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Spring Planting in Mississippi

In Mississippi, roses and azaleas are in bloom. This afternoon, Mama and I will hit the garden center to find something pretty for her window box, but flowers aren’t the only things being planted in yards around here.

It is municipal election season and yard signs are everywhere. Also, Easter is just days away, so the political signs share space with religious displays. There are lots of small plastic crosses in this neighborhood, but also one large wooden cross. Many of the smaller crosses are adorned with an exclamatory message (He is Risen! or Jesus Saves!)but the wooden cross requires no explanation. I find these crosses a bit horrifying. It is one thing to display a crucifix at a church where a reminder of death might spur devotion, but it seems quite a different thing to plant a cross in your yard. After all, crucifixion was a particularly brutal and public form of punishment. Jesus was one of many men who hung on a cross in a public square, so it’s sort of like putting a guillotine in your front yard. Or an electric chair. This is a state that recently considered bringing back firing squads for death row inmates. Can talks of public crucifixion be far behind?

But I digress.

Most of the political yard signs are succinct and contain only basic information. This seems wise. A short slogan may be acceptable, but candidates should probably avoid any complex declarations. One mayoral candidate uses only her last name (Cox), position sought (Mayor), and location (Brandon). We are rooting for her. She seems to have good sense. An alderman-at-large candidate did not get the less-is-more memo. Sadly, he did not hire a proofreader before submitting his sign order. This poor man (Mann) wants voters to know he is a good listener. His sign reads: Your cocerns will be heard!

Cocerns? COCERNS?!?

I am left to wonder if anyone noticed this error before planting signs all over town and, if so, when did they notice? Why didn’t they do something about it? Why are the signs allowed to stand? Did someone notice and decide it wasn’t an error worth fixing? After all, when our own president regularly mangles the English language (tapp?) on Twitter and on the evening news, maybe spelling doesn’t matter anymore.

In the spirit of that old religious edict about casting stones, let me be the first to point out that I’ve made many errors in my own work. I once edited a magazine where I failed to catch a typo that substituted the word ‘pubic’ for ‘public’ in a bit of small print. I would not, however, have mounted and displayed that error in large print throughout a city. Also, that was a magazine containing thousands of words. This man’s sign contained only 11 words. There is a higher bar to clear when you are dealing with fewer than a dozen words.

Maybe I’m being hypercritical. Maybe my concern is misplaced. I know what Candidate Mann meant to say. Maybe that’s enough. It bugs me, though. How can a man with such sloppy attention to detail possibly be a good public servant? It doesn’t really matter what I think. I’m not a resident of this city. I don’t get a vote. I should be less judgmental and more forgiving. That’s the real message of those crosses planted in yards and I know that too. Even though it looks barbaric to me, I know the crosses are supposed to remind us of sacrifice and forgiveness. Still, I can’t help seeing what I see.

Maybe I’m the problem here.

 

Published in Mississippi The South Writing

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