You know, sometimes its funny how things come together. Not humorous funny, but oddly coincidental funny. And there really is nothing humorous about two views of Georgias past that threaten to overshadow the states future:
In this corner, the flaggers.
Last week, as Gov. Sonny Perdue rolled into Augusta to address the Columbia County and Metro Augusta chambers of commerce, his motorcade was greeted by a dozen or more men waving 1956 Georgia state flags and signs calling him a liar.
Many of these same people, or their philosophical kin, were in Atlanta Monday to welcome the states lawmakers back to the Capitol for the opening of the 2004 session of the Georgia General Assembly.
Their cause: To complain that the 56 flag and its Confederate battle emblem wont be on the March referendum in which voters will likely ratify Georgias new flag; and to attack any politician they deem responsible for that omission.
As governor, Perdue angered the flaggers because he didnt veto the bill creating the referendum. But hes not the only target; some flaggers have even created a wanted-poster deck of playing cards with pictures of lawmakers who disagree with the flaggers viewpoint. The cards are similar to the decks the U.S. military printed depicting Iraqs criminals.
In the opposite corner, the racial guilt-trippers.
By way of example: An exhibit will soon open at the University of Georgias Tate Center Art Gallery in Athens. Its called 552 Georgians: A Memorial. The exhibit features 552 nooses, and is intended to signify the number of Georgians lynched between 1880 and 1930.
Only by acknowledging the grim reality of our collective history can we continue the process of healing and reconciliation between the races, says John English, who assembled the display.
Now, a reality check for any folks whove come to the screeching conclusion that Im equating the Confederate battle flag with lynching - especially those cheered by the prospect.
Thats not what these two stories have in common. Where these sides meet is in their competing, yet similar, belief that Georgias future must be shaped by a narrow slice of our states past.
In both cases, these groups are focused on aspects of our states history that have ever-dwindling relevance to Georgias future. One group denounces any hints that the Souths past includes dark deeds; the other works just as hard to portray the South as an unbroken line of murderous racists.
These two visions of the Souths history are so absolute they no longer even qualify as a debate; the minority portraying Southern heritage as stainless is the polar opposite of the handful who denounce us all as criminals. Never the twain shall meet, and in the middle are those of us fed up at being verbally abused by both sides.
And more of us ought to say so.
love my state, and I am sick and tired of those who beat up on anyone who doesnt agree with their unwavering view that Georgia should be represented only by the symbol their great-grandfathers carried into a brief war. More so, perhaps reflecting my own bias, Im disgusted with those who seek to harass us through sermonetes that are supposed to make us grovel in guilt for the transgressions of long-dead ancestors.
Neither side accurately portrays our states past, much less the good people who live here now. When legitimate heritage groups put all their eggs in the battle-flag basket, they diminish an important part of our history. And when race-baiting hustlers ignore progress in favor of dwelling on pain, their gloom obsession turns even supporters away.
Georgia wont move forward by looking backward. Enough with the flaggers and the guilt-trippers: time, and people of good will, have passed you by.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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