Of Georgia has struck his colors. He did...

GOV. ZELL MILLER

March 11, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

GOV. ZELL MILLER of Georgia has struck his colors. He did so by giving up trying to strike his colors.

He had tried to get his state legislature to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state flag. Tuesday he said he didn't have the votes to get the flag changed this year.

Call it Lost Cause III. Lost Cause I was the war in which the original battle flag waved. Lost Cause II was the fight against federal civil rights laws in the 1950s, which is when the Georgia flag was adopted.

As to Lost Cause III, Governor Miller expressed regret that the debate over changing the flag had stirred up pretty strong and divisive feelings, Klan marches and student flag burnings. "Extremists on both sides have complicated this issue beyond any immediate solution," he said.

I'm sure that's true, but it seems to me the real complication is that non-extremists have fairly heart-felt opinions on this issue. I learned that first hand recently in a Hopkins Writing Seminars class I teach. Sitting as a mock newspaper editorial board, 13 students debated the issue. None would I consider extremist -- racist or South-hater. Their views on the subject ranged from strong support to strong opposition to the use of the Confederate symbol, with some wishy-washy in-betweens.

A couple of pro-battle flag students made an argument that I am embarrassed to say had not occurred to me. It was that the flag to many Southerners is not a symbol at all, but just a family heirloom. Keeping it has no more to do with what it stood for than does keeping great-grandma's ugly painting or vase.

Speaking of Southerners, this may or may not mean anything, but after a recent anti-gun column I received some rude, nasty mail from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana. Then I got a call from a Gomer Pyle sound-alike in Alabama. He also disagreed with my argument, but he was extremely polite and understanding.

Speaking of guns, I also wrote a pro-gun column recently. I suggested that crime-fearing Charles Village residents be required by law to own handguns. I got a couple of calls on that, too. "Are you serious?" asked Vinnie DeMarco, the executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse. "Are you serious?" asked Baltimore City Councilman Tony Ambridge.

Well, yes, I was. Nothing else has worked to stop crime. But on sober reflection, I guess Baltimore and other big cities are not yet ready to follow the lead of those small communities where gun ownership is seen as the first line of defense against crime.

So I have another idea. Every head of household in crime-prone urban communities should be required to have a video camera. See a crime, "shoot" the perpetrator and give the cops the film. When word got around, after a lot of arrests and convictions, muggers and housebreakers would stay away.

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