State Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch, joined with State Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, Tuesday to issue a joint statement calling for a change in the official State Flag of Mississippi.
"Last year, the Mississippi Legislature changed the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi to add 'In God We Trust' to that historic symbol of our state. It recognizes our very real and historic recognition of a God who created all men equal and whose divine providence has shaped America and Mississippi."
Parker said he and Simmons, both of whom have no opposition in the upcoming state election, worked together to craft the joint statement on the flag issue.
"We believe it is time to change another historic symbol of our state, because we recognize that many of our citizens feel it is hurtful and represents a time and perspective that did not respect equality."
The often rancorous debate has divided the people of Mississippi.
"For too long, we have engaged in endless debates between heritage and hate," the joint statement reads. "We believe we should find a compromise that embraces history and healing. We look forward to working together in the Legislature on a better way to represent Mississippi with our official flag."
In a conversation following the joint statement, Parker, an optometrist with offices in Olive Branch and Horn Lake, said his conscience and Christian convictions spurred him to take the actions that he took.
"I spend my day seeing patients from all walks of life," Parker said. "I spend my day with people who don't look like me or walk or talk like me. An event like what happened in South Carolina ties us to something which has become a symbol of hatred sometimes."
Parker said as a human being and a practicing Christian, not necessarily as a politician, he doesn't want to support something that is hurtful to anyone.
Parker said Mississippi's nearly 3 million inhabitants often live side by side and must get along.
"We don't have small pockets of people of one race living here and there," Parker said. "We live side by side. I'm proud of our state. I'm proud of the strides that we have made in race relations. I'm proud to stand with people like Nikki Haley and taking the stand to have an opinion on the matter. It's easy not to take a stand or have an opinion."
The joint statement with Simmons calls for a "healing compromise."
Parker said he knows all sides will not be happy with whatever decision is made.
"There will be people of faith, both Republican and Democrat, both black and white, who will disagree with our position," Parker said. "We do not question their hearts, but we believe we must find a healing compromise to get past these disagreements and find common ground solutions on improving education, inviting job creation and making our communities safe and prosperous."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.