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Adele Elliott: No state is an island (with apologies to John Donne)


Adele Elliott



Most of the time, Mississippi seems like an island, surrounded by the rest of the states. In many ways, that is a good thing. This state, especially the Golden Triangle area, has less crime than many other places and possesses a wealth of creative talent and natural beauty. 


We hear of car bombings, suicide bombings, assassinations and executions, for the most part, in countries that we can barely pronounce. Usually, they are just stories in the news, not affecting our daily life. The bombings in Boston, although horrible, still felt far away. 


That sense of isolation from terrorism faded a bit recently when U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (of Mississippi), along with President Obama and a state judge, received letters laced with the poison ricin. 


At first, a Corinth resident, Paul Kevin Curtis, was arrested, then released. Curtis is an Elvis impersonator and the author of the book "Missing Parts," about black-market body parts being used in Mississippi hospitals (Associated Press, April 24, 2013). No, I did not make this up. 


Authorities then turned their investigation on another Mississippi man, Everett Dutschke. 


Both men claim to be innocent. "I'm a patriotic American ... I did not send the letters," said Dutschke, who was a Republican candidate for the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2007 but lost. (AP) 


"I don't even eat rice," Curtis said after he was released from custody. 


No matter who sent the poison mail, the fact remains that the sender was probably from right here in Mississippi. That thought alone is reason for concern. And it means that, although we may be perceived by some as "that land mass between New Orleans and Mobile," we are truly connected not only to the rest of the country, but the entire world. We are "a piece of the continent, a part of the main." (John Donne) 


I suppose we can thank the Internet for that. Good or bad, it is here to stay, and is our connection to everyone else on the globe. 


I decided to check the Internet for the process for making ricin. (Note to my neighbors: This was strictly research. I do not plan to make poison.) I found dozens of recipes for making it, all involving castor beans. In the spirit of full disclosure, I also found an article that says, " ... any website that tells you ricin can be obtained from castor oil is wrong. Castor oil is essentially free from the toxin." ("The Myth About Learning How to Make Ricin from the Internet," Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.,, March 1, 2008). So the answer is that maybe you can make it, maybe you cannot. 


I am certainly not suggesting that we render the Internet illegal. I am so addicted that Facebook and Internet games have become a drug to me. I am only suggesting that we become aware that the world is full of destructive and insane people, some of whom may live in our own back yard. We just need to realize that "no man is an island" is truer today than it was 400 years ago. We are genuinely "involved in mankind."


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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