The talk of Mississippi these days – notwithstanding its having three universities in post-season bowl games – is whether Gov. Haley Barbour doomed any chance he had of being the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 with his curious defense of the state’s notorious Civil Rights-era white Citizens Councils.

In an interview with the conservative Weekly Standard, Barbour spoke enthusiastically of the chapter in his hometown, Yazoo City, boasting how it wouldn’t tolerate the Ku Klux Klan – but somehow forgetting that the councils statewide just eschewed cross-burning for subtler forms of intimidation.

Barbour’s gaffe and subsequent backtracking were all over the newspapers and TV newscasts while I was home visiting relatives earlier this week. But the story that really caught my eye  was on the front-page of my hometown paper, the Laurel Leader-Call.

The article detailed plans by the Jones County Sheriff’s Department for a fund-raising gospel concert in January. Sheriff  Alex Hodge  said that the event, to be headlined by the Grammy-nominated Triumphant Quartet out of Nashville, will provide “a good opportunity for the community to come together in celebration of the gospel message of Jesus Christ.”

It will also help re-arm him and his deputies.

Proceeds from the concert, the Leader-Call reported, will go toward a sheriff’s department wish list that includes 42 tasers, a cell-phone jammer and 10 tactical rifles for the S.W.A.T. team.

This struck me as highly ironic, but I’m no New Testament scholar. Maybe this is exactly what Jesus meant by “blessed are the peacemakers.” How it fits in with that bit about turning the other cheek, though, still has me baffled.

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Noel Holston

Noel Holston

Noel Holston, originally from Laurel, Miss., is a freelance journalist, songwriter, storyteller and actor who lives in Athens, Ga., with his wife, singer-songwriter Marty Winkler. In a previous life, he was the TV critic at Newsday in New York and, before that, a critic and feature writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Orlando Sentinel.