Where does our state go from here?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 18, 2001

So where do we go from here? On Tuesday, Mississippi voters send a resounding message to state lawmakers: We want to keep the &uot;old&uot; state flag design.

Of course, that was a message heard ’round the nation, and all eyes are focused on Mississippi and the &uot;message&uot; it sends about its past and its future.

Now, the same state legislators who shied away from making a decision on the flag design – whether to keep the long-used but never formally adopted banner that included a Confederate X or whether to follow the recommendation of a gubernatorially appointed commission and change that design – must adopt a state flag. And, if they fail to do any less than adopt the flag selected by the majority of Mississippi’s voting public on Tuesday, they send a message that threatens to cripple the democratic process.

While we endorsed the new flag design, we believe that the integrity of the process must be preserved. And, for now, that means adopting a state flag sure to raise ire and resentment.

But what we cannot accept is the apparent lack of leadership among our state’s elected officials. These officials – from the governor to the lawmakers – have juggled the &uot;flag issue&uot; like a political hot potato. And no one seems willing to step forward to lead our state out of this growing divide.

If our governor and other elected officials truly believe our flag design needs to change, they need to change the hearts of the people – one voter of a time. If not – if their call for a new state flag was simply lip service – they need to own up and devote their energies on mending the growing divide in Mississippi – and Mississippi’s increasingly disappointing national image.

With either choice, we have long way to go.