Joe Rogers: Should Mississippi go blue?
Every year I wade through the measures introduced by Mississippi legislators, sometimes in horror, but mostly to get a chuckle.
Sure, there’s usually some important stuff, which I immediately reject as writing topics. I’m drawn more to the offbeat, and in particular to the measures seeking to designate some sort of Official State This, That or the Other.
It’s the sort of effort that has given us, over the years, not only an official state bird, tree and flower (mockingbird, magnolia and magnolia), but also a state fish (largemouth bass), insect (honeybee), butterfly (spicebush swallowtail), two land mammals and one water mammal (white-tailed deer, red fox and bottle-nose dolphin) and on and on. Often they’re at the behest of some elementary school students wanting to see how the legislative process works.
By the way, I’m still miffed that, in 1984, cowardly lawmakers made milk the official state beverage rather than the eminently more deserving Barq’s root beer. Milk, I remind one and all, was not invented in Biloxi.
This year’s lot included the standard pushes for additional or substitute state songs, state flags, a state book (the Holy Bible, of course, version not specified) and sundry state poems.
None of the measures made it out of committee, which was largely a blessing. One of the proposed state poems includes the line “Hush yo’ mouth, I’m Mississippi.”
Flags, well, we certainly could use action for a better one of those. I’m on record for that. Once again, a majority of legislators do not seem to share my sentiment.
One intriguing proposal was House Bill 1009, which said little more than this:
“The color blue is hereby designated the state color of Mississippi.”
My first thought was that this must have been some sort of partisan jab, a gentle push against the tide of Republican red that Mississippi is awash in these days. This seemed more likely when I saw the sponsor: Representative Gregory Holloway, a Democrat of Hazlehurst.
“Actually, to be honest it was a by-request introduction,” Holloway told me. “A constituent of mine. Obviously, she loves blue. She said, ‘Why don’t we just make the state color blue?’
“I said I’d introduce it. I like blue, too.”
So, was it the constituent’s idea to repaint the state’s political hue, at least symbolically?
“No, no, no,” Holloway told me. “In fact, that lady who asked me to introduce it, she’s a hard-core Republican.”
This was the second year in a row Holloway has introduced the measure, both with zero success. He acknowledges it was not exactly his highest priority. As vice chairman of the House Universities and Colleges Committee, he is more focused on education. And his efforts to increase parental involvement in their children’s schooling have gotten a lot more news media exposure.
As for the decidedly low-key language of the state color legislation, the absence of poetic allusions to “the spacious firmament on high, with all the blue ethereal sky…” or any such:
“I don’t guess there’s a whole lot to sell,” Holloway said. “Either you like blue, or you don’t.
“I mean, blue is blue.”
It’s also popular. As I mentioned in a column before, “In survey after survey, from country after country, both men and women have pretty uniformly named blue as their favorite color.”
And several other states have selected it as an official color, usually in combination with something else. California, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania and South Dakota, for instance, pair blue and gold.
Personally, I’d lean toward a pairing of blue and red. Politically neutral. And, I don’t know, they just seem to make a nice team.
Joe Rogers has worked for The Clarion-Ledger, The Tennessean and The New York Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jrogink.