Flag may change, but Mississippi GOP is same

Published 5:04 pm Friday, January 15, 2021

Our new state flag is a defining statement about the change of direction the state of Mississippi wants to make and a rejection of where it has been. When Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill removing the confederate symbol of division from the prior flag, he acknowledged that symbolism matters. Reeves crowned the moment as, “one small effort to unify…done in good faith.”

However, the state’s GOP senators and representatives have not acted in good faith leading us down the old path of disunity, violence, and oppression.

In a vote to codify the description of the flag, a ceremonial formality, State Sen. Melanie Sojourner, a Natchez Republican, was a voice of dissent. She voted nay to the new flag with the dubious claim of bringing her fellow Mississippians a “choice.” This is not her first refusal to support removing the divisive iconography. Her rejection was merely symbolic, the flag would change either way; the state would make progress with or without her. This incident alone, If it were just her isolated buffoonery on display, a citizen might mistake her stance as healthy democracy.

Unfortunately, she is not alone. There is no mistake that last Wednesday, the national party of the GOP, including our elected officials to that upper echelon, made another symbolic stand. A stand that says one thing. They care nothing for healthy democracy.

During a ceremony to certify a legitimate election, the president of the United States, GOP figurehead, used a false narrative of voter fraud and incited a violent insurrectionist mob with the aims of disrupting the peaceful transfer of power of our democratically elected federal government.

Coursing through that howling bedlam, flowing through that heaving throng of interminable rioters, streaming around that lost humanity, and finally, sailing straight through the halls of the capitol building there came a haunting visage. A specter of our past brought to life before our eyes. An unmistakable reminder of our collective discord. A sobering embrace of what we have rejected. A man victoriously carrying the confederate battle flag.

After the tear gas had cleared and the coup attempt had been squashed, Congress reconvened and despite all that had happened that day, many GOP senators and representatives still sustained fraudulent objections to a free and fair election.

By the numbers, Mississippi’s’ senators and representatives are a seditious lot. Only one representative (Benny Thompson) and one senator (Roger Wicker) had the good sense not to symbolically endorse the terrorist coup by sustaining objections to the election. The others? When it came down to the line between representative democracy and mob rule, nation and party, “light and dark,” the Mississippi GOP sided with separatists and insurrectionists in making an assault on the union.

As Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel, another opponent of the new design, said, “Mississippi has changed its flag, but it cannot be said we moved forward together.”

The struggle to stay unified as a state and a nation will get harder from here. Only 100% denunciation of this violence and the fraudulent movement that caused it is acceptable. If the GOP elected officials would stand with the fracturing past of the Stars and Bars rather than the healing unity of the Magnolia, they should resign for the sake of the state and the nation.

Joshua T. Burke is a Natchez resident. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication. Email jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com.