I was talking to a friend the other day, and he asked me why Mississippians are always on the wrong side of every issue.
My answer was that Mississippians have always been against whatever the rest of the nation is for. It's been that way from the beginning, and it's not likely to change anytime soon. To understand why, you have to look at the state's history.
Mississippi was primarily settled by four groups of people: indigenous Native Americans; African American slaves who were brought here in chains; a handful of patriotic white Americans who moved to Mississippi after fighting in the Revolution; and a large group of white Americans of English, Scottish, and Irish descent who fled to Mississippi to create an alternate universe because they were opposed to the "liberalism" of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers.
Many of Mississippi's early white settlers were a traitorous lot who wanted no part of the Revolution. They were British loyalists who came to Mississippi to escape the colonies. They were pro-slavery and pro-corporation, and they did not believe in the new "liberal" government because they felt an allegiance to the conservative British monarchy. To them, "liberal" was a dirty word.
Early Mississippians opposed the language of the Declaration of Independence, and were particularly horrified by the phrase: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
They did not share the new government's misgivings about corporations. Prior to the Revolution, British corporations had some of the largest standing armies in the world. For instance, the East India Company had an army of 250,000, twice the size of the British army. East India invaded foreign countries, built its own network of jails and tortured political opponents. Sound familiar?
Early Mississippians, who wanted nothing so much as they wanted a king or queen to rule them, felt the wealth held by corporations would trickle down to everyone. They were staunchly pro-corporation.
America's new "liberal" government insisted on the Bill of Rights, which declared all people equal in the eyes of the law, while many Mississippi settlers—taking the British view—argued that some citizens, by virtue of their wealth and social standing, were far superior to others.
That argument has been Mississippi's curse since statehood.
It has made us the fattest state in the union (based on the national average), the dumbest state (based on national test scores), the state with the most venereal disease and the unhealthiest state overall (based on national health statistics). We're also the most politically corrupt state (based on a 2004 study by the Corporate Crime Reporter that counted the number of public- corruption convictions in each state over a 10-year-period and ranked Mississippi the most corrupt).
Flag-waving Mississippians who embrace war, torture and limited rights for minorities—the descendants of those who opposed the Revolution—today overcompensate for the failings of their ancestors. They speak of Mississippi values, when what they really mean is that they reject the "liberal" values of the founding fathers and embrace the old conservative values of the British loyalists who worked to defeat the Revolutionists.
The genes of those early settlers have been passed down to the present generation and today it is difficult to separate modern-day conservatives from the early British loyalists. Perhaps you are not certain whether you are a liberal (patriotic American) or a conservative (British loyalist).
If so, I have a test that I think will help you get in touch with your true self.
Please answer yes or no to the following questions to find out where you stand—liberal or conservative:
• Corporations should be allowed to contribute to political campaigns.
Yes___ No ___
• Native Americans should not be allowed to operate businesses that offend or threaten the business interests of the white majority.
• Judges have a constitutional right to overturn jury decisions with which they disagree, especially when juries make excessive awards against corporations.
• The "life, liberty and happiness" clause of the Declaration of Independence does not guarantee health care.
• Torture is a legitimate tool to combat terrorism.
• African Americans have too many rights and privileges.
• America has the inalienable right to invade foreign countries for the purpose of changing their governments.
• The president currently has the constitutional right to begin wars without the approval of Congress.
Now that you've tipped your hand, look up your score and see where you stand.
If you answered, "yes" to 0 questions, you are a Thomas Jefferson Patriot. • If you answered, "yes" to 1-2 questions, you have liberal leanings. • If you answered, "yes" to 3-4 questions, you are bi-patriotic. • If you answered, "yes" to 5-6 questions, you have conservative leanings. • If you answered, "yes" to 7-8 questions, you are a Benedict Arnold who'd prefer to live in Great Britain or Australia.