Slimantics: Magnolia Flag faces an uphill climb


Slim Smith



On Wednesday, the state's flag commission made its selection for a new state flag. With more than 3,000 flag submissions, the eight members narrowed the list to two finalists -- the Great River Flag and the Magnolia Flag, the latter designed by Rocky Vaughn of Starkville. Wednesday, the commission voted 8-1 for the Magnolia Flag.


Now all that remains is for voters to approve the new flag at the polls on Nov. 3.


Easy-breezy, right?



No. it's not. Nothing is ever really easy in Mississippi as long as there is an option for the state to make an ass out of itself.


And here again, we see why the Magnolia Flag is far from becoming the official state flag.


By the way, you won't see the words "Magnolia Flag" on the ballot. As part of its selection process, the commission gave the flag a new name: The "In God We Trust Flag."


When the Legislature voted to replace the state's Jim Crow flag bearing the Confederate flag in its canton, it also set up a commission to come up with a replacement and mandated that the new flag must incorporate the words "In God We Trust" in its design.


I suggested that the phrase be written in Arabic as a means of showing that our state believes in freedom of religion, but Mississippi is not ready to go that far just yet. My gut tells me that the Legislature would ban all religions aside from Christianity and, perhaps, Judaism, if it could get away with it. They can't, of course. So this is the next best thing.


So even though the Magnolia Flag, like all the flag submissions, features the Legislature-mandated words, on the ballot it will be the "In God We Trust" flag.


This is the sort of thing we see all the time when the state really, really wants to put its thumb on the scale at the ballot box: Give it a name that shames voters into supporting it.


The commission could just as easily have named it the "Your Grandma's Dying Wish Was That You Choose This Flag."


If this seems a bit desperate to you, there's a good reason.


No sooner had the Legislature voted to get rid of the Jim Crow flag, a movement emerged to save the flag by insisting that the decision be left to the voters.


Led by state senator Chris McDaniel, (R, Crazytown), an effort to put the old flag back on the ballot has emerged. Already McDaniel's group, "Let Mississippi Vote," has assembled 1,000 volunteers to begin the petition process that could put the old flag back before the voters next year.


Under their plan, the Jim Crow flag would be one of four choices left to the voters. The other flags on the ballot would be the Magnolia Flag, the state's bicentennial flag and the Stennis Flag, which emerged as an early alternative to the Jim Crow flag but was not submitted for consideration to the flag commission.


All of that comes later, of course.


The matter now before voters is whether or not to adopt the erstwhile Magnolia Flag as the state's official flag.


The guess here is that the flag will not be approved by voters. There will be some who just don't like the design and others who preferred one of the other flag submissions. The biggest challenge, however, will come from all who resent the Legislature's decision to get rid of the Jim Crow flag and are determined it be reinstated.


That's a strong coalition to overcome.


So, in a state where good sense often does not prevail at the ballot box, there's a distinct possibility that we haven't seen the last of the Jim Crow flag, proving yet again what we have always known:


Doing the right thing is never, ever easy in Mississippi.




Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]


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