8 November 2011
I was born ten minutes from the bathtub-warm brackish and silty Mississippi Sound. Before I said “Momma,” before I said “Daddy,” or “dog,” or “cat,” I said “Pascagoula.” No matter how long I live away from your moonlight and magnolias, your Mardi Gras and tamales at Christmas, your fig trees and fresh seafood, I will always fall into a deeper southern accent after talking to family or having too much to drink. And no matter how much I defend you with names like Faulkner and Welty, Hannah and Hamer, I will never be able to erase the images of lynchings and marches and bombings that I’ve accumulated in my conscious and subconscious after years of studying your history.
Today, after years of being dragged kicking and screaming out of the 19th century, your voters, my Mississippi brothers and sisters, are heading to the polls to create another legally-defined underclass. This inclination of yours toward always dividing and sowing hate among our lifeblood, our people, is something that we need to address. Mississippi, in case you forgot during your years of treasonous rebellion, “all people are created equal”. The initiative 26 that your people are arguing and voting on today commits a number of scientific and legal errors all in the name of making women into forced incubators. In short, you’re regressing to some pre-enlightenment era of feme covert, where women’s legal rights are subsumed by the state – or the men in their lives.
Mississippi, I hate to tell you this, because there are people and things inside your borders for which I care deeply and long daily. But if you pass this thing today, I won’t feel safe coming home any more. I’ve always joked that I’m anxious driving my Corolla with the “Geauxbama” and Darwin-fish stickers across the state line, but by your line of ‘reasoning,’ eventually when I go home, my IUD will be contraband. I have scores of friends who are biding their time, waiting to see if they need to look for homes in Louisiana or Alabama. You are walking down a path that should scare your leaders as much as it scares me – a path that leads to a far more acute “brain drain” of bright young Mississippians who could bring so much to your people but won’t allow you to dictate what their uteri (or their daughters’ or wives’) can and cannot be used for. Your peoples’ consideration of a law that would give the health and wellbeing of a clump of cells legal standing and health priority above that of the woman whose body houses it scares me and so many of your best and brightest citizens.
So I implore you, Mississippi. After Katrina and BP’s manmade disaster in the Gulf, please don’t willfully destroy any more of my nostalgia. Stop this regression. Look forward. Your pine trees and beaches and fields are beautiful, and there are many in your borders who wake up every day with their minds still, after all these years, set on freedom and justice. Please support them. Bring my home into some sort of enlightenment. Make me proud today, Mississippi. Follow those of us who want more for your people and your land than what you've had in the past. Follow those of us who have your best interests at heart. Shut this thing down.
Fondly, even after all these years,