[Lott] A Generous Giving | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Lott] A Generous Giving

To hear some folks talk, you'd think that big places with the most compassionate liberal attitudes and bountiful personal incomes would be teaming with the most generous, nicest, most appreciative people on Earth — thankful for and humbled by their material blessings and, in turn, always helping the poor, the downtrodden and anyone with less for which to be thankful. In fact, it's the opposite. Some of America's biggest, wealthiest and so-called "progressive" places are the stingiest in terms of the percentage of their charitable giving, while America's smallest, most conservative and less affluent states tend to be the most generous. Among these, Mississippi is the most giving.

Yet again, the Catalogue of Philanthropy has ranked Mississippi first among the 50 states in terms of our percentage of charitable giving. It's a statistic you won't hear much about in the national press, but it is one that I think is very significant and very telling. Every year the Catalogue uses tax return data to compile what is called the "Generosity Index" — a ranking taking average incomes of the 50 states and scoring them according to what percentage of those incomes goes to charitable donations. Mississippi and our neighboring states are consistently near the top. Mississippi is first this year, followed closely by our neighbors in Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana, which each rank in the index's top ten.

This index says a lot about America, and in particular it speaks volumes about the quality of people in the Deep South. While we may be poorer, we are rich in class and character. Our dedication to family is sometimes called "old fashioned." Our strong religious values are frequently considered "backward" in some elite circles, as is our patriotism and love of our country. Our small town, close-knit surroundings are seen as less sophisticated, less "enlightened." and a place to "get out of." Yet, it is these very traditions that seem to make us everything that those people deriding us say they are, but quite often aren't — caring, concerned, compassionate, giving. It's clear Mississippians don't have a lot of folks talking a big talk in the limelight, but we are walking the walk in the shadows, quietly helping others by putting our traditional values into practice.

Considering our exemplary record of giving, I know Mississippians are truly thankful to God, to America and to each other on this and every Thanksgiving. We've been through some rough times throughout our history. Yet, together our common values have helped us work through our challenges, and to have a greater thankfulness of where we are today. It is our roots in faith, family and in freedom that have helped sustain us, protect us and make us America's most generous state. I believe these values give us prospects for the brightest future, too. Mississippi's giving spirit and strong values are not merely good attributes, but solid assets that we can use to build our state and finally reach our potential, helping us to improve communities and create new jobs.

I needn't tell you what states ranked near the bottom of the Generosity Index. Suffice it to say they are all a lot wealthier than Mississippi, and they are proud of it, too. They are places with plenty of folks who look down on our values. Yet, people in those places could learn a lot from Mississippi - America's most generous state — about Thanksgiving. We could show them from whence America's blessings come, how to really be thankful for what we have as a nation and to give back to it. Maybe one day so-called "compassionate," "sophisticated" people in all those "progressive" places will reverse roles and, for a change, take their cues from a bunch of Mississippians. Maybe one day millions of Americas will put a bit more emphasis on those tried and true values that help us appreciate what we have despite what we don't have - values that helped Mississippians put a genuine and heartfelt "thanks" before a generous "giving."

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office)

Previous Comments

ID
136667
Comment

I'm a bit shocked to read your perception of the people of Mississippi. Shocked not because it's untrue, but because it's a bit like telling them you love them while quietly stabbing them in the collective back. Mr. Lott, if you truly love and respect the people of Mississippi you'll help improve their lives, not with words, but with action. And until that day comes, articles like this one are nothing more than lip service, and a slap in the face to the people of Mississippi. - jonathan

Author
Jonathan Moore
Date
2003-12-07T02:11:49-06:00
ID
136668
Comment

If if you want to see the actual rankings and methodology, being that Lott says he "needn't" tell us who ranked last, following are links to the actual index and a page discussing the methodology: http://www.catalogueforphilanthropy.org/cfp/generosity_index/ Lott also didn't feel the need to mention that Mississippi gets a bump upward, ironically, because we also rank first in poverty. So basic math shows how we would come in first, compared to our state's average incomes. That doesn't take away from the people who do give -- bless their souls -- but it also shows that Jonathan has a very real point. The pork only goes around so far. Also, has anyone else noticed that whenever Lott (or Barbour, or Pickering) speaks for the state, we are a monolith? Forget the 46 percent who didn't vote for Barbour last election. Everyone of us thinks alike, and like Lott, or apparently we're not included in his stereotype of his people. I agree with him that most Mississippians are dedicated to family, are deeply spiritual and love their country -- but we don't all define "our values" just as Mr. Lott does for us, or believe in the same routes to get there. My values, for instance, don't include ignoring poverty. Many Mississippians know you can be "enlightened" and "progressive," which Lott scorns so easily, and still be part of a loving familly, spiritual and patriotic. And we are proud of that fact.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-12-07T14:13:14-06:00
ID
136669
Comment

Donna, you beat me to the punch, and neatly summarized exactly the points I was going to make. Mr. Lott needs to understand that there people in his constituency that consider themselves 'liberal' or 'progressive' and stop using those terms as pejoratives. And, on the Greed Index, Mississippi has been high on that list as well, what with Mr. Ebbers and WorldCom and all of that. It's annoying, because I actually agree with him that the statistic itself says positive things about the state - I just don't think he needs to put down the rest of the country, in order to make his point.

