On November 8, Mississippi is set to vote on Measure 26, a ballot initiative that would redefine the state?s Bill of Rights to extend the protections of personhood to include ?every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.? It is striking that the measure, which is largely motivated by religious concerns about the sanctity of human existence, crops up in a state that has one of the lowest indices for overall quality of life?whenever it might begin?in the entire country: the infant mortality rate over the last decade is about 10 per 1,000 live births, with black babies dying at twice the rate of white babies. Mississippi leads the country in obesity and ranks forty-sixth in the number of state residents who have health insurance. It suffers from high death rates from cancer and heart disease. Twenty-three percent of the population lives below the poverty level, giving Mississippi the unenviable distinction of ranking dead last in the nation.
With the odds of survival so relatively skewed, it is no wonder that there might be some anxiety over preserving the very idea of life. Then, too, the legal category of ?personhood? seems particularly capacious since Citizens United; if such a label protects corporations, banks and homeowners? associations?and don?t they seem to be thriving!?what blessings might it extend to a zygote, that abstracted conception of future stock, human capital, mortal enterprise?
As I write, the seven billionth person is said to be entering this earthly dimension. That statistic has been reported with Malthusian apprehension, as well it might. The resources of the world are not infinitely replenishable; much of the planet?s ecology risks systemic collapse as a result of habitat degradation, global warming, invasive species and thoughtless exploitation; and the superpowers continue to go to war with one another over dismally non-sustainable energy sources like oil, gas and coal. Add in the uncertain-to-teetering economies just about everywhere, and it isn?t hard to fathom the dangerous contradictions of those who feel both deep resentment about the mad global competition to make ends meet, and simultaneously, a frantic ?need? to propagate more of ?our kind? because ?we? are too few?regardless of actual numbers or common well-being. It?s as though we are walking a tightrope stretched between fetishism of the fetus and an abyss of human disposability.
When, during a recent Republican debate, the audience cheered the fact that Rick Perry had overseen more executions than any governor in modern history, there was at least a momentary shudder among the punditocracy. What did it mean that a numbered batch of bodies was cause for such applause? Perhaps this is the new metric for presidential success: executions and summary assassinations, as though the scales of justice were measured in people-poundage, with some being heavier or lighter, depending on strangely monetized equivalences. There have been too many events of late that have been framed by our political and media spokespeople as measured by some curious human exchange rate. Does the targeted killing of unindicted US citizens like Anwar Al-Awlaki and his 16-year old son ?equal? resolution for the violence he may have preached? Does the grisly display of Muammar Qaddafi?s body flung in a refrigerated meat locker ?account? for the lost lives in Lockerbie? And whether you deem the late Troy Davis guilty or innocent, his execution was a stark example of how much habeas corpus has been whittled away in recent years, his death an indirect product of curtailed access to judicial appeal and substantive justice?limitations that are justified with reference to "time spent,? and ?tax dollars.?
Indeed, Davis?s legal representation was severely compromised by crippling cuts in state and federal funding for the Georgia Resource Center, which represented him and other indigent prisoners in post-conviction hearings. His appeal was also hobbled by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which prohibits prisoners from raising, post-conviction, evidence that they might have presented at trial, no matter how probative or substantive.
Embryos notwithstanding, we seem less and less invested in protections for the sanctity of life in the here and now. Can?t let things go on forever, after all. Costs a bundle.
Recently, the state of Texas decided to do away with the last meal for death row inmates, that terminal rite of agency, of choice, of taking leave of the sensory. From now on, the condemned will have to eat whatever hash is being dished up in the commissary. Of course, the tradition of granting requests in one?s last meal is premised on a superstition of sorts, a fiction of making peace, of showing mercy, of stilling spirit. In Louisiana?s Angola Prison, for example, the warden shares that meal with the doomed, a kind of final communion. In other places and times, a last drink or a coin to the executioner might serve as the bridge between life and impending death, a marking of the day as Unlike Any Other. The killing of a human being, whether considered legally justified or not, is momentous, mysterious, a repercussive tragedy no matter how reprehensible the record of that life. There will always be those who wreak havoc in society, and who then sneer from the grave or the brink of it; there is, no doubt, a very human urge to give them a little shove into the great beyond. But the entire purpose of just governance is to model respect and to provide restraint in the face of such urges.
