Blessed are we, the peacemakers. Ours is a lonely lot. I had hoped I could cut back on pacifying petulant poops and spend more time on my latest passion -- learning to play the flugelhorn. Alas, it is not to be. My skills as a peacemaker are once again required. And wouldn’t you know it? I had just mastered the aria “Lascia ch’io pianga” from Handel’s opera “Rinaldo.” Rats.
The controversy surrounding the Confederate battle flag is not going away. Proponents say the flag is a part of Southern heritage and that it honors those who fought for the Southern side in the War Between the States.
Opponents say the flag brings up bad memories of bad times in the South. Thus, they want to get rid of it and of anything and everything that smacks of the Confederacy. Both sides have dug in their heels on the issue.
That is where the peacemaker comes in. It is time to find some middle ground. And I think I know just the place to start: The National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C.
The collection is made up of two statues from each state, saluting notable figures from the past. Georgia’s two contributions are Crawford W. Long, of Danielsville, who is credited with the first use of anesthesia in surgery. The other statue is that of Dr. Long’s former college roommate at the University of Georgia, Alexander H. Stephens, the first and only vice president of the Confederate States of America. Mr. Stephens is from Taliaferro (Yankee alert: It’s pronounced “Toliver”) County in east Georgia.
The fact that Alexander Stephens is in the National Statuary Hall representing the State of Georgia has U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) in a dither. The last time I recall John Lewis in such a dither was in 2006 when Lee Morris, a former member of the Atlanta City Council, was running for chairman of the inept Fulton County Commission on the Republican ticket. Lewis said in an ad, “If you think fighting off dogs and water hoses in the ‘60s was bad, imagine if we sit idly by and let the right-wing Republicans take control of the Fulton County Commission.”
Morris is about as right-wing as I am left-handed. Nevertheless, he lost the election.
Morris later won a seat on the County Commission. If Lewis is listening, I am happy to report that since that election, Fulton County government is as inept as ever and there have been no problems with dogs and water hoses, except for the Chihuahua that tinkled on an Apex Medium Duty Water Hose display in Home Depot.
Lewis wants to get Alexander Stephens out of the National Statuary Hall sooner rather than later. OK by me. Not many people remember Stephens, anyway, even though he has his own state park in Crawfordville (population 752). But who should replace him?
That’s easy. It should be none other than my hero and great American, Ray Charles Robinson, of Albany, Georgia. I’m not sure what is required for getting yourself in the Hall, but if being able to sing like an angel in the heavenly choir counts, Ray Charles is the man.
And then, of course, there is his rendition of the greatest song in the history of the world, “Georgia on My Mind.” Some claim the song was about songwriter Hoagy Carmichael’s sister, Georgia, (although Carmichael didn’t say that) but it doesn’t matter. Today, the song belongs to all Georgians -- black and white -- thanks to Ray Charles Robinson, of Albany, Georgia.
Some of you might remember that in 1961, Ray Charles refused to perform in Augusta when he found out the audience was to be segregated. A year later, he came back to Augusta and performed to an integrated audience. You don’t mess with Ray Charles.
In 1979, Ray Charles sang “Georgia on My Mind” for the Georgia General Assembly. The Legislature was so moved by the experience that they forgot all about the earlier flap in Augusta and adopted the paean as our official state song. How could they not?
So, if both sides of the Confederate flag debate will kindly shut their yaps for a moment, let’s all agree that Ray Charles Robinson, of Albany, Georgia, deserves to be placed on a pedestal among the nation’s notables in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C. End of story. Blessed are the peacemakers who think of the obvious. Now, can I get back to the flugelhorn, please?
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb