This article is part of the The Great American Reach Around series.

Pascagoula, Mississippi

We complete today's journey through the Deep South in Mississippi. The state's motto is Virtute et armis or "By Valor and Arms", but I think Mississippi's motto should be "The Number One State." Every year the US government census consistently ranks Mississippi at or near the very top of a number of important metrics.

Mississippi is number one in traffic fatalities, number one in persons below the poverty level, number one in unemployment, and number one in the prestigious infant mortality rate race, beating out regular rivals Alabama and Louisiana. Mississippi can't always be a winner, though, and it ranks a mere 45 out of 50 when it comes to high school graduation. Come on Mississippi, almost 60% of high school freshmen go on to graduate. Get that number lower! You can beat 50th ranked South Carolina one of these years.

Perhaps I am being a bit mean with Mississippi. It may be poor and dangerous for infants there, but there is a lot to love about the state. It is the state with more Bible colleges than any other state, making Mississippians the go-to-experts for your Bible-related questions. Mississippi borders the beautiful Gulf Coast and plays host to a number of importing ports and naval yards.

In 2005 Mississippi's GDP was 81 billion dollars, putting it ahead of national economic powerhouses like Uzbekistan and Sudan and bringing it even with the GDP of the city of Pittsburgh. When you think of Pittsburgh, just think of all of the fabulous riches of Mississippi. You know, just spread among a lot fewer people and condensed into a much smaller area.

Pascagoula is situated along the Gulf Coast in the shadow of Biloxi. It is a refinery town with a skyline that speaks of its industrial roots. It is also, like Biloxi, very much a US Navy town. Ingalls Shipbuilding, own by Northrop Grumman (see: Military Industrial Complex), is one of America's largest naval yards.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Republican Senator Trent Lott had a house in Pascagoula, but this was sadly destroyed in the storm. It is also the home town of Jimmy Buffet, who has remained respectful of his roots by not building one of his Cheeseburger in Paradise franchise restaurants there. Coincidentally, he must really fucking hate Indiana.

Pascagoula, Biloxi, and most of Mississippi's Gulf Coast region remain in a state of disrepair following Hurricane Katrina. Much of Pascagoula was completely flattened by the storm and even the more robust industrial facilities were damaged or ruined by flooding that inundated over 90% of the city. The much-maligned FEMA trailers are still visible in parts of Pascagoula and recovery in the city has been slow.

Life goes on. Families have moved back, houses have been and are being rebuilt, and work at Pascagoula's refineries and shipyards continues. It is the story of the Gulf Coast in the Deep South, from Alabama to Louisiana.

Some day, if we all pray hard enough and harness all of Mississippi's Bible knowledge, Trent Lott might just be able to rebuild his house in Pascagoula.

Woof! That was an epic installment of our American portion! It's getting hot in here, so let's continue on with the chilly foreign portion of this week's journey.

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