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OPINION

Readers' Mailbag: Free Speech, Yes. But Business Is Business.

Submitted letter
Camden County Democratic Committee
Readers' Mailbag.

This is a letter to the editor:

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SUBMITTED BY:  Camden County Democratic Committee

Recently, in Miller County just south of the Highway 52 exit and right off of Highway 54, someone constructed a flag pole and has chosen not to fly the American flag atop it, but instead a Confederate one. MoDot has deemed the pole to not be in violation of easement rights.

Let us be clear. We recognize and respect this person’s freedom of expression. Democrats stand for that. However, we also stand for inclusiveness and we are invested in the Lake as business owners and are beneficiaries of Lake businesses and the tourism industry here. This flag, and the negative connotations that go along with it, right now sits at the gateway to the Lake of the Ozarks for anyone possibly coming from the Kansas City and St. Louis areas as well as the many visitors we see from Illinois and Iowa, and indeed from all around our nation.

Last year the Lake of the Ozarks had the best Memorial Day ever. Ballparks National opened and looks to bring in more people from around the nation. Real estate sales topped $1 Billion for the first time ever! We would be mistaken to think this giant Confederate flag would be anything but a distraction to our area businesses. We believe this flag is simply bad for business at the Lake of the Ozarks. We need only to look to Branson in June of last year, several days of protest outside the Dixie Outfitters store, to see how negatively this could portray the Lake area. We must ask ourselves if this is the message we want to give visitors upon entering and spending their hard earned money with us here at the Lake?

Business owners and the area Chambers of Commerce should be concerned about how this may affect businesses here. Will the tourists, that we rely so heavily on for our economy, continue to vacation here? Will they go back and tell their family, friends and neighbors not to come here? Does this flag just reinforce the stereotype that has come to define the Ozarks?

We should be better than this - no we are better than this. If we want people to come here and spend their money with us, we must be inclusive here at the Lake of the Ozarks and this flag sends the exact opposite message. In fact, that is this flags intended purpose. Residents that oppose such a message being sent about our area should feel free to contact local, county, and state government representatives. Business owners that are proud of the diversity of the citizens and tourists that make the Lake of the Ozarks possible should contact the area Chambers of Commerce and recommend they speak with local, county, and state officials. Local public officials that do not agree with the message being sent should publically state as much and call for this flag to come down.

This flag and all it represents is bad for our reputation and bad for business at the Lake of the Ozarks.