In my own words… Our devious designing delegation
March 28, 2001
Designing a state flag that epitomizes all Mississippians as demanded by certain groups and individuals is a tall order.
While orchestrating a facade of soliciting public opinion through open hearings and children's artistic submissions, Gov. Musgrove's commission held covert meetings from which emerged a single depiction to replace the current controversial one.
The suggested magnolia motif was discarded. Although horticulturists, garden clubs and florists might have gone for this, rumor has it that a coalition of macho guys who love their pick-up trucks, ESPN and deer camps protesting that such a floral flag certainly doesn't represent them threatened a boycott of oversized mud-grip tires camouflage, and their favorite beverages. That would have put us in serious trouble.
Consider our designing state commission's proposed logo of 20 stars with blue and white bars. Surely observers will readily conclude, "Clear as Mississippi mud. This represents the 13 original states, the six flags successively flown over Mississippi, the 20th state to have entered the union."
Even with the substitution of a red stripe for a blue one the entire layout is artistically insipid.
How in response to former Gov. Winter's comment is it appropriate to the 21st century? Does it really make a statement about who we are? Its lack of message is characterless, suggesting that we have little imagination. Whatever Mississippians lack it's not imagination.
Let's contemplate some creative alternatives. Everyone loves Elvis, arguably Mississippi's most prominent international celebrity. How about a banner featuring his portrait circled by the quotation "You ain't nuthin but a houn' dawg'"?
That would encompass not only Elvis aficionados but hunters and MSU devotees but then it would offend Ole Miss and USM people, possibly animal rights advocates, and it wouldn't be fair to other notables, such as Jerry Clower, Leontyne Price, and Sela Ward all of whom are outstanding credits to our state, not to mention William Faulkner and Eudora Welty.
Literary figures are indisputably Mississippi's most sterling pinnacle of attainment and immortality, probably most representative of our culture comprising all ethnic and socioeconomic groups from poverty-engendered Richard Wright to attorney John Grisham, fireman Larry Brown and the late college professor Margaret Walker Alexander. Too, their writings exemplify every imaginable Mississippi faction.
Yes, we lead the nation in literary production. No other state and few countries have produced such an enormous yet quality-laden output.
Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to create a banner with a literary map of our state portraying and listing as many of our writers as possible with appropriate slogan, something like "Mississippi home of the second literary Renaissance." Talk about improving Mississippi's image think of the prestige.
Uh-oh. There are those among us who'd object to language and subject matter, tame though it be compared to Shakespeare and Chaucer. If folks try to ban A Separate Peace and the Harry Potter chronicles, they wouldn't much take to honoring Faulkner and Wright, bless these raconteurs' realistic ribaldries.
A catfish might be appropriate, since it's not only one of our favorite foods but one of our most remunerative enterprises. Picture a sleek silver-gray bewhiskered shape gracefully jumping, poised against a background of amber creek water. Who could object to a depiction that summons up delectable visions of golden fried fillets together with sides of hushpuppies and french fries?
You got it the health food advocates. Too much cholesterol, too many calories. Also the conservationists. Save the endangered catfish
Catfish on cell phone
Or if we amalgamate Gov. Winter's futuristic aspirations with endorsements by Gov. Musgrove and six other elected proponents of change, we could superimpose a catfish talking on a cell phone against a computer with dollar signs etched across its screen.
To incorporate the artistic element, we could add a magnolia blossom clenched a la Carmen between the piscatorial jaws.
Recently I noticed a magazine advertisement featuring a belt with a Bible buckle. I envisioned a modification of this design a fanciful script of the word "Mississippi" similarly encircled, with a Bible overlaying a heart-shaped buckle, indicating that we're the heart of the Bible Belt. That would be a formidable statement. But we dare not consider any religious symbolism. Beware the Supreme Court and the ACLU.
It would take a montage by an inspired artist to capture Mississippi's rich heritage of diversity. Even then, there'd be objections by offended groups.
Unless we can exercise the virtue of tolerance.
Maybe we ought not to strike our traditional colors. Not one in 10 Mississippians this is true of the South as a whole who fought under that star-crossed banner owned a slave.
Women were among the most devout supporters of the Confederacy, not only in fiercely maintaining the spirit of resistance, but actively serving as nurses and spies. Native Americans fought for the South in Mississippi as well as in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas.
From our neighboring state of Louisiana, the brilliant and distinguished Judah P. Benjamin functioned successively as the Confederacy's Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. He was Jewish and was among other Jews who volunteered for the military.
Thousands of African-Americans, slave and free, all of whom could have easily gone over to the other side, served valiantly out of loyalty to their homeland and their people of whatever race.
Mississippians Holt Collier, Willis Edmund Dixon, Julia Mason and Anse Wade were representatives of a heroic multitude of honored black Confederates.
To contend that they fought to preserve slavery and to vilify as racist the banner under which they served doesn't dishonor their memories; it reflects shame upon those who flagrantly revise and distort history.
Small wonder that many contemporary African-Americans advocate the flag's status quo. They love their state and its heritage just as their ancestors did.
No more blatant fabrication exists than that promulgated by calculated revisionism of history proclaiming the Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery, as honest investigation of factual documents confirms.
Our forebears pitted themselves against an intrusive, power-usurping federal regime. Most of us in Mississippi still oppose a big-brother government that insists on poking its nose into and regulating virtually every aspect of our society and its institutions.
Considering historical fact rather than revisionist propaganda, I can't think of a more inclusive symbol for Mississippi than its time-honored Stars and Bars.
Katherine Horne, a former English teacher at West Lauderdale High School, is a frequent contributor to The Meridian Star.