Tuesday, September 9, 2008

One Thousand Disappointments Part 1

Mississippi. The state of "last place in everything good" and "first place in everything bad." Or so I seem to always hear or read. This place where I was born is home to soft, lonely fields and grungy projects. The place that has legacies in southern rituals and bitter prejudices.

Clearly, I have a love/hate relationship for my birthplace. And, apparently, the relationship runs both ways. I feel beaten, trodden upon, abandoned, and abused. Why do you treat me so cold? But, of course, there is also the love. The pride in being a southerner and in knowing intimately the culture of the south. In knowing just about everyone on my street, in my neighborhood, and in my community. The warmth of giving a smile and a wave to every person that you see, whether you know that person or not.

As a child, I had plenty of land under my feet. I am a country girl who has known the work of hoeing fields, the conflict of watching my food live and be killed, and long, interminable days that give boredom and little else. Yet, I do not take for granted the brightness of the stars, the rustle of nearby wildlife, the borrowed cup of advice from a neighbor, or the slow and steady conversations that mean no worries. Then, I found Jackson, MS.

Gray and dingy. A small city trying to be big. It has the all the disadvantages of big city life-noise, violence, pollution-and not so many of the advantages-no good jobs, no more businesses, no culture. I live by people I don't know and don't want to know. I walk past pedestrians and keep my eyes down so I won't make eye contact. The houses seem too close together. The country is family; the city is a stranger. I lock my doors. I don't let my children play outside. I am wary of everyone, even those whom I call my friends.

There hangs this pervasive sense of apathy that hangs over this city like a dirty fog. We watch Jackson crumble and do nothing. We watch each other help to tear it down and say nothing. We watch as the homeless litter the streets and feel nothing. I'm slowly becoming numb to every hateful thing around me.

I'll go while I still have feeling left.

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