From Atop the Soapbox
By RUSSELL TURNER – Editor / Publisher
The Mississippi Legislature on Sunday voted to retire the Mississippi flag that prominently features a Confederate symbol and has represented the state unofficially since 1894 and officially since 2001.
The vote was fairly lopsided with the House of Representatives passing the bill by a 91-23 margin and the State Senate following suit a few hours later on a 37-14 vote. Two of Greene County’s elected representatives, Representative Dale Goodin and Senator Dennis DeBar, both voted in favor of the bill and changing our flag. Rep. Shane Barnett, who represents parts of Greene and Perry counties, voted against the measure.
Many residents quickly applauded the move. However, many others did not, and are expressing disappointment and even anger with the decision. I get that and support their right to express their views. However, too many of the comments I have seen on social media are, for a lack of a better way to say it, heartbreaking.
I don’t believe the flag should be outlawed for display by private citizens or buried in a hole and forgotten, but I did vote to change the flag in 2001 and have made no secret of that. A lot of my family and friends disagreed with me then and now, but I do not know of any friends or family relationships I have lost over my stance on the issue. I can’t say the same for DeBar and Goodin.
Reading some of the comments and listening to a few of my friends and neighbors in face-to-face discussions, it is clear to me that the men may have also lost support and votes if they choose to remain in public service. The thing is, they knew that was a probability. They had listened to hundreds, if not thousands of voices who reached out to them to express their views over the last week or so as the issue began to gain traction. They struggled with their decisions, but in the end, casted their votes to change the flag. They weighed the issues and information they had and made the decision they felt was best for Mississippi.
They surely expected some backlash. I know I expected it for them. But what is so troubling to me is the vitriol that has been spewed at them on social media since Sunday. They have been blessed out and called awful names, including hypocrites, and even ‘traitors’ and ‘cowards’.
That is just plain wrong. Very wrong in fact.
Both of these men have served their country in the armed forces so people like you and I could enjoy rights such as freely expressing our opinions. Goodin retired from military service after 40 years in three different branches. DeBar served 8½ years in active duty with the U.S. Air Force and continues to serve to this day as a member of the Mississippi Air National Guard with a total of over 19 years in uniform. On top of that, they took a difficult stance on a hotly-debated issue knowing full well there would be repercussions for their political and personal lives. That is not an act of cowardice or treason – quite the opposite, actually.
I have not had too many occasions to debate issues with Dale Goodin to this point, but I have differed with DeBar on plenty of occasions and we have had some spirited conversations on national, state and local politics. But, he has always listened to my concerns and we have shaken hands and remained friends even when we disagree on the issues.
Both men, if they run for re-election or seek a new political office in the future, may not earn my support at the ballot box. That’s politics and they understand how that works. For many, this single, yet very emotional issue is viewed as enough of a transgression that they have already decided to not support either in the future. That’s their prerogative. But, whether voters in DeBar’s or Goodin’s districts agree with them or not, their decisions on Sunday took guts. And for that, they have earned more of my respect.