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March 4, 2009
Columbus is known as the Friendly City, something I pointed out last week, commenting that it was "a pretty good nickname, as it''s tough to find an unfriendly person."
The paper was barely on the street and the column on the Web site before a challenge landed in my e-mail inbox.
"Unfortunately, I have to disagree," the writer said. "I moved here recently from a state that knows a little something about being friendly ... Texas. Now, I have lived in many, many different cities all over in Texas, ranging from large to very small -- even smaller than Columbus.
"I have been to several banks, several stores of different varieties, gas stations, grocery stores, and several other places here in Columbus and have never been treated so rudely. I have rarely been greeted, and when I have spoken to someone, quite often all I get is a stare before they walk off ... and that''s if I even get the stare. I have stopped patronizing several stores already because it''s happened not just once or twice, but several times. I even prefer to drive to Starkville or West Point if I need to go to Wal-Mart because the people and employees are much friendlier there.
"Now, that being said," he continued, "I have had the good fortune to meet some wonderful, friendly people. But in my humble opinion, Columbus having the nickname ''The Friendly City'' is not accurate ... at least not right now. But hey, it''s never too late to change!"
The writer asked not to be identified, presumably to escape the vengeance of this city''s more unfriendly element.
The Friendly City? Unfriendly? Unfriendlier than Texas? Granted, Texas is known for its friendliness, unless you''re on death row. But please, let''s not let Columbus'' few bad apples ruin the barrel.
Examples of our friendliness abound. Some that spring to mind: How our local university leadership and alumni have come together to amicably resolve their differences. The collegial spirit that exists among our county supervisors. I could go on.
Maybe Mr. Texas is on to something -- the Friendly City, while generally friendly, could be friendlier.
The latest episode of Friendly City unfriendliness played out last week, when Supervisor Harry Sanders removed from the courthouse door a flyer advertising a fund-raiser for Supervisor Leroy Brooks, asserting that it was against the law to advertise a political function on county property. Brooks re-posted the flyer. The two men argued in a courthouse office and into a hallway. Things then got physical -- they bumped bellies, and Sanders reportedly pushed Brooks.
OK, not friendly. But please understand, sweet Texas newcomer, this is expected from these two -- they argue all the time. The incident was the same song, different verse. Verbal and physical altercations among our elected leaders are apparently accepted under the "Friendly" umbrella.
(Do grown-ups actually have physical fights -- that is, when not paid to do it in a ring or a cage? And while presumably sober, in an office setting, in the middle of the day? Most people grow out of that kind of thing in grade school, especially those one might expect to be in a position of authority.)
If this is the bar our leaders have set for us, be happy with the blank stare you may or may not get from a salesperson. It could be worse.
Of course, Brooks and Sanders might argue that they''re "county," not city. The Friendly City moniker doesn''t apply. I''ll bump my belly against whomever I want, in whatever public building I choose.
The antics would be hilarious, the stuff of a wacky sitcom, if our situation weren''t so dire and the need for leadership from all quarters so great right now. It''s not about who is right and who is wrong. It''s about growing up -- putting on your big-boy pants and working amicably together.
As Mr. Texas says, it''s never too late to change. Here''s hoping that some of us finally do.
Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.