Author
Kate
Date
2003-12-07T16:04:50-06:00
ID
136670
Comment

Jonathan, Trent has done many things to improve the lives of Mississippians - but as individuals and as a whole. Where do you - specifically - believe he has been "quietly stabbing them in the collective back?" Just curious... Donna and Kate, Trent is well aware that there are many people who did not vote for him in the last election and disagree with him on issues. It's hard to miss that when your opponents in the last election got 34% of the vote - on the other hand - Trent got a strong majority of 66% of the Mississippi voting electorate. Trent has been helping Mississippians who request assistance, regardless of who they were or what their party politics might be... And as has been posted elsewhere on this blog, Mississippi has been the nation's whipping boy for years. I think it is eminently fair to compare and contrast other states - especially when we as Mississippians come off better.

Author
Fielding
Date
2003-12-09T12:40:16-06:00
ID
136671
Comment

Fielding, you're back! Hooray! My main beef with this letter is the use of terms like "liberal" and "progressive" as pejoratives. And, I think he could have made his point far better without resorting to dissing the rest of the country. Just because we've been the whipping boy, doesn't mean we need to return the favor. Leaves a sour taste in my mouth. And, I do appreciate that he's spent a large portion of his life working to improve the lot (hee!) of Mississippians. But, I still think he'd greatly benefit from a stint on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Author
Kate
Date
2003-12-09T12:58:43-06:00
ID
136672
Comment

Thanks for the kind words Kate. I will agree that the piece could have been written without using those words in a less than positive fashion... At the same time, they are clear what he meant - the meaning of those words - in the context used - are part of that compare and contrast with other states. Mississippi is generally a pretty conservative State - yes, there are lots of people who aren't conservative - but I believe there are more who are - than those who are not. Lastly, I think he dresses fairly well - albeit conservatively (heh heh).

Author
Fielding
Date
2003-12-09T13:18:42-06:00
ID
136673
Comment

But the hair, Fielding. The hair. And, for the record, I don't think we should be using conservative as a pejorative either. But I think all those words are so politically and emotionally charged that I'm probably fighting for a lost cause.

Author
Kate
Date
2003-12-09T13:25:25-06:00
ID
136674
Comment

Kate-- How dare you discriminate against someone solely on the basis on his or her hair. We all can't have dreadlocks. ;^)

Author
Ex
Date
2003-12-09T16:52:21-06:00
ID
136675
Comment

Personally, I think he'd look a lot better if he had locks. Locks aren't the "it" thing they were last season, though, so I doubt the Queer-eyed guys would recommend them for him. Then again, it'd be hard to do worse in the hair department than the plasto-Ken look he has now. :-)

Author
Nia
Date
2003-12-09T17:27:17-06:00
ID
136676
Comment

Ex, I judge, because I am shallow.

Author
Kate
Date
2003-12-09T18:15:57-06:00
ID
136677
Comment

Well, Kate - it is his hair...

Author
Fielding
Date
2003-12-09T23:03:52-06:00
ID
136678
Comment

Fielding does has a point, Kate. ;-D Speaking of hair, did y'all see Saturday Night Live last weekend? Sharpton was very funny, and I loved that bit about the other Dem candidates being furious that Sharpton was on SNL. How about that hair on "Kerry" (speaking of) and "John Edwards" was hilarious as the goofy young host of the party.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-12-09T23:59:15-06:00
ID
136679
Comment

