May 18, 2000: When All Else Fails, Shoot the Messenger

A couple of weeks ago, I said on these pages that I thought Georgia businesses were going to be forced into backing a change of the current state flag.  The column predictably got a lot of reaction.

Those who agreed with my premise wrote short responses saying so.  Those who didn’t were vehement in their replies.  Many indicated I was part of the problem, suggesting that maybe I was secretly involved in a conspiracy with the business community.  Some even wondered if I was originally from the South.  (If you heard me say I was “fixin’ to go” somewhere, you would know the answer to that question.)  One said I wasn’t even worthy to “walk under that noble banner, let alone write about it.”

Why the emotion?

I believe a lot of normally fair-minded people are feeling disenfranchised and are ready to draw a line in the sand.  The state flag is as good a place as any to do it.  They perceive a minority of people dictating to the majority and, in their mind, everything is coming up win-lose, with them losing most of the time.

They see John Rocker excoriated by the press, which then turns around and applauds civil disobedience as a Los Angeles sports writer did recently when fans there threw debris from the stands and one even managed to get onto the playing field.  Deep down inside, they feel Rocker may have been telling the truth, albeit clumsily.  They think blacks say things worse than that but with total impunity.   They hear the head of the Black Chamber of Commerce say, “One thing about whites, they can be so arrogant,” and wonder why there isn’t a White Chamber of Commerce and how the press would react if the president of that organization said the same thing about blacks.

They view the media as a megaphone for liberals.  They watch the evening news on network television, see the stories slanted and wonder why their own concerns don’t get equal time.

Those who they believe understand their frustrations, such as Pat Robertson, are vilified in the media, confirming their suspicions of a left-wing plot of some sort.

They are repulsed at what is being programmed on television today  — the nudity, the language, the preoccupation with sex — but they don’t know what to do.  Complain and you are narrow-minded and are abusing the freedom of choice for others.  Yet, they see special interest groups threatening boycotts and demonstrating and they know the media will cave in to the few at the expense of the majority.

They watch their churches being pressured to accept gay clergy and same-sex marriages as my own Methodist church was recently and wonder what ever happened to the traditional family.   As a result, they get angry that even their religion is under attack. They forget the precepts of the Christian faith, which is to love everybody and some vent their anger by toting around signs saying, “Thank God for Aids.”   Hopefully, they don’t mean it but they are mad and frustrated and don’t know what else to do.

They observe political candidates pandering to special interests and feel they are being ignored because they are going to vote anyway so why should anybody worry about them.   Besides what can they do?   How do you organize a special interest group that feels like they do?

They see others hide behind the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression but who want to take away their own Constitutional right to own a firearm.  If they point that out, they are damned as condoning the killing of innocent people.  Yet, if they oppose abortion rights because they believe innocent life is being destroyed, they are savaged as right-wing bigots, probably by the same people who don’t believe in capital punishment.  They wonder what the difference is, but nobody will tell them.

Ironically, all of their frustrations are taking place at a time of unparalleled prosperity in the nation.  Joblessness is down.  Wealth is up.  The economic future of the country has never been better but that doesn’t assuage their dissatisfaction with the world they live in today.

They have long ago quit believing that “All Men Are Created Equal.”  In their minds, some are more equal than others and they are sick of the whole mess.

That is why when a columnist opines that the Georgia State flag is going to get changed by a minority with the help of deep-pocketed businesses, that is more than they can take.  There is only one thing left to do.

Shoot the messenger.