A bitter pill

It was inevitable that our state flag was going to change, one way or the other. But how it happened will forever be a source of bitterness for proponents of the design that’s been with us since 1894 and was affirmed by 64 percent of voters in 2001.

Ideally, the people would have been allowed to vote on it again, just as they did nearly 20 years ago. We believe the outcome would’ve been different this time. But we also understand that legislators were concerned that another divisive debate between flag opponents and proponents would perpetuate the image that keeps us at No. 50 in so many things.

Our state would become home base for every radical group on both fringes — Antifa and the KKK — across the country through November. Soundbites that represent the racist viewpoint would be trumpeted across the land and used against President Trump and our state

... And after that, our state’s woeful reputation would be confirmed to the rest of the nation and the damage would be done, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

We don’t like how we got dragged into a mess that happened on the northern end of the Mississippi River, in Minneapolis, back on May 25. But we did. And op- portunists made our state flag a cause celebre.

Change was going to happen, one way or the other. CEOs, sports organizations, coaches and politicians from both parties pushed for it, telling us the price the state would pay for failing to change the flag. Their concerns weren’t only hypothetical.

Ross Tucker, executive director of the Jones County Economic Development Authority, has a unique perspective on it all. He played football at Ole Miss then worked for the Mississippi Development Authority before coming to Laurel. When asked if he’d seen the state flag cost us prospects for Rebel football and prospects for potential large employers, he said, “Yes” on both counts. (Yes, the Rebels had a Top 10 recruiting class only seven years ago, but who knows what then-coach Hugh Freeze did to make that happen?!)

If our legislators hadn’t changed the flag, the federal government was going to step in next, withholding funding and even government contracts. Bet on that. Think about what that would look like with mega-employers like Ingalls Shipyard, Stennis Space Center, Vertex Aerospace and so many more.

Like a man with a receding hairline who shaves his head to make it look like it was his idea to be bald, it was pragmatic to change the flag ourselves, so we could have some say in how it happens and how it looks. “In God We Trust” is a nice addition ... until the atheists become offended, of course.

We don’t like how this change was forced on us either. Instead of being appeased, we fear that flag opponents will be emboldened and push for more change. The line has to be drawn at this. We can’t change history. No one’s lot in life — on either side of the debate — is going to change with a new piece of cloth on a pole.

It’s unfortunate that we’re in an era when feelings matter more than facts. But that’s the climate of the country right now. This change is a bitter pill to swallow because of the way it happened. It’s possible that the people could petition for a referendum to put the flag issue on the ballot, but the result would be the same, eventually, only with a lot more damage being done.

We need to move on ... but put our lawmakers and people pushing a socialist agenda on notice that this will be the last time they circumvent the will of the people without a fight.

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