On June 9, 1954, Sen. Joe McCarthy’s constant personal attacks and character assassination of many good Americans was brought to a screeching halt when Joseph Welch asked him a single question: Have you left no sense of decency?
Unfortunately, the tactics used by McCarthy in the 1950s have come roaring back in 2017, by both sides. The internet, cable TV and talk radio, in an effort to sell ads and increase profits, have unleashed a similar pattern of personal attacks and character assassination. This has led to keyboard cowboys and call-in guests on radio shows who will say anything, no matter how untrue and hurtful, to argue that those who do not agree with everything they believe are the enemy. We have begun to type and say things online and on air that we would never say to another person’s face, or to someone at work or church. So I ask, just as Welch asked Sen. McCarthy — Have we left no sense of decency?
As a husband, father, neighbor, legislator, American and proud Mississippian, I wish for a return to civility. It requires both sharing and listening. So I would begin this civil journey by sharing what I believe is best for our beloved state of Mississippi instead of relying on personal attacks, or hollow party sound bites.
These beliefs guide my votes:
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▪ Foremost, the future of Mississippi definitely starts with a great education for all of our children, equally, and a quality public school system is the biggest economic driver of any state. When we embrace that reality, Mississippi will move up from last place in all categories.
▪ I believe it is far cheaper to educate a child for 13 years from K-12 than it is to pay for the incarceration of an adult for 20 or 30 years.
▪ I believe Mississippi has great potential to be amazing in public education. However, we must understand that being 50th is what happens when we pay our teachers less than 48 other states, and spend less per student than 46 other states.
▪ I believe critical government services, such as mental health, public health, public safety and roads and bridges are tremendous benefits to society and should be fully funded before we give tax cuts to foreign corporations and large campaign donors.
▪ I believe every law we pass should embrace that all men and women are created equal. Period.
▪ I believe the people and local businesses are far more important to the function of Mississippi government than political parties, foreign corporations and political action committees.
▪ I believe no child gets to pick their parents, ZIP code or their mental or physical health.
▪ I believe our elected officials should be true public servants and 100-percent transparent at all times. There should be no room in our government for self-serving politicians who put themselves before the people. It is wrong that the highest campaign donors control our state government. Public service should never be for private gain.
▪ I believe we must live within our means. But I also believe we must stop giving away our means to the highest campaign contributors and then shifting the tax burden to the poor and working class.
▪ I believe in being fiscally responsible instead of fiscally conservative. Fiscally responsible means spending all money efficiently. Fiscally conservative means spending on programs you like.
I know that many of you reading this agree with me, regardless of political party affiliation, or whether you are from the Coast, Hills, Delta, Pine Belt or Jackson area. Let’s remember there is far more that unites us than divides us. Let’s begin to focus on common bonds and goals, instead of tearing down our fellow Mississippians. My simple hope is that we return to a sense of common decency and treat everyone with basic respect, even those with whom we disagree.
Now I’m ready to listen.
Jay Hughes is a Democratic member of the Mississippi House from District 12, which includes Oxford.