for majority – or at least plurality – opinion.”
Clyde followed that vein, recalling that one student body officer during her candidacy last spring had said of Ole Miss’ mascot, “If it offends one person, it should not be here.”
“The problem with that mindset,” Clyde said, “is that when everyone has a veto, no one has a vote.”
Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal