Mississippians have a chance to vote for a new flag. We should seize the chance to close a chapter on our history and move forward. It’s the right thing to do.
Our current flag incorporates the rebel battle flag, which was flown by Confederate troops during Civil War battles. As such, it is a reminder of the worst chapter of American history. We can do better.
None other than General Robert E. Lee declined an invitation to the 1869 Gettysburg commemoration, writing, “I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”
To be sure, most Mississippians, when viewing our flag, think little of it, much less get offended. But that’s not true of everyone. A substantial minority of our population finds the Confederate battle flag offensive, a sentiment shared by many from outside our state. Over the years, fairly or not, the Confederate battle emblem, has become associated with fascism, terrorism and racism. These are not “isms” with which our state needs to be linked.
Our state motto is “the hospitality state,” a good motto indeed. But what kind of hospitality lets an offensive emblem remain on its state flag despite mounting criticism? Changing the flag is just good manners, an example of the Christian law to love your neighbors as yourselves. You may not be offended. You may have a sense of traditional loyalty to the fallen dead and states’ rights, but others see this as an advocation of slavery and racial subjugation. A flag should be inclusive, not divisive.
Our existing flag is also bad for business. Mississippi is right smack dab in the middle of the fastest growing region of the greatest country in the history of the world. Growth and prosperity will come naturally and rapidly as long as we don’t wave a big “outsiders not welcome” sign at every entrance to our state. Like it or not, that’s the way much of the rest of the world views our existing flag.
The new flag is beautiful. It was selected through a great online selection process that allowed all Mississippians to vote on its design. Hundreds of designs were put forth and considered. This flag was the best and most popular of them all. Nobody can blame the design nor the way it was selected.
Mississippi is the most traditional state in the union. As William Faulkner wrote about Mississippi, “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past.” Our sense of tradition is a wonderful attribute of our state. But just like all good traits, the flip side of that trait can cause problems. When our good sense of tradition causes us to cling to an outdated flag which no longer represents who we are, then we must depart from tradition and move on. Now is the time to do it.
Let’s vote overwhelmingly for the new flag. Let’s send a message of Christian love and understanding to our brothers and sisters. Let’s have a beautiful flag that represents our hope for the future, not our bitterness for the past.