“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King Jr.
For most of my life, Dr. King could have added, “and that goes double for Mississippi,” and been right in so doing, but maybe, just maybe, that might be starting to change. We shall see.
Were you to look it up in any number of reference books or at hundreds of Internet websites, another late, great American, H.L. Mencken, will be credited as having said, “No one ever went broke overestimating the intelligence of the American people.”
He did not. At least in those exact words, which are almost certainly the product of condensation and paraphrasing.
What Mencken did presciently write, in a Sept. 19, 1926, column in the then Chicago Daily Tribune was the following: “No one in this world, so far as I knowand I have searched the records for years—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office, thereby.”
And that for certain has always been true for this state, a fact lent credence by only the scantest observation of its collective holders of public officers.
However, in the eternally springing hope category, this month’s Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey contains some tidbits which appear at least worthy of nibbling, if not gobbled up entirely.
For what its pollsters say is the sixth consecutive (quarterly) State of State poll, Mississippi’s crumbling infrastructure is the most pressing public issue for the state’s voters, with almost 30 percent of them clamoring for the currently in session Legislature to do more to address roads, bridges and potholes that threaten to become craters.
That one is pretty much a no-brainer for anyone in the state who either drives or rides upon its roadways, but, it is nonetheless notable within a state whose voters are not famous for casting ballots in accordance with their enlightened self-interests.
But what I find far more surprisingand pleasantly so—are three other results of the latest public opinion survey which would at least seem—seem, mind youin indicate that more and more Mississippians are becoming increasingly interested in doing something about the myriad problems associated with so many of their children regrettably growing up to be dumb as dirt:
• Fully 65 percent of voters say that funding for the state’s public schools remains too low—a statistic which most significantly cuts across demographic lines of party, race, gender, educational attainment and age. Are Mississippians finally starting to value education?
• Likewise, 75 percent of folks say they support providing a 3 percent pay raise for all of the state’s public school teachers. I can remember when a majority of voters didn’t even want to give them commodities.
• No less than 83 percent surveyed favored the Public Service Commission’s plan to allow the state’s system of rural electric cooperatives to expand the provision of high-speed Internet access to under-served areas. Twenty-first Century, here we come.
And even more tremor-inducing, even in the Trumpiest of states, the reddest of the red, and even though it is a splendid example of too little, too late, more than 60 percent of those surveyed say they now favor an expansion of Medicaid under (egad!) “Obamacare” so that low-income folk might be able to get some medical insurance and the local hospital might can keep its doors open.
And not only that, but in what I thought at first might be a typo, according to the survey, 71 percent of Mississippians say they would now favor early voting—allowing voting for up to 14 days before election day in their county clerks’ offices. I know 38 other states already allow that remarkably common sensical civic practice, but Mississippi?
Why, if you didn’t know better, you’d think these folks getting surveyed were acting like they had good sense.
Could it conceivably be that at least some of our fellow citizens in this state are taking off their centuries-old blinders and finally at least starting to see a glimmer of light, or two? Could it be that at least some portion of Mississippi’s population is at long last coming to realize that “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is not only logically vacant, but might actually be a cause for the effect of this state being on the top of every bad list and the bottom of every good one?
Perhaps, I guess. Maybe, I reckon. But I wouldn’t bet a plug nickel on it.
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.