Why the old Georgia flag will never return

By Nick Ryder
Special to the Telegraph, 1/11/03

While campaigning for governor, Sonny Perdue said he favored a referendum on the Georgia state flag. He should live up to his campaign pledge. But the referendum should not be about the return of the 1956 flag.

Be honest with yourself, that standard was designed not to honor Confederate ancestors but to stick a thumb in the eye of those wishing to end segregation.

The referendum should be to decide on a flag the majority of Georgians can rally behind, be it historical or of original design. The voter’s statewide, not just inside the Atlanta beltway, should make the determination. We will never satisfy everyone, but if a selection is offered, and a vote is taken we may finally bury this issue.

The uninspiring, thrown together compromise banner soon-to-be former Gov. Roy Barnes and his henchmen gave us accomplished only one thing. It got the specter of the black boycott monkey off the back of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. It is not a Georgia flag – it is an Atlanta business flag.

Those of you whose primary reason for voting against Barnes was because of the underhanded way he changed the state flag were perfectly justified. For going behind the backs of the average citizen of Georgia to appease certain vocal constituencies in such a conniving way, he had to go. I’m sure in his way of thinking he did the right thing but, good riddance.

Let’s not get wound around the axle over this issue though. The Confederate battle flag is one of the most aesthetically beautiful and proud banners ever to fly anywhere. But, Georgia’s flag must represent something positive to all the citizens of this state.

Even its most ardent supporters have to admit that not every native-born son and daughter of Georgia share in their veneration of this flag because of what it regrettably has come to represent.

Up until 50 years ago or so, the Confederate battle flag symbolized a shared honor for the descendants of those who had fought so ferociously against the overwhelming odds faced by the South in its war of secession.

Those of you whose ancestor’s lungs never screamed the "rebel yell" or rose from mud-filled trenches and fought beneath these colors will not stand much of a chance of understanding the sense of pride it instills.

To many of us in the brotherhood of those who did, the battle flag is not an icon of anyone’s subjection, but a historic reminder of whence we come.

The vast majority of white Southerners were not slave-owning planters and most Confederate enlistees were not prepared to lay down their lives to safeguard that perverse institution.

These farm-boys, for the most part, were protecting their state and their homes from invasion and destruction and were ready to die trying. A great many did.

I am proud of my father’s grandfather who fought under this banner along side his three brothers with the 43rd Georgia Volunteer Infantry. And I’m proud of my mother’s great-grandfather, a German born music professor who started a factory in Atlanta to make drums for the Confederacy.

What I am not proud of is the way many descendants of these brave Confederates sat on their hands with their mouths shut and allowed racists and hate-mongers to commandeer the Confederate battle flag and change forever the way the rest of the world perceives it.

Where were the Sons of Confederate Veterans when the true meaning of the battle flag was being hijacked and subverted? Where were the United Daughters of the Confederacy? Where were all of us, Confederate descendants, when we could have stood up and laid claim to our flag’s heritage? We had our heads buried in the sands of complacency.

While those who share a Confederate heritage wish the battle flag would be afforded the public respect we feel it deserves, it never will be. You can thank those from our own midst who have sabotaged its historical substance.

You can thank those who attached a dark, sinister twist to the red, white and blue Saint Andrew’s Cross. And, for good measure, you can also thank the so-called "civil rights leaders" who drag it up like a bogeyman to scare the more ignorant of their followers. This occurs like clockwork every time they run out of real issues or the news media start to ignore them.

To supporters of the 1956 Georgia state flag, the struggle is over. Honor the Confederate battle flag in a way your heart leads you but I would caution you against holding Sonny Perdue’s feet too close to the fire on this divisive issue. For your trouble you might just get a governor even more Machiavellian than Barnes next time around.

Viewed through the prism of today’s political reality, the chance of seeing the golden reflection of this beautiful and storied banner atop the Georgia capitol dome is "Gone with the…." Oh well, you know the rest.

Original Link: http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/news/opinion/4919848.htm

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