County commissioners Tuesday have an important decision to make on what should be a relatively easy choice: Whether to grant a liquor license to Rhinehart's Oyster Bar. (See editorial.)
County voters, and those throughout Georgia, also Tuesday have an important decision: Whether to approve the state's current flag or to suggest a return to a previous banner.
This question appears as a "special statewide advisory referendum election" in other words, a straw poll on Tuesday's presidential preference primary ballots for Republicans and Democrats: "Should the State of Georgia keep the 2003 Flag adopted at the 2003 Session of the General Assembly or return to the 2001 Flag adopted at the 2001 Session of the General Assembly?"
Voters then are asked to mark a preference under a picture of the state's current flag, championed last year by Gov. Sonny Perdue, or the previous flag, raised two years earlier by then-Gov. Roy Barnes.
If the vote were based on nothing more than appearance, the current flag would get near-unanimous approval. It is a simple, elegant banner derived from the flag that flew over the state from 1879 to 1956.
The Barnes flag looks like it was patched together by a committee of the politically correct and the aesthetically challenged. It was judged by a flag organization as the world's ugliest banner.
But Tuesday's vote isn't so clear-cut. When Barnes raised his flag in 2001, it meant hauling down the state's 1956-2001 banner that was dominated by the Confederate Battle Flag. Southern heritage groups were furious, and fought for Barnes' defeat in 2002.
After his election, Perdue worked to change the flag. Many in the Legislature were sick of all the acrimony, and while they didn't like Barnes' banner, they also didn't want a return to the Battle Flag and all the baggage it brings with it.
Like it or not and we don't for many the Battle Flag is a racist symbol. It is a losing battle, a fool's errand, to attempt to win hearts and minds to believe otherwise.
Defenders of Southern heritage disagree. When the Legislature last year replaced Barnes' patchwork banner with the current flag, those sons of the South transferred their uncompromising hatred to Perdue because he accepted the new flag as a compromise.
The current flag is based on Georgia's banner adopted after the War Between the States, and its design was endorsed at that time by a committee of Confederate veterans. And why wouldn't they? It was derived from the First National Flag of the Confederacy.
But modern "flaggers" reject the judgment of those venerated forefathers, demanding a banner featuring a Battle Flag insignia. They've branded Perdue a "liar" because he didn't veto the bill setting up Tuesday's referendum, which they believe should include the flag that flew in Georgia from 1956 to 2001.
Right or wrong, the Confederate battle flag isn't on the ballot. The state's current flag is, and we believe voters should endorse it and help bring closure to an era of meaningless, divisive debate. It really is an easy choice.
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