As I am beginning a new life in the Mississippi Delta, I was reminded of how insulted I was when a columnist in the Commercial Appeal suggested it was just time to give up on the Delta and "move the people to a place where they could be helped". There are so many things wrong with this statement..moving people..helping them (as if we want to be moved or need "their" help) that I could not even bring myself to deal with them all, but I had to voice my support for the Delta even back in 2009. I am not sure opinion has changed much since then, so those of us that care, need to still be vigilant and make the case for why the Delta matters! Here is my letter to the editor from November 22, 2009.
"In your Nov. 8, 2009 Viewpoint article "Bluer blues / Grim figures tell of region on the ropes," economist David Ciscel said, "It's probably time to recognize that economic development in many rural counties is hopeless. Yes, we should care about the Delta, but we should not try to improve it any longer. It is time to move the people to a place where they can be helped."
I guess that means we just turn out the lights, lock the gates and wave goodbye on our way out of town. After all, to an economist, it is "irrational" for people to be living in the Delta anyway. Since they are "irrational," we have to step up and help them. It is our duty. This is what Ciscel seems to be saying, and I find it totally unacceptable.
First, I can't imagine that the lights would be out for long. Someone would design a way to make the Delta productive; its land and resources are too valuable to leave fallow. But the people who had sweated for generations over it would be gone and it would be new investors who would profit. Maybe that's the plan.
Perhaps the problem is that we have been looking to 20th century solutions for the Delta. Little to no new manufacturing is being developed anywhere in the U.S., so why do we think it is the solution in the Delta?
What about micro-loans for new small businesses? What about continued efforts to bring needed 21st century infrastructure, such as Internet, cable and wireless communications, so new business models could work in the Delta? What about creating a spoke-and-hub system, capitalizing on areas that can become regional centers of growth and opportunity to feed the Delta's more remote rural areas?
My Delta grandfather always told me that our land in Louise, Miss., was holding the world together. If it weren't there, our world would fall apart. My child's mind could so easily picture that; it made perfect sense to me then and does to this day. The Delta is indeed important, and to suggest we just walk away from it is not an alternative.
Cristie Upshaw Travis