“If you can talk, you can breathe,” Mayor, Petal, Mississippi
It is rare when national events have an immediate impact on small towns. However, such an event recently engulfed the small Mississippi community of Petal (population 10, 674), and it will most likely continue to do so for many days and weeks to come. The unacceptable words of the mayor jolted the small town awake and forced its people to face the reality they no longer exist in isolation. Business as usual and doing things the way it has always been done – sometimes with no more than down home accountability – was laid open for the world to see. With the push of a button, a Facebook post, similar to ones that have been posted time and time again, exposed one man and by association a whole town to the scrutiny of the nation. They learned what they think, say, and do matters and everyone is accountable not only to themselves but to the bigger world that exists outside small-town America.
Small towns are no longer the exclusive playgrounds of good old boys who hold the only set of keys in town. It is no longer their town, but everybody’s town–black, white, brown, gay, straight, Christian, and non-Christian. That may be hard for some to swallow, but it is a truth often ignored. In this age of ever doubling information and uncountable tools of communication, the world is no longer a distant landscape with little or no relevance, but a river running through the streets demanding inclusion and transparency. Such a river flooded Petal, Mississippi, and its rising waters, calling for clarity and accountability, will most likely change the town forever. Hopefully, it will make for better human beings.
There are many things beautiful and great about small towns, but sometimes the isolation they breed creates blinders that prevent residents from clearly seeing the other side of the road. As a result, they often grow complacent and do not recognize the cliques, self-righteousness, and arrogance that blinds them to the world and even the incongruities in their own backyard. Too often, they see the light only after a good hard kick to the seat of the pants or a “come to Jesus” meeting. The mayor’s words brought both, but the insensitivity and wrong of his words are not solely his to shoulder. The citizens must partly share the shame. This is not the first time bias and indifference has been shown, but it is the first time the citizens have chosen to no longer tolerate it. Finally! Good for them!
Once the cameras stop rolling and the bandwagon rolls out of town, the people of Petal will face either going back to the way they were or building a new beginning. Hopefully, they will make a fresh start on the shoulders of the hurt, anger, and frustration they have witnessed, and the hearts that have finally awakened. Man’s purpose on this earth is to respect the humanity of all people and honor the sanctity of all human life regardless of affluence, ethnicity, religion, skin color, or lifestyle. Anything less is an abomination to respect and love for one another. To truly be a free nation as well as a civilized nation, everyone must be adamant in the pursuit of life, liberty, and humanity for all. Anything less is unacceptable.
©Jack Linton, June 4, 2020