Hunter Johnson, Commentary Editor
What’s my favorite part of Thanksgiving? Not having classes, obviously. A close runner-up, however, is having the chance to go home for a few days. If you’ve ever spoken to me for more than five minutes, you know good and well where that is for me – the great state of Mississippi.
Yes, the GREAT state. More often than not, when I say that around here I am met with giggles and amused expressions. That’s partly because people rarely refer to their homelands as “the great state of [insert].” However, the chuckles are also the result of the numerous stereotypes that come to mind for anyone not from Mississippi. Some of the more popular ones include:
Mississippi is dirt poor (“No shoes or indoor plumbing, right?”).
The people who live there aren’t exactly the sharpest tools in the shed.
They’re also fatter than that blueberry girl from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
There’s a gun in every pocket and rednecks on every … well, everywhere.
There’s nothing there of any interest except a big, muddy river.
Experiencing its climate during the summer is akin to walking through a simmering swimming pool.
That last one is mine, and it’s pretty darn accurate; the humidity from May to September is murder. Each one of those, however, does have some factual basis. Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation. Its population does find itself on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to education and health. We Mississippians also can’t boast of cities like New York and Dallas, or attractions like Six Flags and Disney World.
Is any of that reason for Mississippi to be sneered at, snubbed or pitied? Heck no!
Being home for a few days during the Thanksgiving break reminded me of how much I love my state and what makes it great. Sure, there aren’t many bustling cities, but that leaves plenty of room for the forests to thrive and for old homes and antebellum estates to stick around. It’s hard to describe the peace one feels driving down an old road, passing acres and acres of corn and cotton and seeing old, elegant homes with their wrap-around porches. I never really appreciated those drives until this summer, and I plan to show all of my (with all due respect) Yankee friends if and when they come to visit.
And, yes, a large percentage of Mississippians would rather go hunting, mud riding or drinking moonshine than live in Dallas or NYC for a week. If you’ve never had friends or family who fit this description, I can say with all honesty that you’re missing out on life. They’re the people that make family get-togethers, road trips and football games the best experiences imaginable.
Speaking of football, nobody does the sport quite like Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Tailgating at Ole Miss is far more than just grilling in the parking lot; girls wear their heels, guys don their suits and don’t be surprised if the tents you visit have chandeliers. Games at Mississippi State can be summed up in one word: cowbell. Everyone should be required to go to these schools’ games (better yet, to the Egg Bowl, where they play each other). They are events unlike any other in the Southeastern Conference or in life.
And all the obese people? That just means they know someone who knows how to cook!
Okay, that one’s a bit of an over-simplification; obesity is a problem and Mississippians are striving to improve their overall health. However, you’re not going to find a vegan restaurant in every town – we love our greasy and fried foods, know how to make the best meals on earth and would sooner go to Hades than change our cooking. If you’ve ever enjoyed southern favorites like crispy fried chicken, artery-clogging sweet tea, mind-boggling fried pickles or other vegetables smothered in butter (and a hint of sugar), you may understand why.
I may, in fact, die sooner than many of you here because of a diet of sweet tea and soul food. You know what, though? If I die because I enjoyed too much good food, then by darn I’ll die happy and full as a tick.
And so what if we don’t have a metropolis or major attractions? The absence of these things is how our state’s charm survives – we keep things simple and enjoy the little things. And, sure, we don’t have majestic mountains. Do you remember that simple beauty I was speaking of earlier? We don’t need mountains or canyons to enjoy God’s creation, and if you ever visit the state you’ll see what I mean.
Being raised in Mississippi is something I wouldn’t trade for anything on this green earth – not even for another semester in Rome! It’s a state easy to judge but difficult to truly know unless you experience it on your own. Do that, and you’ll see why I call it great.
Besides, our river is better than your river …