Divisiveness of governor, flag commission galvanized supporters
Published 12:00 am Monday, April 9, 2001
The rancor and divisiveness from Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and his flag commission have only served to galvanize the majority of Mississippians into keeping their current flag.
There will, of course, be the usual hand-wringing efforts and complaints on the part of politicians, the media, academia, corporate America, and outside &uot;agitators&uot; to change the flag. Not one of them has the courage to take a stand against those who would malign this flag for fear of being labeled a &uot;racist&uot; or some other term.
Shame on them!
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&uot;I don’t want to offend anyone.&uot;
This is an admirable trait. However, when one considers who might be &uot;offended&uot; at the mere sight of a piece of cloth, the mayor, merchants, civic clubs and garden clubs, must also acknowledge the following:
&uot;We invite people from all over the world to visit our town, to tour the beautiful, one-of-a-kind antebellum homes, to attend our Historic Natchez Pageant, to partake of our Southern hospitality and spend their tourist dollars.
Slave owners lived in these homes; these mansions and town homes were built in large part by slave labor – people who also worked their plantations and businesses to allow them to construct and furnish such homes in a grand and opulent style.
And we want these tourists to stay around a few days and buy some antiques and other mementos, eat at the restaurants, and shop at our local businesses.
But we don’t want to offend anybody by putting up a flag at our official visitors center that has the Confederate Battle Flag in the canton! Oh, no! We can’t have that! What would people say if we showed pride in our flag?
Ironically, the very objects that the garden clubs and the Chamber of Commerce are promoting are 365 days per year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week physical reminders of that evil’s word – slavery! Hypocrisy 101.
Taking such to its logical conclusion, how much would we have to &uot;cleanse&uot; before we are no longer &uot;offended&uot; at anything or anyone?&160;We would have to raze all antebellum homes, bulldoze monuments and statues honoring our Confederate soldiers, change street and county names, purge thousands of books from our homes and public libraries and even declare the color grey a &uot;hate color&uot; because it might offend someone.
We would definitely have to eliminate George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant from our monetary system because they (or, their wives) were slave-owners.
And Pennsylvania would have to design a new state flag, as well. In the center of that banner is the family crest of William Penn, a noted slaveholder of his day. A number of other state flags would require changing, for they were used as battle flags during the War, namely Texas, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.
We would also have to rid the landscape of all things &uot;Martin Luther King Jr.&uot; because to a large segment of the population he, too, is &uot;offensive,&uot; not for the color of his skin but, as he himself suggested in August 1963, for &uot;content of character.&uot;
The backbone of the Natchez economy is tourism. Increase tourism and you increase gross revenues and tax receipts. Improve community services and benefits without increasing the tax base on local citizens. Decrease tourism and just the opposite occurs. Economics 101.
Who benefits from tourism? Each and every citizen of Natchez and Adams County – whites, blacks, Baptists and Catholics – all benefit, regardless of political, ethnic or social persuasion. All year round, not just during Fall and Spring Pilgrimage.
When visitors from far and near come to Natchez, they don’t want some watered-down, bland, politically-correct, sanitized version of what makes Natchez so unique and world-famous – its antebellum (Latin for &uot;before the war&uot;) homes and ambience.
They want to hear &uot;Dixie&uot; sung up and down the street and on the street corners! They want to see belles in hoopskirts and Confederate soldiers going off to defend their homes and families against the Yankee invaders!
They want, for one brief moment in their lives, to feel, to see, and experience the heart and soul and spirit of what truly makes Natchez a place &uot;Where the Old South Still Lives!&uot;
If tourists want to learn about Abe Lincoln, let them go to Illinois; if they want to learn about American slavery in its infancy, let them go to Africa or New England; if they want to learn about the Old South, let them come to Natchez, Mississippi.
But don’t ever apologize or give excuses to the hand that feeds you!
Robert Crook is a Natchez native who lives and works in Baton Rouge.