Once again we find Fred and Red at the Main Street coffee shop discussing issues of the day and other serious matters, such as whether the unseasonably warm weather will last through the weekend.
Fred: I see you’ve installed one of those banner flagpoles on your house.
Red: I’ve been meaning to do that a long time. Last Veterans Day I looked around, and all my neighbors had those little flag banners stinking out from their houses or sprouting from trees in their front yards. One neighbor has his son’s high school banner, another has one with an acorn on it, and the lady across the street has a big yellow one with a tennis racket on it. I decided it was time for me to show off what I believed in.
Fred: So you went and bought an American flag kit?
Red: More or less. That big appliance store was giving them away with the purchase of a new big screen TV. I needed a new TV. Figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone.
Fred: But you aren’t flying the American flag? You’re flying the Mississippi flag?
Red: Now there you go Fred, showing your ignorance again. Pass some of that artificial sweetener this way, please sir.
Fred: You have managed to confuse me this morning, Red. I thought you said that Veterans Day brought out the American in you, so you went and got an American flag. Now you are flying a Mississippi flag.
Red: The weather has got your ears messed up. I didn’t say that at all. I said that on Veterans Day I got to thinking about getting a flag. The appliance store gave me a choice — an American flag or what used to be the Mississippi flag. According to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Mississippi does not have a flag. So, let’s just refer to it as the “Flag Formerly Known as the State Flag of Mississippi.”
Fred: I haven’t seen you this emotional about something in a long time.
Red: This flag thing did it. Not only am I flying the “flag formerly known as the State Flag of Mississippi” on my house, I am sporting a new bumper sticker on my pickup that says, “Preserve Mississippi’s Heritage.” It’s time to take a stand on this issue.
Fred: Good for you. People should stand up for what they believe in.
Red: That’s right. Do you want a bumper sticker? I’ve got a half dozen of them.
Fred: No thanks.
Red: Why not? Your grandfather fought at Vicksburg. You’re a bona fide ancestor of a Confederate veteran. Aren’t you proud of your heritage? And shouldn’t people stand up for what they believe in, like you just said?
Fred: I’m very proud of my heritage and I love Mississippi. But I’m not going to put one of those bumper stickers on my vehicle. And I’m a descendent of a Confederate veteran, not an ancestor.
Fred: This flag thing is really getting some people riled up, isn’t it?
Red: Man, you are not kidding. People are tired of having things shoved down their throats. This is one time we can make a stand.
Fred: Some people might say that the old Mississippi flag was shoved down their throats.
Red: Well then they can just vote for a new one, if and when we have a vote that’s going to cost $3 million. Ask the server to bring us some more coffee, will you?
Fred: I applaud you for standing up for what you believe in. You obviously have strong feelings about it.
Red: (standing up) Oh my gosh, look at the time. I told the wife I would bring home some butter. She’s baking a cake for the church bazaar tonight. I better get going. Now, you are going to vote, aren’t you?
Fred: Of course.
Red: Good. I’m glad we’re finally having freedom of choice. Isn’t that what everybody wanted — freedom of choice?
Fred: Um hmm.
Red: Well, tell everybody to vote for “The Flag Formerly Known as the State Flag of Mississippi.” And tell them to call me if they need a bumper sticker.
Fred: I’m not voting for the “Flag Formerly Known as the State Flag of Mississippi.”
Red: (sitting back down and leaning forward) My gosh, Fred. Don’t say that so loud. Somebody might hear you. Are you feeling okay?
Fred: I feel fine. It’s just that if more people vote for “The Flag Formerly Known as the State flag of Mississippi” then we will be worse off than we are now.
Red: What in the devil’s name are you talking about? The best flag wins. Whichever one. And that will be it.
Fred: I’m afraid not, Red. If the old flag wins then I fear we will see people filing lawsuits, marching in the streets, telling others not to have their conventions in Mississippi, and talking on national television about how we can’t get away from our racially-troubled past. Not only that, some people say that economic development will be hurt. How do you think some company is going to feel if they announce a new plant in Mississippi, then get a visit to their annual stockholders’ meeting by some group wanting to boycott Mississippi?
Red: That’s a scare tactic, and you know it, Fred. What we have here is pure and simple — some people want one flag and some people don’t want it. An election by the people is the way to decide it, and the vote is final. Loser goes home.
Fred: So you think this is all about choice?
Red: Absolutely. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Fred: Sorry, Red. This isn’t about choice.
Red: So, what’s it about?
Fred: It’s about peace.
Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.