As far as we know, the Palmetto tree hasn’t offended anyone

Blue Palmetto

We haven’t had a discussion about this, have we?

The Democrats in South Carolina are fixin’ (I’m trying to be folksy in keeping with the national party’s cornball televised response last night from the diner) to have their first Blue Palmetto Dinner in late April:

It is my great pleasure to announce the upcoming release of tickets to the inaugural Blue Palmetto Dinner, which will take place on the evening of Friday, April 28 in Columbia at the Medallion Conference Center, located at 7309 Garners Ferry Rd, Columbia, SC 29209.
The Blue Palmetto Dinner, with its name derived from the flag that unites us as South Carolinians, will showcase a party that fights for all of us. As our premier fundraising event of the year,  we encourage everyone to attend. 
Tickets will be made available on WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22ND, at 10:00AM EST.
There will be special pricing and early notice given to our County Parties, and additional benefits will be made available for SCDP Members (Yellow Dog Democrats) and Committee of 100 Members. Finally, hotel blocks will be announced and made available in the coming days as well. 
The 2018 Elections are crucial for the direction of our party and the proceeds for our dinner will help us launch a coordinated field effort this year! We can’t afford to wait until next year to organize, recruit and prepare for these elections.
STAY TUNED for our official ticket release, and we look forward to seeing you in Columbia for the Blue Palmetto Dinner and SCDP Convention on April 28-29 at the Medallion Center. 
Sincerely,
Jaime Harrison
Chair, South Carolina Democratic Party

Of course, there’s nothing new about it but the name. Your Daddy — who was almost certainly a Democrat, if he was from around here — knew it as the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. (At least, it was known as that in most parts of the country. In SC, I see references without the “Day.”) So did everyone else, until last year, when Democrats decided the writer of the Declaration and the hero of New Orleans weren’t quite impeccable enough for their tastes. Because slavery. And the Trail of Tears.

I suppose they could have gone with a Roosevelt-Kennedy Dinner, but probably didn’t because Japanese Internment and Marilyn Monroe. Or something. The flesh being weak, sooner or later something bad is bound to come out about anybody who ever lived. I suppose they could have gone with Jesus, but there are doubts as to whether He actually voted Democratic.

And no, I’m not making light of slavery; I’m just saying that pretty much anybody who ever did anything really great probably did some stuff that we wouldn’t be proud of, if we chose to focus on that.

People are problematic.

So they went with a tree, one that near as we can tell never offended anybody. So they’re probably safe.

But time will tell.

25 thoughts on “As far as we know, the Palmetto tree hasn’t offended anyone

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I think it was time for a change, anyway.

    Jefferson has never been my fave Founder, and Jackson was the biggest unqualified populist ever to win the White House until Trump.

    And I’ve never been to their dinner, or felt like I was missing anything…

    Reply
  2. clark surratt

    Neither can I think of anything offensive about the Palmetto tree, unless some can find in their thinking not to honor a tree that was somewhat glorified in war. I am, however, offended by the (Chinese) Bradford pear, Chinese privet, and English ivy. They have invaded our land and in many cases killing the natives. However, I do not blame the nations from whence they came. This nation imported them.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I am extremely offended by poison ivy.

      And after cutting up that tree with my new chainsaw over the weekend and hauling off the pieces, I’m waiting with trepidation to see what develops. The tree was in the same area I cleared brush from this time last year and got the worst, most persistent case of poison ivy ever — even though there were no leaves visible yet.

      That tree had had poison ivy vines about an inch-and-a-half thick on it. Dead, but that doesn’t mean the oil was gone…

      Reply
      1. Scout

        Oh no! Dead vines are just as bad :( Wishing you luck.

        Leaves of three, leave it be.
        Hairy rope, don’t be a dope.

        I heard the first one all my life. I learned the second one after an unfortunate encounter with a hairy rope.

        white berries and red stems are also good to know, but there is not a cute rhyme for those.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen

          I just didn’t have a choice. It had to be cleared, and before it got too hot to wear long sleeves doing it…

          Reply
  3. Bryan Caskey

    I hate to be Captain Bringdown (again) but the Palmetto was added to the state flag in…1861.

