Our view: Politicians give one more reason to love the state's artists

January 31, 2013 10:29:14 AM



After weeks of negative national press thanks to Messrs. Bryant, Palazzo, Smith, Chism et al., it's nice to have something to be cheery about. Our politicians, who have of late, been imitating barnyard roosters, have provided abundant fodder for late-night television. 


Their Ross-Barnett-like posturing against the Affordable Health Care Act ("Obamacare") and even modest efforts to curb random violence such as the recent Newtown, Conn., massacre has led Saturday Night Live to compare our Legislature to "30 possums hissing in a barn." 


And then there was Stephen Colbert who after putting up a map of the state and pronouncing, "Nobody does stupid like Mississippi," proceeded to eviscerate Rep. Jeff Smith. It was painful to watch. Let's just say Colbert had a lot of fun with the mustache. 


So it was with some relief we heard a segment on NPR's Morning Edition this morning on blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. The white Kosciusco native, now 69, as a young man joined the northern migration of blacks to Chicago. There he got a job driving a truck for an exterminator service. He was just 18. On Chicago's Southside, he would see on the marquees of blues clubs names of musicians he idolized, including another Mississippian, Muddy Waters. 


A waitress put in a good word for Musselwhite and soon he was jamming with Waters and playing gigs with other blues performers who would become legends in their own right. The harmonica player has gone on to have a distinguished recording and performing career as a Mississippi bluesman. 


As a young man, Ben Harper, 43, idolized Musselwhite. Growing up in Southern California, Harper listened to the harmonica player's records in his parents' music store. The grammy-winning musician has just recorded a new album with Musselwhite and is touring with the bluesman. 


When it comes to Mississippi, for every Bilbo, there has been a Faulkner. For every Ross Barnett, there is a B.B. King. For every Gary Chism, there is a Charlie Musselwhite. The tradition of bone-headed politicians may endure, but so does our rich tradition in the arts.  


All this is one more reason to give thanks for our state's rich artistic heritage. While our politicians through the decades have embarrassed us our writers, musicians and visual artists continue to amaze and enchant the world.  


So when we are inevitably confronted by the topic of Mississippi's collective stupidity, we can simply respond, "Stupid like Faulkner, right?"