Paul Hampton

Don’t like government? Here’s how you can help fix it

Several hundred parents, educators, education activists, and students join a handful of legislators in an education rally at the Capitol in Jackson on Thursday.
Several hundred parents, educators, education activists, and students join a handful of legislators in an education rally at the Capitol in Jackson on Thursday. AP File

I hadn’t heard from my anonymous pen pal in more than a year.

Time has not mellowed the writer of the forever-stamped postcards that for a while had been slipping in with the mail fairly regularly. The hiatus ended this week — with a vengence. On the upper-left corner of the front of the latest card, Anonymous had sketched a Rebel flag with the motto: Dixie, Love it or Leave It, so I expected his/her usual racist homophobic rant. Anonymous didn’t disappoint.

“To Psycho-Sick-O,” the new message began. “Hey you brain warped Yankee, queer, Liberal.”

The match that lit Anonymous’ fuse? My column about Chris McDaniel. Apparently, I left out the N-word, which Mr./Ms. Anonymous felt was vital to the narrative.

“You belong in a nut ward,” is about the only other full phrase on the postcard suitable for a family newspaper.

Who said civil discourse is dead? Not me. But I know I’ll have to endure the occasional crank bent on keeping alive the us vs. them mentality.

But the message — our way or the highway — doesn’t have the resonance it once enjoyed.

Even, gasp! politicians are getting it. Ask Rep. Steven Palazzo.

He had been famously unavailable for town halls and true to form, had rejected the call of two young women who wanted him to appear and talk about his disdain for Obamacare and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The women, as they say in the U.S. Senate, persisted. They had the town hall without him. The crowd at USM Gulf Park was attention-gettingly large, and civil. And it was a Friday night.

Palazzo apparently got the message and invited the town hall organizers, Kiara Taite and Ashley Kittrell, in for a chat. Kittrell said she hopes the door is open for more meetings with the congressman.

They may never agree on much but at least both sides are listening. And listening could lead to compromise. Compromise — that’ll set off Anonymous.

Rep. Andy Gipson found out how easy it is to compromise after he killed a bill that would have made domestic violence grounds for divorce. A small firestorm and a heart-to-heart with some women led him to adjust his attitude. He wrote a domestic violence amendment to another bill.

This week at the state Capitol, hundreds of people jammed the halls to support public schools and decry secrecy surrounding the effort to craft a new public school funding formula.

Though a report from EdBuild, a New Jersey consulting firm hired to study the state’s school funding, has been made public, little is known about how legislative leaders are using that report to write a school funding bill.

A rally earlier this year backed school choice and charter schools.

You can’t say the public isn’t engaged — at least when it comes to public schools and a law that will chart education’s course for decades.

Here’s hoping the leaders are listening. Writing a bill in a vacuum, behind closed doors, is risky at best.

Sure, if it’s a smashing success, they’ll get most of the credit. But if it fails, they will have handed their opponents a mighty large club.

I can’t imagine there will be time in this session to finish a bill and then have the full and public vetting it deserves. Putting a bill out for final inspection amid the flurry of appropriations and conference committee reports would be a disservice.

So I’ll be disappointed if a hulking bill appears in a cloud of fairy dust in the final days of the session. Disappointed, but not surprised.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton