Gary C. Harrell
3 min readSep 13, 2021

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[Published in The Enterprise Journal of McComb, Mississippi, on 10 September 2021. https://www.enterprise-journal.com/letters-opinion/letter-blocked-i-55-exit-sent-bad-signal#sthash.ffddw4OW.dpbs]

So let me get this straight: our region has been hit by - and, in some places, decimated by - one of the biggest catastrophes in a generation, and in response, when the victims of this event venture out to find resources that are in limited supply, the town of McComb, Mississippi, elects to close its doors? Seriously?

To Mayor Quordiniah Lockley and the McComb Police Department - let me say this. Your small-town provincialism is shameful, unnecessary, and potentially a violation of the interstate commerce clause. (Please refer to the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hotel of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States.)There are ways to welcome those who are desperate and in need, but still willing to spend their hard-earned dollars with your merchants. Your police department could have effectively directed traffic in a manner that posed no risk to public safety. But that you were turning away those travelers from the south speaks volumes about your limited capacity to innovate solutions or to, well, lead without controversy.

This only speaks to the bigger problem in this town. McComb has been plagued by a lack of vision - yes, even under your leadership, Mr Lockley. It has too easily found comfort in the vestiges of old and dated ideas, and rather than strive to crank its engine to become a real commercial hub, it would rather forego investment, not welcome outside talent and ideas, lose its own best minds, saddle its people with Old World job opportunities, denigrate its poor, view the misfortune of violence as something foreign, and continue generations of racial- and class-based politics. Hell, the town cannot even entertain the idea of having a movie theater without the conversation becoming one about which demographic of patrons will frequent it more.

Provincialism sours progress, and it finds its roots in a scarcity mindset. Rather that find common cause and work toward the best interests of the whole, scared people operate with an "us versus them" approach; they come to see resources as limited, and ready themselves to challenge others for them. It is a shortsighted and apathetic perspective, but it is pervasive. One day, it's sibling against sibling, or family against family, or black against white. And now, for these small minds, it's them against the folks from Louisiana creating a "traffic nightmare" that might have been better resolved with foresight and direction from law enforcement.

No community exists in isolation from the hardships of its neighbors. In a time like this, McComb, largely less-affected than its neighbors to the south, should serve as a beacon of hope and refuge. It should seize upon the moment to showcase its charm and hospitality to others. It should demonstrate its capacity to be relevant and, from there, court the dollars to further drive its economic development. But, alas, Mr Lockley and MPD - you did not do that. You shut us out. And that is a sad thing - not just for travelers visiting McComb, but also for locals. Indeed, simply consider this closing thought: blocking the off-ramp at Delaware could have posed a serious hazard to anyone, local or otherwise, seeking medical attention at Southwest Regional Medical Center. Should that have been the case, how then would you have justified the closure?

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Gary C. Harrell

Entrepreneur. Writer. Son. Brother. Friend… Visit www.garyharrell.net to learn more.