St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Jim Ragsdale really wants Mississippian Brett Favre back for another season with the Minnesota Vikings. One of Ragsdale's recent videos for his Minnesota newspaper attempts to humorously contrast Minnesota and Mississippi to demonstrate to Favre why he should return. His jokes - including comments about tornadoes and describing the state as a "cesspool" - were, to put it mildly, in poor taste, particularly in context of the disaster in Yazoo City and the ongoing challenges of oil on the Gulf Coast.

But Ragsdale quickly apologized and explained to YallPolitics.com, "we meant to spoof Minnesota and our obsession with Brett - to make fun of ourselves.

And it was a joke - not a real criticism of a beautiful state."

Ragsdale followed with another video apologizing for the first. Standing in St. Paul by the Mississippi River, he reads a poem: "On the banks of our mutual river; let this stupid Yank deliver; an arrow of respect from the quiver; of one who feels more than 'iver; a link to you and this great river."

Alas, he does not apologize for the poetry. He continues, "Please forgive me Mississippi; you must think I'm a brainless hippy; sometimes my humor is simply dippy...alas my joke leaves a debt; causing you to fume and fret; and to feel again beset; remember the joke is about the threat; to Minnesota of losing Brett." It goes on like that.

Speaking as a person whose own attempts at humor are often found lacking, I accept his apology. Also, speaking as someone whose own attempts at poetry have been found less the adequate, I feel no need to call on Ragsdale to make an apology to literature.

Just as any criticism can be delivered softly by tacking on "bless his heart," so can most jabs be forgiven when delivered in humor and meant in jest. If we are in the least bit sensitive, it is because of others who have unjustly (and unjestly) defamed Mississippi.

In 2006, Congressman Charlie Rangel, a New York Democrat, said, "Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?" Well, lots of us do. The ethically challenged congressman offered a lame apology, "I certainly don't mean to offend anyone. I just love New York so much that I can't understand why everyone wouldn't want to live here." I'll offer one reason: Charlie Rangel.

In 2007, Illinois state Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat, while debating a $28 million renovation of the Illinois Statehouse said, "Certainly, the chamber has to be nice and to befit a state of our stature. It's not like we're Mississippi. We're a rich state." Earlier this year while on vacation, Franks dropped by the Mississippi Capitol and apologized to a number of legislators personally and commented, "I wish our Capitol in Illinois was as nice as this."

In 2008, Hillary Clinton (a Democratic Senator from New York but an Illinois native) ran for President and said, "I was shocked when I learned Iowa and Mississippi have never elected a woman governor, senator or member of Congress...how can Iowa be ranked with Mississippi? That's not what I see. That's not the quality. That's not the communitarianism, that's not the openness I see in Iowa." The implication by the former First Lady of Arkansas was that she expected Mississippi to fail to meet her standards, but not Iowa.

In 2010, Tim Cahill, the Democratic nominee for governor of Massachusetts, took a shot at our Governor Haley Barbour who serves as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Cahill's video attacks "this Republican Governor from Mississippi" with the familiar music of Waylon Jennings singing "Good Ol' Boys" from The Dukes of Hazzard. Cahill uses the Confederate Battle Flag and asks, "Who you gonna believe? A guy from Yazoo City, Mississippi or a guy from Quincy?"

Also this year, Minnesota Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Matt Entenza criticizes in a campaign commercial Minnesota's budget cuts as failures and says, "if budget cuts were always the answer, then Mississippi would be a leader in this country."

Maybe campaign fights are different, but saying someone is not trustworthy because they hail from Yazoo City, Mississippi is certainly not polite, even by Massachusetts standards. And, Governor Barbour's budget cuts demonstrate his leadership, something Entenza should consider.

Whether it is a hometown, a football team, a choice of car, favorite beer, politics, religion: we enjoy rivalries. Teasing can be given and gotten, and in the case of Ragsdale, that is all it was to it. These other examples don't show a good natured ribbing; but rather betrays their actual biases against Mississippi. But bless their hearts, I guess folks from Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts just don't know any better.



Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.