Monday, February 11, 2008

Utah lawmakers take shots at N.C., other Southern states

I realize that it's sort of second nature for Americans from one state to make fun of other states. Virginians pick on North Carolinians; North Carolinians pick on South Carolinians. (Do North Dakotans and South Dakotans go at each other as well?) There are, of course, those states that seemingly everyone picks on in one form or another: West Virginia. Mississippi. New Jersey. California.

The most embarrassed I've ever felt for another state, though, was at a national conference for local government associations when folks from Pennsylvania were describing their state as "Pittsburgh in the west, Philly in the east, and Alabama up the middle." That was not a compliment to the good people of Alabama (some of whom were in the audience).

I say all this to illustrate that it is common practice to rib one another about our respective states. Nothing wrong with that ... unless you're an elected state government official who happens to do this in public. For no good reason, mind you.

That's what has happened lately in the great state of Utah, according to the Associated Press.

If "any state should be sensitive to the problem of bashing another's reputation based on stereotypes, it ought to be Utah," writes the AP.

"But three weeks into their legislative session, lawmakers here have questioned the patriotism of Alabama and North Carolina on the floor of the House and have mocked Arkansas as an illiterate state on the Senate floor."

Utah state Sen. Darin Peterson, R-Nephi, "couldn't resist taking a seemingly irrelevant shot at Arkansas on Jan. 31 as he summed up discussion on a bill about the use of vehicles by Department of Corrections employees.

"Peterson was being corrected by Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, that his bill had a fiscal note, but no fiscal impact.

" 'Thank you for that. But you know, as they say in Arkansas, literacy ain't everything,' Peterson said as several of his colleagues nervously laughed along."

Arkansas' education system was not the only education system in the South to come under attack from Utah lawmakers, though.

In a debate Friday over whether the House should pass a resolution encouraging school districts to give students Veterans Day off, Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, suggested Utah's schools were more patriotic than their Southern counterparts.

Sumsion said that when he lived in Alabama and North Carolina, he was offended that school districts there didn't give students Memorial Day off, suggesting they declined to do so because of lingering resentment from the Civil War.

"Having been raised in Utah and kind of taught by my family to respect that day for what it stands for, I was really offended and taken back," Sumsion said. "Well, if you understand the history of where Memorial Day comes from, then you might understand what the issue was in these districts."

Memorial Day was declared an official holiday in May 1868, three years after the war ended and more than two years before the last Southern states were readmitted to the Union. ...

Still, it's not uncommon for Southern school districts to recognize Memorial Day as a holiday. That includes many districts in North Carolina, a state with some of the nation's largest military bases and numerous Memorial Day observances.

I, for one, am pleased that the AP pointed out the vast amount of support that North Carolina provides to the nation's military. Should we pay more attention to Memorial Day? Perhaps. But that's not for someone in Utah to decide.


The Senate Site said...


TSnow said...

Before critizing others, he should go home and ask his wives their thoughts on dangling prepostions when speaking. As for Memorial Day, this is why importnat issues never get resolved. It's too easy to drum up some hot-button pseudo-issue to rally support. Why talk about entitlements, immigration, the war, or the environment when you can talk about flag-burning, stem-cells, and whether or not State should play ECU.

M. Lail said...

Allow me to pick on my own state for a second (based on something you wrote, Mr. Snow): How embarrassing is it that, despite all the other important issues that should've been discussed in our legilsature, a football game between two state universities seemed to take precedence?! And, not only that, the game (or lack thereof) was used as a threat, as blackmail. ("Will help fund your new basketball arena -- but only if you come play our school in football.") Ridiculous.

If the esteemed representatives from Utah want to crack on us about that, then so be it.

James Curle said...

Suck on THAT, Mormons!