CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)
HED:Go ahead, Bob, do what you have got to do
By Rick Hynum
An open letter to Dr. Robert Khayat, chancellor, University of Mississippi:
Hotty-toddy, look away, look away and all that jazz! You probably won't remember me, but we met briefly nearly four years ago during my short tenure as an Ole Miss P.R. writer. You shook my hand warmly and said, "Nice to meet you, Dick!" And I thought to myself, "Hmm. Ex-football player ... firm handshake ... lousy with names ... why, he's got all the makings of a future chancellor!" And I was right.
But now you're in a serious pickle. I imagine the death threats are pouring in. You've probably had to hire some poor work/study slob to taste your food.
Well, Bob, I'm here to help. I feel I owe it to Ole Miss. It was a dream job for me. The pay stank, but, I gotta tell you, the fringe benefits were unbeatable. They put me up in faculty/staff housing right smack-dab in the middle of Sorority Row. Chi Os and Tri Delts everywhere! I swear, they were all blondes, heartbreakingly beautiful, and, bless their little, pea-pickin' hearts, they were frequently drunk.
There's nothing like the radiant, liquored-up glow of an Ole Miss coed's smile to melt your Bulldog stickers right off the bumper. Resistance was futile. Before long, I was shouting hotty-toddies in the Grove and working on my richer-than-thou smirk. Only problem was, I was poorer than thou couldst imagine, Bob, and I soon realized that my daddy wasn't going to spring for a brand-new Beemer.
So, I had to quit. But I left with a deep and abiding love and respect for Ole Miss and its people. It is, beyond a doubt, Mississippi's premier university.
Which brings me to my point: the "symbol controversy."
Take it from me, Bob. You gotta bite the bullet. Suck it up. Dump the Confederate traditions and move on.
Personally, I've got mixed emotions about the whole thing. I dislike the flag, but I hate political correctness even more. As far as I know, the U.S. Constitution offers no guarantees against getting one's feelings hurt.
But we Mississippians take our symbols seriously. We take the symbol of a thing more seriously than that which the symbol represents. A lot of so-called Ole Miss "supporters" would sooner see Ole Miss crumble to dust before they'd let a symbol of Ole Miss fall into disgrace. It's a funny way to show school spirit, I know, but there you have it.
I remember Ole Miss's P.R. nightmares on national race issues. Every time a black man and a white man in, say, Ottumwa, Iowa, exchanged so much as a cross-eyed look, it signaled a coming race war by CNN's standards and, somehow, inevitably, James Meredith's name came up. Soon, our office was flooded with calls from sneering, condescending, big-city Yankee reporters who chose to remain blithely ignorant about racial tensions festering in their own urban back yards and focus, instead, on troubles in Oxford more than 30 years ago.
Talk about an image problem! This one's got long, sturdy legs. And it will hound Ole Miss 'till doomsday.
Bob, forget about doing the "right" thing, whatever that may be. Do the smart thing. You, of all people, know that Ole Miss itself is more important than its symbols.
Oh, sure, folks will kick and scream and holler. There will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. But this, too, will pass.
Just drive them over to Proud Larry's and unveil your brand-new mascot: a liquored-up Tri Delt in a sleeveless, floral-patterned sun dress.
Gosh-a-mighty! Now there's a mascot we can all live with.
Well, maybe not the feminists, but, uh ...
Aw, shoot. I just spotted a couple of rough-looking chicks burning a bra in my front yard. No wonder I didn't last long in the P.R. biz.
Anyway, Bob, take it from me. There's just no pleasing some people. You know what you've got to do. Just do it. And, one day, I predict, Mississippians of all races will thank you for it.
Rick Hynum is a Daily Journal staff writer.