    So, you know, I’m surprised some folks aren’t offended by the secessionist symbol.

    History – it’s complicated. :)

    Reply
    1. JesseS

      Not to mention it honors William Moultrie, a man who shot slaves who sought freedom in the arms of the British (an irony the Brits weren’t about to let him forget).

      Welcome to SC: Everything is racist.

      Reply
    2. Mark Stewart

      Still a Revolutionary War thing. Was just repurposed in 1861: just as the Confederate flag was in 1961.

      Ft Moultrie is still Ft. Moultrie, regardless of later spinning.

      Reply
      1. Bryan Caskey

        I always think about how the British must have hated our hot South Carolina climate. You know, put yourself in the shoes of an average Red Coat.

        You’re a British guy who was born in England, and always lived in a nice temperate climate. Then, the army tells you that you’re sailing over to some colony across the Atlantic to put down a rebellion of some ungrateful colonists who don’t want to pay their taxes.

        You get here and it’s unbearably hot. The people all mostly dislike you. You’re wearing a wool uniform, there are thousands of mosquitoes, all sorts of new snakes and you’re chasing this Marion fellow around the fever swamps because he refuses to stand toe to toe and fight in the conventional way.

        I bet it was absolutely awful to be a Red Coat in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War.

        Reply
  4. Phillip

    But as Walter Edgar frequently points out in his lectures or on his ETV radio show when the topic is the American Revolution, the British had high hopes for at least salvaging their Southern colonies, particularly South Carolina, because of stronger Loyalist sentiment among more of the population here. So they weren’t universally disliked by any means here at least in the beginning…but if I understood Prof. Edgar’s points correctly, some of the acts of depredation carried out by British troops against the civilian populace, particularly by Banastre Tarleton and his men, really turned the hearts and minds of the SC colonists against them, really helped lose them the civilian support that they had counted on.

    Reply
  5. Harry Harris

    I’m all for a balance between the whitewashed history I was brought up on and a disdain for the hyper-sensitivity that condemns anyone who was flawed. Non-Cherokee Americans are very seldom aware of the deep resentment and hatred of Andrew Jackson among those most affected by his treachery and inhumane acts. He still was an important man with some notable accomplishments. Jefferson was both brilliant and personally flawed. He still should be honored for his great contributions while his blindness to injustice and his limitations should be acknowledged as well. Most of us turn a blind eye to the sins of heroes who are at the forefront of our own personal stakes or favorite causes. Unfortunately, we cant stand nuance – and consequently. reality. We fashion halos or horns and award them according to our biases, seldom willing to live with the paradoxical facts of being human. We adore and worship labels, partly because we’re to lazy to deal with details and too morally blind to struggle with the log in our own eyes.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      OK, here’s the thing with me… I don’t remember this “whitewashed history” people are always talking about.

      Who, among those living, was raised on that?

      I certainly wasn’t, going to K-12 school from 1958-1971. It was never a secret that the Southerners among the nation’s Founders were slaveholders, or that white men took the Indians’ land, or that Japanese-Americans were interned.

      All that has changed recently, as near as I can tell, is that we’ve gone from accepting nuance and moral complexity to a simplistic, black-or-white way of looking at history that turns any leading figure from the past who was not perfect (which was everybody), into bad guys.

      There’s this other ridiculous phenomenon whereby very young people think they DISCOVERED slavery, the Trail of Tears, etc., and that everyone who is older than they are were ignorant of these things, ignored them or didn’t care.

      Anyway, for my part, I both learned what made our nation great AND learned about the warts.

      My kids sort of missed the first part.

      When my daughter was in law school, I found myself — a guy with a mere B.A., but with a second major in history — explaining fundamental Constitutional ideas to her. Which embarrassed her a bit, being as smart as she is, but she offered me this excuse: She had never been taught “white guy” history in school.

