The suggested banner, which narrowly won approval of the full House Wednesday, is clearly intended as a compromise. It was something of surprise in that few expected the opposing forces to agree on anything in this matter, much less a middle ground. The flag's fate has come up before and done nothing except emotionally divide a people that normally pride themselves on striving for unity.
That is the key: unity. Barnes said it right: "It's time to end (this dispute) before it divides us into warring camps and erodes four decades of economic progress.''
One is never quite sure if Atlanta lives up to its motto as "the city too busy too hate," but Georgia definitely has too busy an agenda to allow a shouting match steeped in emotion to divert it from the serious work of increasing the comfort, safety and prosperity of its citizens.
BARNES' SPEECH, printed in full on Page 7A of today's newspaper, was deeply personal, emotional ... and persuasive. He cut to the quick of the dispute: Both sides are right, both sides are wrong, and both sides have more important things to do.
That figures such as Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, the black lawmaker who has been leading the effort to remove the Confederate battle flag from the banner, and Denmark Groover, the former legislator from Macon who led the charge to put it there in the first place back in 1956, are behind this compromise indicates that many still believe in putting the state's overall interests first. That should be a matter of pride in our leadership and bring hope for a calm, fast and neighborly resolution of this issue.
The flag's proposed design as well as Barnes' speech deserve thoughtful reflection on the part of all Georgians and not the knee-jerk reactions that too often have accompanied this debate. The Confederate emblem — indeed, two of them — is retained on the new flag proposal, which stresses the totality of the state's history from the Revolutionary War to the modern day. It just no longer dominates.
Nor should it. Barnes made the point that the present flag is two-thirds a reminder of Civil War heritage. While stressing that he, too, reveres that heritage and is the descendant of a Confederate soldier, he also makes the telling point that this is not what today's Georgia is about.
It is about more. Lots more.
THE PROPOSED FLAG certainly makes an effort to put the state's history in perspective.
That's what Georgians should now consider: perspective. What we were, what we are and what we are striving to become should be the purpose of any flag that represents us. For a flag to be held up high, for it to be respected and honored, all hands must be willing to grasp its staff.
That has, in recent years, not been the case. It is that, and not so much the flag itself, that must be changed. This is not about a flag. It is about joining hands