Here's a test. Which is more likely to stir up trouble:
A. Wolf-whistling at a passing blonde, then finding out it's a guy with long hair;
B. Going through communion and asking for seconds; or,
C. Reminding the "flaggers" that they're losers.
If you answered "C," then join me in dodging the barbs from the stampeding herd (OK, if six is a herd) of modern Confederates.
Flaggers are the people who want Georgia to once again have the same flag that it got in 1956. The Legislature back then - without a referendum - removed the First National Flag of the Confederacy from the state flag and replaced it with the Confederate Battle Flag.
In 2001, the Legislature - again, without a referendum - changed the flag to one that looked like it was assembled by a committee.
Then, in 2003, the Legislature - again, without a referendum; I'm seeing a pattern here - got rid of the flag known by detractors as "Roy's Rag" and replaced it with one that looked very similar to the pre-1956 flag, taking us all back to where we started.
On March 2, 2004, Georgia's polls were opened to every registered voter. All of us had the opportunity to decide between "Roy's Rag" and the new flag, which was linked to Gov. Sonny Perdue. By a margin of 73.1 percent to 26.9 percent, voters asked to keep the current state flag.
The end. As state Rep. Tyrone Brooks said, "The debate over the flag is over." I doubt there is one other thing, except maybe some Southern food, on which I agree with Brooks. But in this case he is absolutely correct.
The flaggers don't see it that way. Rather than accept the will of the voters as recorded, they complain that the Battle Flag wasn't on the ballot. They whine about boycotts and low turnout, and harp on meaningless polling data. Like it or not, the officially recorded vote is 73.1 to 26.9 - a blowout margin by anyone's standards. (And for the record, on that ballot 1,200 more voters cast votes in the non-binding flag poll than voted for a presidential candidate.)
Also, in my column this past week, I helpfully pointed out to them that Perdue is coming to Columbia County a week from Thursday, and again on June 30. I know the flaggers participate in what is perhaps the nuttiest hobby outside of those people who collect belly-button lint, but it's mostly a harmless spectator sport. Tipping them off on potential protest sites is almost like my civic duty.
Were they happy to get the news? Well, their reactions sound like this:
"You're an idiot."
"Wow, you're a total idiot."
"Enjoy your B.S."
(These are actual quotes, edited for publication.)
Aside from the occasional vulgarities and veiled threats, I do admire the persistence of these folks. But someday they'll have to realize that it isn't just that the battle is over, and that they lost. It's that the battle is over, they lost, and the other side has carried its trophy to the locker room, showered and gone home. The flaggers are still out on the field complaining about bad calls from the referees.
Many of them forget, or don't know, and don't care, that I once supported their cause. I, too, called for the state to have a flag vote that included the 1956 banner as a choice. But after we got a decent-looking flag from the 2003 Legislature and voters approved keeping it, I knew it was time to move on to other issues.
Many flaggers, sadly, are like those Japanese soldiers who even a couple of weeks ago were still being found hiding in the Philippines because no one has told them their side lost World War II.
So the flaggers will continue to come out of their caves to wave their flags and post their signs and call Georgia's governor a liar, all because they can't face the truth:
War's over, boys. Time to go home.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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