Rebels rally right

By Tim Chitwood

It is well that political correctness is so terrible, or we would grow too fond of it.

Rebel-rousers rallying for a flag referendum Tuesday at Georgia’s Capitol complained political correctness is erasing all our Confederate symbols.

The old South’s all that’s politically correct to attack these days, said one speaker, so it’s getting to where you can’t sing "Dixie" anymore, or leave the word "Confederate" on anything, or fly a Confederate flag anywhere.

Like at a rally to restore the Confederate battle flag to its former prominence on Georgia’s state flag. One group organizing Tuesday’s march asked participants to wave only the old Georgia flag — the battle flag aside a blue bar bearing the state seal — and not the battle flag alone.

So the old flag dominated this event billed as a victory celebration for newly elected Gov. Sonny Perdue — who just the day before held a politically correct inaugural celebration at which waving the old flag was verboten.

Referring to Tuesday’s "victory celebration" as a "protest" was verboten. A TV reporter standing amid the flag wavers went on camera and called it a "protest," and they chastised her. It was not a protest. It was a celebration.

Among those banned from this celebration were counter-celebrators whom police ordered to leave the designated celebration area on the Capitol’s west side. Celebration organizers also decided finally that a man waving a battle flag and yelling at the counter-celebrators was not celebrating correctly, though he was on their side.

"No Georgia state seal on this flag, buddy!" he yelled. "This is the flag they went into battle with!" Later he shouted, "We will not be unionized! We’re a right-to-work state!"

Police made him leave. I asked how they determined he was too crazy to fit in, and they said they didn’t: They removed him at the request of other flag wavers celebrating Perdue’s victory.

Their celebrating Perdue’s victory did not make reviving the old flag purely a Republican effort, and anyone trying to pin it on just one party would, politically, be incorrect. "We have friends on the Democratic side, too," said one speaker. "We are nonpartisan."

So people were not to assume this was a Republican crusade just because the only legislators speaking there were both Republicans, and the signs some participants waved said "Sonny country" — as did the banner on a plane flying overhead — and the first Republican began by shouting, "What a Sonny day in Georgia!" and the second said, "We’re with you on this, so just keep going, OK?"

You might think unreconstructed Confederates celebrating a victory for the party of Lincoln sounds politically incorrect, too, but you might be the only one.

Another speaker passed on some little-known history, such as that Georgia put the battle flag on the state banner in 1956 not to symbolize its defiance of court-ordered school desegregation, but to celebrate the Civil War centennial (five years later). And the Confederacy was not formed to preserve slavery. So there’s some information you won’t get from reading scholarly research or watching a PBS documentary or asking some of the most respected historians in America today.

This orator was explaining how Dwight Eisenhower once said something that proved Confederates weren’t traitors when a counter-celebrator walked right up and raised a sign. The flag wavers converged on him and tried to wrap him in the old Georgia flag, too, but that just attracted more media attention.

It turned out the guy was a minister with a handmade sign that read, "The Peach State. No mistake. Love, Peace and Unity in our Georgia community. Peace Team. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Let’s move together in all weather. The old flag is a drag."

It was poetic, but a bit wordy for Sonny country. Anyway, the officers made him leave, too, just like the other counter-celebrators and the distinguishable nut with the battle flag.

All in all, I’d say it was a fine celebration for the new governor, and I hope he’s successful in putting the state flag’s design to a vote of the people, as long as it’s on the ballot at a time when most of the people are voting.

Like Nov. 2, 2004.

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