Monday, April 26, 2010

26 APR 10: Old Inglorious?

If you have Georgia or Alabama state business to do, don't bother doing it today. This is a state holiday - Confederate Memorial Day. Is it mere coincidence that a new movie premiered over the weekend called "The Losers?"

As a native Northerner, I admittedly have little passion for this Southern-style holiday. But please do NOT call me a "Yankee." I grew up in Kansas City, where baseball fans never could stand that New York team with the big payroll.

Drive down Highway 520 from Columbus toward Albany, and you'll see a six-story-tall reminder that you're in the old Confederate territory. This old Georgia state flag is next to a house in rural Webster County. I actually pulled over and took a picture of it the other day - and thankfully, no one with a shotgun hurried out to confront me.

The flag on this pole between Richland and Weston used to be the Georgia state flag. But the presence of the Confederate battle emblem caused controversy, as some people considered it racist. Had Auburn City Councilman Arthur Dowdell known about this flag a year ago, he might have driven to Webster County and pulled it down personally.

A sign posted next to the flag explains it's on donated land, as a tribute to Civil War fighters from Stewart and Webster Counties. So it's apparently a private display - except it's in a very public place. Thousands of drivers pass that flag every week. But there's no parking lot next to it, and critics driving 65 miles per hour can't spit at it very easily.

For those who might be new to the area: in the last decade, that Georgia flag was changed twice. The first change was made by then-Governor Roy Barnes, working with State Representative Calvin Smyre. Does anyone still have that flag, which included small-scale versions of five previous ones -- prompting some of us to name it "Six Flags Over Georgia?"

The decision to change the 1956 Georgia flag earned Roy Barnes a "Profile in Courage" award from the John F. Kennedy Library. But he wound up losing the 2002 election to Sonny Perdue - so you'll understand if Barnes avoids that subject, as he campaigns this year.

Some hardline Southerners still haven't forgiven Sonny Perdue, for ignoring a 2002 campaign promise to put the 1956 flag on the Georgia state ballot for a referendum. Instead, the Governor offered his own compromise flag design. Voters approved it, then reelected Perdue -- so 140 years later, the Confederates were still outgunned.

But the Sons of Confederate Veterans aren't surrendering yet. They hope the approaching 150th anniversary of the Civil War will allow them to present "the true history of the war" - complete with what they call "real Georgia flags" along major state highways. So should the other side demand statues of Abraham Lincoln be placed alongside them?

(I think the "true history" they want to teach involves the Civil War being about Southern independence, instead of slavery. Such a campaign actually might be more successful today - especially if the Confederates could convince all the Southeastern Conference football players to fight on their side.)

Governor Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation declaring this month "Confederate History Month" in Georgia. But some historians say it was as flawed as a controversial declaration in Virginia, because it never mentioned slavery. Maybe that's why I couldn't find it Sunday night at the governor's web site - someone pulled a General Sherman.

But what does it say when Port Columbus has nothing scheduled to mark Confederate Memorial Day? It's the Civil War naval museum, after all. You'd think the curators would have some kind of celebration - if only to test that phrase about even bad publicity beating no publicity at all.

The Muscogee County School Board could have voted to give students Confederate Memorial Day off. But one of the three state-ordered furlough days was scheduled instead for this Friday. That way, staff members going without paychecks won't feel as inspired to call for secession from the rest of Georgia.

Fort Benning planned to hold a "Salute the South" celebration over the weekend at Uchee Creek. But it was rained out - so countless Confederacy lovers had to settle for listening to South 106.1 FM.

-> We could have won $1,000 in a local poker tournament over the weekend - but we didn't even show up. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Albany State won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference softball title at South Commons Sunday. The Rams felled Fort Valley State 6-4, on a "walk-off home run" in the seventh inning. In a championship game, I think it's more like a jump-up-and-down home run.

But I'm wondering if the final game really was played in Columbus. The SIAC web site claims there was a two-hour rain delay in the second inning. I live practically at the other end of South Commons, and the sun was out all day. There was either one incredibly isolated shower, or the sprinkler system broke.

We tried to spread the word about the SIAC softball finals - yet the official box score showed the championship game had an attendance of 331. I'm not sure that crowd matched the combined number of musicians in the Albany State and Fort Valley State marching bands.

The Ledger-Enquirer again failed to mention the SIAC softball finals, while an update on "The Amazing Race" was considered breaking news. And WTVM's "Sunday Sports Overtime" didn't even rate it worthy of the "Hot or Not" segment. If the tournament isn't hot and isn't "not," what is it -- lukewarm or nonexistent?

Now for a quick pepper game through other Sunday news....

+ St. Elmo School held an open house to mark its 80th anniversary. Its proper name these days is "Center for the Gifted" - which explains why no one announced a big financial gift, to improve the quality of instruction.

(Isn't it nice to see after eight decades, teachers are still stoking their own version of a St. Elmo's fire?)

+ Ben Holden wrote his final column as Executive Editor of the Ledger-Enquirer. While Holden is moving a new job at the University of Nevada, his wife will remain at a Columbus law firm - providing him constant updates on every questionable move District Attorney Julia Slater makes.

+ Kevin Harvick won by a nose, in the 499-mile stock car race at Talladega. The finish made history as NASCAR's first race with not one "green-white-checker" finishes, but three. If these guys can't drive one lap without crashing into each other, maybe it's time to crack down on speed limits.

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