Seriously, Fielding, I think what some of us reject to in Lott's comments above (and at other times, along with Barbour, Pickering, and the like) is this arrogant attitude that all of their constituents are just alike and have exactly the same views just because they/we live in Mississippi (and if we don't, we don't count). Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't think of examples of elected officials pigeonholing their constituents in quite the same way. "Mississippians believe this (fill it with very ideological statemetn)" and so on. (OK, Bush does this some when he speaks for Amuricins, but it doesn't hit as close to home for me.) Maybe I'm just sensitive about this after growing up here and being made feel like I didn't have a place in my own home state ("if you don't like it the way it is, why don't you just leave?"). This just isn't right in a society that supposed to be about plurality and diverse ideas and democracy and free speech and ideas. It doesn't jibe. And to me, it's not only insulting to people who might not have voted for Lott et al., but to people who did vote for him. Just because you decided to vote for him (maybe just for his federal pork-pulling abilities, for instance) doesn't mean you want him to constantly tell the rest of the world just how you think, which is -- drum roll! -- exactly like he does. What: we all want the world to think we all thought the Dixiecrats are a glorious mark on our past??? Please. Maybe it's the nature of the Republican Party (which these days is more conservative and status quo) vs. Democrats (which is certainly more pluralistic and diverse) to assume that its people are all alike and like to be presented that way, and anyone not just like 'em are the enemy. But with more and more people getting tired of two-party ideology, even here on Lott's turf, is it smart politically to rudely pigeonhole people in such a way? Lott certainly seems to assume that the more than half of Mississippians who did not bother to vote either for him or against him aren't going to suddenly get tired of his cheap labels. That assumption could bite him in the butt one day. Some day, Mississippians way well get tired of being talked down to like children and taken for granted by these politicians. With our unique demographics, Republican officials know how easily the game could change in the state if enough voters got motivated to oust them; that's why I believe they talk such a game. They want "dissenters" to leave. I say we stay. ;-D

Author
ladd
Date
2003-12-10T00:15:21-06:00
ID
136680
Comment

BTW, did y'all notice that Lott is now using the word "progressive" and putting it in quotes as he disparages it? LOL. A strategy memo must have gone out to Republicans warning them about the dangers of a growing "progressive" movement that rejects the excesses of both "liberals" and "conservatives." It "tickles" me how often I see a "conservative" put the word "progressive" in quotes these days -- as if that's going to "change" something that "matters." They "definitely" doth "protest" too "much."

Author
ladd
Date
2003-12-10T00:24:30-06:00
ID
136681
Comment

Don't mess with Trent's hair; that's VINTAGE AMERICANA hair--worthy of an exhibit in the Smithsonian fossil displays.

Author
Becky
Date
2003-12-10T10:20:08-06:00
ID
136682
Comment

Bwahahaha! That's funny. Re the serious discussion (not that Trent's hair isn't a serious concern for anthropoloogists), there is a problem with the mainstream media representing MS with stereotypes and not much else. MS seems to be either maligned as the worst example of what the US has to offer or praised as the home of all good musical things. There's apparently for some folks nothing in between. That's why I'm so confounded by people who vote for politicians who compoind the problem with race-baiting and coded rhetoric. That's the kernel of truth in the stereotype.

Author
Nia
Date
2003-12-10T11:09:15-06:00
ID
136683
Comment

Becky wrote: "Don't mess with Trent's hair; that's VINTAGE AMERICANA hair--worthy of an exhibit in the Smithsonian fossil displays." Never say JFP bloggers don't have opinions about hair. ;-D

Author
ladd
Date
2003-12-10T12:50:21-06:00
ID
136684
Comment

too good to pass up... http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/Cartoons/12-10-2003.gif Donna, your perception that Mississippi politicians take for granted that their constituency has the same viewpoint they espouse is shared by me - in fact, it irritates the heck out of me that Bennie Thompson thinks all Mississippians should support Democratic Party ideals and candidates - or Gene Taylor, or Mike Moore, or even Ronnie Musgrove. Gov. Musgrove supported Al Gore in the last Presidential election and said he would be the best President for Mississippi - because he shared Mississippians ideals. I'll grant you that not following the political "group think" of an area tends to make you an outsider - but that occurs just about everywhere. It is up to the individual to try and make a difference for what they believe in - and I commend you and JFP for making those very efforts. I don't always agree with your views - but you absolutely should be shouting them from the rooftops. And of course, I'll be shouting for my viewpoints just as loudly... heh heh

Author
Fielding
Date
2003-12-10T13:01:04-06:00
ID
136685
Comment

That's why so many people think it's not worth it to vote: because politicians have a tendancy to "color" themsleves with one of two crayons, as if there aren't any other crayons in the box.

Author
Nia
Date
2003-12-10T13:25:52-06:00
ID
136686
Comment

This writer thinks that we-the-people just "own" the hair of *women* politicians. She sure hasn't been to the JFP site. ;-) The Politics of Hair "We the public feel we own female politicians' hair; bad perms, bad roots, and all. ... Why all the fuss over female politicians' hairdos? Maybe we childlike citizens look to our elected officials as surrogate parents ñ protectors who will shield us from the dangers and uncertainties in the world. If our politicians change, how can we trust anything to remain constant?"

Author
ladd
Date
2003-12-11T17:45:07-06:00
ID
136687
Comment

Well, we, some of us anyway, CERTAINLY would like their hair to change over time, particularly if we're talking about decades! I mean, if they can't keep up with changes in hair fashion--which really don't change that much--how the hell can they keep with the changes in tax law or international trade policy?! Lose all that Dippity-do for Goddess' sake and get some Sebastian molding mud mousse! (Hint, hint, Trent!)

Author
Nia
Date
2003-12-11T18:33:53-06:00

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