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Natchez has a good vibe going after election

It seems the mood is a little brighter in Natchez today, the future more hopeful.

On Tuesday evening after votes were counted, friends and supporters of Mayor-elect Dan Gibson gathered on the bluff for a victory celebration that was every bit a reflection of Gibson’s campaign — inclusive, positive, forward-looking.

The feelings of excitement and relief were evident. People were breathing a little more deeply.

I sat back on our beautiful bluff on a beautiful night and watched and thought to myself how much Natchez needs what Dan Gibson is capable of bringing to us — unity, kindness, sincerity, hard work and hope. The crowd of white, black and brown people were smiling, clapping hands and swaying to the music of local blues icon YZ Ealey.

Natchez needs those things more than anything right now. When I returned to my hometown a little more than a year ago, it struck me as a place so much more divided than the Natchez of my youth, so depressed, so angry.

Much like our nation, people of Natchez seem to be dug in along racial or ideological divides. And because of social media — which I think is the most destructive creation of my lifetime — all of our conversations are one-sided. We no longer listen to each other. We spout vitriol we would never share face-to-face with someone. It seems all civility and kindness are lost.

Social media has no room for bridge building, and that’s destroying us as a civil society.

It was a relief to many — and an attribute to the man — that Dan Gibson ran his campaign in a way that was absolutely positive, focused on what he could bring to the city, rather than one that was critical of his opponent.

Many said Dan did a great job of reaching out to the Natchez black community, but the truth is, he was part of that community long before he chose to run for mayor, another attribute to the man.

We told our readers before the primary it was difficult for us to choose between Tony Fields and Dan, and that was the truth.

It was not difficult for us to make our endorsement of Dan in the general election.

In the spirit of kindness, I am choosing to think Phillip West’s intentions were the best, but I was sorely disappointed when I watched video of West tearing down Dan and his record, of him referring to Natchez as a hick town, of him blaming a lack of jobs in Natchez on the owners of antebellum homes here.

How ridiculous. What a worn-out claim.

None of those things could be further from the truth. Hearing West on those videos try to rile up his base with that same old divisive rhetoric made me sad for the man.

Thank goodness Natchez voters saw beyond it. Voters white and black showed they are ready to leave the division behind and work together in a unified way to create a better, prosperous community for all of our children and grandchildren.

It’s a new day in Natchez. We’re cheering you on, Dan! Let’s do this.

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Natchez Democrat. You may reach her at 601-445-3627 or by email at jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com.

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