Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mississippistan

or, "Rockwellian Dystopia"

It turns out there are parts of this country that have incredible, soul-crushing, poverty. The Clipse can explain it better than I can (Thanks EDSBS!)



So my journey to Mississippi to visit a Teach For America HS buddy went well. Good food, good camping, but my God the poverty. Really the only thing that I can equate to it is Turkmenistan. Not Georgia, not Azerbaijan. But that arid joint on the Caspian.

There are highlights, though. A dog actually chased my car while I drove down the road, like in Gary Larson cartoons. And you can see stars stars so many stars at night. That's pretty wonderful. The whole bucolic Agrarian Diplomacy ideal did exist to a certain extent.

However, the poverty was pretty amazing. What really made me take a step back was the lack of anything to do in town. The kids Dan teachers are done with school at ~4:00 PM. Apparently a bunch have jobs, sure. But there's still weekends and all. There wasn't a movie theater, a bowling alley, or even a park to be seen. There's really nothing to do except sit around. It's not like any self-respecting teenager is going to go to the Public Library. And even if they do, Lexington's is hardly Salt Lake City's.

The difference between Mississippi Hill Country and Delta country was interesting. The drive into the bayou is pretty cool...you basically just turn a corner in the road and all of the sudden everything is flat. Dan used the term "moonscape" but I'm not sure that's quite it. It was just...void.

The formation of identity around country music is pretty weird. There's this concept of "This is the music of my people" that forms a feedback loop to a certain extent: Country musicians should look a certain way and sing a certain way and all of that, or they're not country musicians. They're -- gasp -- pop stars. Thankfully, Military.com can fill us in on the deets (that's one of the worst-written articles I've ever seen from a real source, btw. It's like bleacherreport for White Nationalism). And race relations are obviously way more tendentious and complex than I can explain in this blog. Things are weird. And terrible. They'll likely remain that way, no matter what Teach for America does.

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