Supporters of the old Confederate emblem, and the 1956 Georgia flag that prominently featured it, have made two mistakes:
1) thinking that Gov. Sonny Perdue came anywhere near promising a return to that controversial flag;
2) linking the battle emblem with Southern heritage itself.
It was never within candidate or governor Perdue's power to promise a return to the old flag. In fact, he couldn't even guarantee a vote on it. That's a legislative matter.
Certainly, as part of his campaign promise in 2002, he convinced a reluctant General Assembly last year to debate the issue. But the elected body instead chose to approve an entirely new state flag, and to have a March 2, 2004, referendum in which voters will choose between that new flag and the next most recent flag - a widely disparaged 2001 concoction of then-Gov. Roy Barnes, hastily stitched together to replace the lightning-rod 1956 flag.
Gov. Perdue delivered as much as he could: He got the legislature to take the matter up.
If Confederate battle emblem fans don't like the outcome, it's simply the result of our representative democracy.
Judges sometimes caution jurors at the outset of deliberations to realize that there's no reason to believe another jury could do any better than they could - so they should do everything they can to reach a verdict. Likewise, there's no reason to believe members of the General Assembly could or would do any better with the flag issue this session than they did last year.
It was time to move on last year. It's past time to move on this year.
Moreover, as much as the most ardent Confederate emblem supporters would have you believe otherwise, Southern heritage is not inexorably tied to the so-called battle emblem. It wasn't even the official Confederate flag.
And Lord help us if that controversial symbol - which many African-Americans correlate to slavery and equate to a Nazi swastika - is our primary link to the South's worthier heritage.
And, in fact, it is not unworthy to note that many believe the Confederate emblem was only added to the state flag in 1956 as a slap at desegregation.
Regardless, the argument being put forth that "the flag is a symbol of the state, so let the people have a full vote," as one Confederate emblem supporter said, also is fallacious. There's no need for public votes on such matters; we elect and pay senators and representatives to make such decisions. They did so last year, for the second time in two years.
Is it time to move on?
Consider the challenges facing Georgia: millions in budget deficits, weak child-protection laws, medical liability reform, jobs, saving the HOPE scholarship fund and on and on.
The absolute last thing we need is a reheated wrangle over a dead issue that will put no money in taxpayers' pockets, nor serve Georgia's children and their parents in any way. And over an issue that serves only to divide the state in ways not seen since the days of segregation.
We've been over this ground, more than once.
It's time to move on.
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