If it were up to the majority of people in the state of Georgia, slavery would still be legal and lynching would still be the law of the land.
Rev. Charles White Jr.
NAACP Southeast Region director
It is hard to believe how irrational some people become at the prospect of voters having the opportunity to cast a ballot.
When Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed a vote on Georgias state flag, some folks just went nuts. State House Speaker Terry Coleman says a vote threatens progress on human rights. And the NAACP warns it will boycott Georgia if voters are allowed even to consider a return to the flag with the Confederate battle emblem.
Never mind that South Carolinas tourism industry actually made big gains after the NAACPs similar boycott began in the Palmetto State. These folks are promising economic terrorism not because Georgia actually changes flags, but only because voters may be given a opportunity to say if theyd like to change. And its a non-binding vote!
This is an issue that Ive said before I wish would just get out of the way. Now, it will linger until March 2, 2004, when Perdue wants the two-question poll on the states party-primary ballots.
The first question would be a yea or nay on the current flag (I give a resounding nay) The second offers a choice between the former flag with the Con-federate battle emblem, or Georgias flag design that flew until 1956 (my personal preference).
Its all non-binding. It will let Perdue to live up to his promise to allow a vote, and the whole thing will then be in the laps of lawmakers to decide how to handle the results - and how to run for re-election afterward.
But the NAACP and their allies arent just threatening an economic boycott of Georgia; theyre also threatening to skip the flag vote.
That threat, however, will run into some serious opposition - and it will come from state and national Democrats.
Why? Well, Georgias March 2, 2004 primary is early enough in the presidential election season to make the state a serious battleground for Democratic candidates. Most of them have been dusting off their liberal credentials to attract the imporant black voting block; but if black voters dont participate in the presidential primary, the results would favor less-liberal Democrats.
The NAACP and its allies, then, have a choice: Vote like everyone else and maybe nominate Al Sharpton for president; or boycott the ballot and get stuck with a conservative Democrat (not that any of those rare creatures are running, I notice).
I just changed my mind. Now I see why theyre getting hysterical.
A final note:
I was saddened to note the passing recently of a couple of people in the community.
Former Columbia County deputy Mike Newsome departed under tragic conditions. Hed survived the administrations of five sheriffs and then served magistrate court, yet sadly took his own life. A good man gone.
Also, the Rev. Timothy Fellows Sr. died of a heart attack. Fellows was infamous for what many saw as intolerent, hard-right religious views. When a stroke took his ability to speak, Fellows began standing on street corners in Augusta with a sign that read Repent or Perish on one side, and Turn or Burn on the other.
The Bible warns that God demands hot or cold; He doesnt put up with lukewarm. Whether we agreed with Fellows or not, there was nothing tepid about him. I edited his often-harsh letters to the editor for 7 1/2 years at The Chronicle, and while we frequently disagreed, I never had to wonder where he stood.
Hot or cold, we could use more men like that.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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