Matthew 22:21 says, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” Save for the Doctrine of the Separation of Church and State, it might be suggested that “There ought to be a law:” The solemnity of Easter and the irreverence of April Fool’s Day are sufficiently incompatible that the two should not occur simultaneously.
Now it is late evening, and I take the liberty of utilizing April Fool’s Day to float a thought: While it is all in good fun, the amusing moment allows us to indulge an underlying truth.
Jackson has served as state capital for 196 years. Why not allow another municipality to enjoy the privilege?
It is not as if Mississippi — and many other states — have had but one site as its capital. Natchez became the territorial capital when the Mississippi Territory was created on April 7, 1798. It was relocated to nearby Washington in 1802. Natchez became capital again after Mississippi was admitted as the 20th state in the union on December 10, 1817. Columbia briefly became the state capital from 1821 to 1822. The state legislature first convened in Jackson — in a structure at Capitol and President Streets — on December 23, 1822.
Now, perhaps, some blighted community “can take the baton and run with it.”
Will our city reach its apogee if beset by bureaucrats in state agencies? Why not be known as a city of artists and entrepreneurs rather than functionaries in sprawling public agencies?
Let us become characterized by a creative citizenry instead of those who protect their backsides. There is predicate for as much. Time was that Jacksonians looked to big cities; sought inspiration from Memphis, New Orleans, and New York; and did not pride themselves on provincialism. We sought to be bigger than we were rather than retreating into the rural revelries of the unsophisticated.
Do we seek to parrot the pathos of Sir Joseph Porter in W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore”?
“And I never thought of thinking for myself at all....
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!”
Such mindset does not define a dynamic city.
Beyond the implicit failure of any entity rewarding conformity and complacency rather than ability and originality, what has the state of Mississippi done for the city of Jackson, lately? First, it has appropriated our airport as if it were the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics nationalizing the property of others after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Secondly, it made serious threats to take over the Jackson Public Schools. Third, it refuses to allow Jackson neighborhoods to organize into community improvement districts.
Three strikes, you’re out.
State property deprives Jackson of property taxes on said parcels. Let’s bite the bullet; suffer the lean years by taking a step backward in order to take two steps forward; and then fill what were state office buildings into ones housing startup corporation known for entrepreneurial zeal. Maybe the next Amazon, Apple, Google, Intel, or Microsoft will be the result of that renaissance.
Perhaps the Mississippi State Capitol can become a museum of 20th-Century centralization.
If Jackson is too much for those possessed of a small town mentality, too urban and too multicultural, state officials and legislators who find Jackson too exotic will enjoy employment in state agencies in bucolic backwaters throughout the state of Mississippi and spending legislative sessions in communities small enough to suit their taste.
Jackson is just alright with me: It has its challenges, but those challenges are nothing other than obstacles that the citizens can take pride in surmounting.
I quoted Randy Newman’s “Christmas in Capetown” previously. I repeat it to those in state government who appear eager to hobble Jackson’s future:
“... [I]f you don't like it here
Go back to your own miserable country.”
Postscript to anyone wanting to listen to “When I was a Lad” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” on the Internet: You would be well-served to find it through the search term “When I Was A Lad Columbia Orchestra Lehman Engel”: Conductor Lehman Engel was a Jackson native, who was a classmate and lifelong friend of Eudora Welty, mentioned in the recounting of her various adolescent escapades, among which was the Night-Blooming Cereus Club that the two of them created with Hubert Creekmore and Frank Lyell.
I remember, when I was a lad, accompanying my mother to visit Lehman Engel’s elderly aunts and mother — Trixie, Flo, and Juliette — at their home on the southeast corner of St. Ann and Laurel Streets.
Jay Wiener is a Northsider.