By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Not long ago, a New York Times columnist wrote, “This is Mississippi we’re talking about, a place that in many ways has not advanced much beyond the Middle Ages.”
Bob Herbert wrote that line in an opinion piece about Jamie and Gladys Scott, who are serving life sentences for a robbery that netted $11, and no one was killed.
Herbert wants Gov. Haley Barbour to pardon the Forest women, who’ve spent more than 15 years in prison.
He makes an excellent case for that pardon – I hope they get it – but he never makes a case for his statement about Mississippi.
New York has its own history of public corruption, racial injustice and brutal violence, but those facts don’t define the city of New York or the state.
In the Land of the Free, Herbert can make whatever case he wants to make, but in the course of arguing a humane point, he turned into a clichampé, a man in a glass house with a living room full of rocks.
I’m not a “Mississippi: Love it or Leave it” kind of guy. Leaders and visionaries are necessary, but cranks and whistle blowers are equally essential for any community with the slightest hopes for improvement.
If Herbert from New York wants to be part of that process, I don’t have a problem with it. Fire away, but at least try to be honest.
The darkest hours of Mississippi’s history are taught in classrooms across the country. For some, the well documented evils of slavery, murders and civil rights violations are all they know about the state.
Those were the people Herbert appealed to when he accused Mississippians of living 700 years in the past. It was a cheap reference, a nasty little exaggeration that implies you’ll find virulent forms of injustice in Mississippi that you cannot find elsewhere in the nation, or in the modern, 21st century world.
The Innocence Project, which works to exonerate prisoners who’ve been shafted by the system, has freed people from New York to California, Wisconsin to Louisiana.
The hopeful and sad list includes Mississippi, thank heavens.
If anybody wants to free wrongly convicted prisoners in the state, please do. If you come, I can’t guarantee what type of reception you’ll receive.
It’s always possible to run into a public official who believes the law was written to serve only him.
There’s also a very good chance of finding Mississippians with deep, abiding beliefs in justice for all.
How does that make Mississippi different from, or more Medieval, than other states?
I don’t want Mississippi’s painful history stricken from the nation’s textbooks, and I don’t want outsiders to stop trying to effect change in the Magnolia state, if they feel so moved.
But there are a whole lot of sins buried in a whole lot of backyards in this country. Some honesty about that would be greatly appreciated.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal entertainment writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.