      I knew that my kids had been assigned books by or about people who had been on the margins of society — slaves, Indians, Chinese railroad workers and such. And at the time, I thought that was cool, that they were getting a deeper, richer breadth of knowledge about history. I saw it like me being assigned to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was in high school — like “Here’s something ELSE you should know about history and society.”

      What I didn’t realize was that my kids weren’t getting this in ADDITION TO the Magna Carta and the Constitution and the Revolutionary War and the Nullification Crisis and the Civil War and the Atlantic Charter and the doings of presidents, congresses and kings. They were getting it INSTEAD OF…

      And when you consider that, I don’t suppose we should be surprised to see the election of Donald Trump, voted into office by people who lack the most basic grounding in what the United States, or liberal democracy, or Western civilization, are all about. You know, people who don’t have the hairs on the backs of their necks stand up when they hear phrases like “America First,” because they don’t know enough…

      Reply
      1. Harry Harris

        Sorry you missed out on the whitewashed version of history. It was very comfortable in its day before the views of the left-out folks were given much consideration. What I believe both of us often identify as a stumbling block to our and our society’s developing a good and effective understanding of the issues we need to work on together is the polarization that makes simplistic and one-sided thinking hold so much sway in our thinking and discourse. Our reluctance and sometimes fear of self-examination stands in the way of both our understanding of the human condition and the repentance (yes, you and me, too) needed to move toward making it better.

        Reply
      2. Bill

        “What I didn’t realize was that my kids weren’t getting this in ADDITION TO the Magna Carta and the Constitution….”

        W a i l, y’know…
        It’s QUITE possible to learn about, say, the Constitution or the Revolution or the Civil War by looking into how the legal and constitutional order dealt with those who weren’t part of the Anglo-Saxon majority.

        Everything doesn’t absolutely HAVE to be just like it was when you were in school.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          It makes little sense to learn about, say, the Constitution or the Revolution or the Civil War BY looking into how the legal and constitutional order dealt with those who weren’t part of the Anglo-Saxon majority. That won’t get you very far in understanding history.

          What makes sense is to learn about, say, the Constitution or the Revolution or the Civil War AND IN ADDITION how the legal and constitutional order dealt with those who weren’t part of the Anglo-Saxon majority.

          That makes for a big and important difference.

          The second way is the way it was “when I was in school.” And no, I see no viable alternative to it — not if we’re going to have a society that understands its underpinnings…

          Reply
          1. Bill

            ” That won’t get you very far in understanding history.”

            Huhn??
            By looking at how the Constitution was applied to this or that group within the larger society is PRECISELY how you learn about both the Constitution as well as history more generally. You don’t learn about the Constitution or how government operates by examining either one in a vacuum. You examine how they work in the lives of real people. That’s what gives them lifeblood. This should be obvious.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’m not a look first at the trees guy. I’m a look first at the forest guy. I’m also kind of a chronological guy. What came first, THEN what happened as a result.

              You start with Madison, Hamilton, et al., and all of the historical, political and philosophical forces and influences acting upon them in drafting the Constitution, and what they were trying to achieve, and what the barriers were that they faced, and then all the struggle to get it ratified, and then the first tests it faced as it went into effect, and THEN you start to see what kind of effect it has on this or that aspect of society.

              That’s the way I do it anyway. I don’t start with Dred Scott, or Plessy, or Ferguson. They come later in the story…

              Reply
              1. Harry Harris

                I’m with Bill on this aspect of the argument. Political theorists are cool until they are confronted with impacts on real people – often those they know or care little about. When my grandchildren are learning about George Washington’s greatness or the wisdom and protections contained in the Constitution, I want them to also get a sizable taste of the flaws that prevented the “blessings of liberty” from becoming an attainable reality for so many of their neighbors for about 200 years. At least enough for them to understand how flawed and narrow some “originalist” view of the Constitution is. Leaving out the blood, suffering, and struggle of those who made parts of the dreams of Washington and the ideas of Jefferson finally apply to some people they disregarded is just wrongheaded and foolish.

