Wallowing in Misery

I’ve never been to Mississippi. I don’t think I’ve even driven through the state. And from what I know about Mississippi, I wouldn’t want to go there. The name “Mississippi” conjures up a long list of horrors- the murder of civil rights workers, church bombings, cross burnings, and on and on and on. The Phil Ochs admonition, “Mississippi find another country to be part of,” lingers in my mind.

I read a few days ago that Mississippi was the most miserable state in America. Someone had worked out a misery index and Mississippi headed the list.  Not surprisingly, another study has Mississippi as the most racist state in the nation, too.

These studies vary, of course. In the spring, one study listed Kentucky as America’s most miserable state, another gave the crown to West Virginia. But Mississippi is always near the top.

And, while the order keeps changing the top-ten list includes the same states pretty much all the time. They are overwhelmingly “red” states. You can nearly always find Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas – as well as Mississippi – on any of the misery lists.

You would think that the people who live in these states would start wondering why they’re so wretched. You would suppose they would wonder whether they need a change of government.

But apparently not. Elections come and go, and the Republicans remain in control.

What is it, I wonder. Abortion? A lot of voters cast their ballots because they feel strongly about legalized abortion. Racism? Lyndon Johnson said he lost the South for a generation by signing the Voting Rights Act. Gay rights? A lot of people are scandalized by the idea of men marrying men and women marrying women. I know I would have been horrified if I’d heard about such things growing up in Jamaica back in the Forties, even though when you think about it, why shouldn’t anyone be able to marry who they love?

As the old Jamaican song reminds us, “It’s nobody’s business but their own.”

Could it be ignorance that keeps those states mired in misery? The misery index usually includes a low education score. Could the Republicans be maintaining control by keeping the voters ignorant?

It certainly is the kind of thing they would do, isn’t it?

Click for one of the misery lists.