When, instead, our government is viewed solely as something to protect ?us? against ?them? to the exclusion of it being a constitutive force as well, the social world turns into a zero-sum game, in which others? success at survival means less for you. That mindset engenders a mean little flare of relief every time there?s news of one less ne?er-do-well post-born mouth to feed. That not-so-subtle channeling of emotion toward the facile rendering of death distracts us from the policy choices that might make life more tolerable?preventive healthcare, basic housing, public education?even in our unnatural numbers. It allows us to ignore the inconsistency between gracing the mute quiescence of a fertilized egg with personhood while failing to endow the more lively political quests of the American Dream.
Mississippi is, far and away, the most religious state in the country ? ranking first among the 50 states in a nationwide poll in four categories: the importance of religion to residents; the frequency of prayer; the attendance at worship services and the certainty of a belief in God.
According to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life survey, 82 percent of Mississippians said religion was very important in their lives; 60 percent said they attend services at least once a week; 77 percent said they pray daily; and 91 percent said they believe in God with absolute certainty.
Other Southern states also ranked high in the poll, with Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina all scoring 70 percent or higher on the importance of religion in people's lives.
The Pew Center found that "at the other end of the spectrum," fewer than four in 10 people living in New Hampshire and Vermont, which each scored 36 percent, and Alaska, with 37 percent, said religion is very important to them.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
Southern Discomfort: America?s Heaviest State
By Shawn McKee
The South has done it again: For the third straight year, Mississippi leads the rest of the country in obesity rates, according to a recently reported telephone survey taken last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not to be outdone, several of the other southern states rise to the top of the list of America?s fattest cities. Mississippi sits atop the report, but is closely followed by its country-fried counterparts ? Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia and Louisiana.
The CDC found all of these states weighing in with more than 30 percent of respondents reporting obese body dimensions. However, the researchers believe this is a conservative estimate since most men overstate their height and most women underestimate their weight ? which are the two factors used to calculate obesity.
A study where the CDC actually measured the height and weight of participants found the obesity rate to be 34 percent nationally in 2006. While this number is high, it has leveled off over the past few years showing no significant increase, according to reports from the CDC, which is at least a little good news.
Colorado was the skinniest state again, with an obesity rate at about 19 percent ? although this number is up about two percent since 2005. It?s a scary trend to see obesity becoming the norm in the land of the free and home of the brave.
As Americans become heavier, they face greater risk of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. So, we as a nation must heed these warnings about our increasing waistlines that lead to a slippery slope of health problems that could drastically shorten American life expectancy.
Why do you think the south consistently ranks as the heaviest region in the country? How can we stop this trend?
Mississippi Public Broadcasting - News - Parents Looking at Options for New Sex Education Plans Welcome to MPB Online | Mississippi Public Broadcasting
Mississippi leads the nation in the rate of teen births as well as some sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how a new law requires school districts to adopt new sex education plans in the coming months.
This old country boy loves Mississippi. Until the last 5 years, the majority of my life was spent there. Of course I know about all the stereotypes (and many times, ?truths?) that are used against us MS Folk. But generally, I used this as a way to keep the very wonderful things about the place my little hidden secret. I have taken pride in being from the ?50th State?, because I never really believed that it was last.
Sure, we are the poorest state? have the highest obesity rates? one of the highest number teen pregnancy rates? one of the least educated? one of the highest unemployment rates? one of the highest rates of gonorrhea? and many other negative stats which make us ?winners?. But I also know that most of these people are the nicest, most inviting and loving people in this country. That is a fact that I believe and have witnessed in my world travels.
There is also beauty in the country-side, especially in NE MS (where I grew up). There is ample wildlife and open spaces, not to mention the river therapy that Dr Doug talks about.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
most eggs in the u.s. are unfertilized, so not quite the same...
but yeah mississippi is way out of line on this one.
abortion lowers crime rates, no one LIKES abortion, the doctors don't make a fortune on it compared to other far more profitable procedures that are common but are more controversial from a health/ethics standpoint. These people who want abortion banned need to have their votes tied to a payment system where they pay the bills for these kids (including medical expenses) that the state ends up paying as well as the criminal costs as compared to states that allow abortion...... I bet then they wouldn't be so supportive, an anti-abortion stance may as well be a pro-increased crime and increased taxes stance