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  ” When my grandchildren are learning about George Washington’s greatness or the wisdom and protections contained in the Constitution, I want them to also get a sizable taste of the flaws that prevented the “blessings of liberty” from becoming an attainable reality for so many of their neighbors for about 200 years.”

                  But I was taught all that in school. Weren’t you?

                  Of course, I wasn’t taught it in the way some would do it. It wasn’t: “All those dead white guys were a bunch of thrice-damned hypocrites who didn’t mean any of the fine things they wrote down and sometimes gave their lives for. Amerika was from the start a conspiracy to oppress African-Americans, Native Americans, women and transgender individuals, so we all have to wake up to the scam and fight the power! Wake up! We’ve all been lied to.”

                  What I learned from an early age, is that the development of self-government and the project of extending the blessings of a pluralistic liberal democracy has been a long, hard bloody struggle. The Magna Carta was pretty pathetic — it empowered no one but King John’s nobles, and it certainly didn’t keep them from killing each other over power and religion for the next few centuries, but it was the seed of an idea. After Britain stumbled through the bloody 16th and 17th centuries, it began to accrete certain principles, certain assumptions about personal rights and liberties that caused some of their wisest colonists over here to think of such things as natural rights, and the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution formalized some of those ideas in clearer form. It was a delicate, difficult program that we embarked upon in America, one that — bitter irony — would have been impossible, would have died at birth, if compromises had not been made with the evils of slavery. It would have been SO easy for the whole thing to fail before it had caught hold — look at the bloody disaster of the French revolution, and the ungodly oppression that the Russian revolution spawned. But we created a framework, based in the rule of law, an approach that could only have been drafted by careful, moderate-minded men with a cautious approach to power, men who had few illusions about the chances of changing the world overnight. That approach almost failed completely in 1860, but a leader arose at that time of preternatural wisdom, and led us through an ordeal of blood that was the only way to correct that fatal flaw, that compromise with slavery.

                  But the 13th amendment could no more magically solve the problem than the Emancipation Proclamation did. It DID create the conditions in which the struggle for equality for all could be continued, with eventual hard-fought success, over generations.

                  And no, women were not full citizens at the beginning — but they had never been before! This system was the kind in which notions of full suffrage could actually develop, take hold and come to fruition.

                  People who don’t understand history sometimes sound like they think those dead white guys who founded this country took an Eden and nefariously set up an oppressive system. On the contrary, they took a brutal, harsh, Hobbesian world and started a process that has accomplished miracles in the human condition over the last couple of centuries, achieving gains that no human society previously ever came close to. And yeah, it was a hell of a bumpy ride.

                  I look at all of human history and am astounded at this achievement, which is ongoing.

                  Or it was.

                  Some fail to understand why Trump is such a horror to me. What he represents is the triumph of anti-intellectualism (always a dark force striving in our society), of the kind of people who don’t know our history or care about it, who are in no way attuned to that majestic, forward striding process I just described.

                  All this effort, for more than 200 years, and is it all to come to a screeching halt now?

                  And I fear that the left fails to fully understand what’s been going on since 1776, either, because of its narrow temporal vision and tendency to look at this or that subgroup rather than the whole process.

                  This moment is a mess, and who has the vision to lead us through this?

                2. Bill

                  “the left fails to fully understand what’s been going on since 1776”

                  Really?? Since 1776?

                  Actually, I think you’re setting up a straw man — in particular the caricature you invent in your third paragraph above. In fact, most folks who take an interest at all in these things — yes, including those on the left — recognize the subtleties of American history better than you give them credit for. And part of how they do that is by examining the ways in which the principles set up by the Framers were actually applied to real live human beings. Because that “striding forward” you speak of (though maybe it should better be described as stumbling) is arguably the central theme of our history: the ever expanding inclusion of others in the functioning of American society and government.

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