I am one of the so-called Georgia flaggers, and according to Barry Paschal a "sorehead," though I and the other Georgia flaggers I know would dispute that charge (column, June 8, "Governor soon will visit county").
I am a Baptist evangelist who traveled more than 10,000 miles campaigning for Gov. Sonny Perdue. I did that because the governor told me and four other Baptist ministers that he believed the people should have a voice in their state flag, and if he was elected we would have an opportunity to vote on the 1956 Confederate memorial state flag. There was no equivocation, no hedging, no I'll try; it was a promise.
We are all grown men and we know that the way to tell when a politician is lying is when their lips move, but candidate Perdue was a deacon in the Baptist Church and in all honesty I couldn't believe that he was capable of lying to Baptist ministers face to face. Clearly we were mistaken; certainly not the first time that has happened, and likely not the last time, either.
So we are on opposite sides of a political debate. I'm as respected in my field as Paschal is in his. Both are entitled to our opinions, and it is the right of every American and Georgian to express that political opinion in whatever legal means are available.
Putting up signs, waving the 1956 Confederate memorial state flag and yelling at the governor are all legal means of expressing disapproval of his political policy and, in this case, bold-face lying. I would think of all the people in the world, a newspaper editor would support our efforts, as they represent free speech without which your paper could be shut down if it ever printed anything a government official didn't like.
It is interesting that instead of supporting our right, if not our message, Paschal chose to call us names like a mischievous eighth-grader who can't get his point across without name-calling. He has every right to disagree with us. He certainly doesn't have to like us, nor even respect the great effort it takes for people with jobs and families to travel all over the state just to protest the governor. But he doesn't have the right to call us names because we don't agree with his opinion.
To be clear, the governor's race of 2006 will likely prove or disprove the facts about the influence the flag protesters really have. If the governor is re-elected, we may not fade away, but our credibility will certainly suffer. If the governor loses to Mark Taylor or Cathy Cox, then people like Paschal will say that we had nothing to do with the governor's defeat, but we both will know the truth.
If the governor loses it will be because of the flag, which if you think about it is totally ironic, because neither Democrat Taylor or Cox is likely to favor changing the flag back. There is such a thing as respecting your enemies because you know where they stand, and that is much better than having to worry about the hand patting you on the back holding a knife from a so-called friend.
The date of the governor's visit will likely draw a few flaggers. Since July 30 is on a Saturday, I might even be able to attend from up here in north Georgia, if I do I'll try to bring a friend or two.
There is one factual error in Paschal's column, and even the Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff who hates us wouldn't go as far as he did in his comment about the Perdue rag, "Voters approved Perdue's design overwhelmingly." The voters largely stayed away from voting; fewer than 14 percent of the registered voters showed up to vote on the flag issue, and a third of them voted for the Barnes rag. All the major heritage groups ... urged their voters to boycott the vote, and they did. According to my dictionary that is hardly overwhelming.
Creative Loafing printed a story recently that said the official sign for the state of Georgia is "Sonny Lied." I think it is safe to say you haven't seen anything yet. ...
William H. Swann
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