Category Archives: Confederate flag

It’s not ‘rewriting history;’ it’s paying ATTENTION to history

Cindi Scoppe had a good piece on the issue of unnaming Tillman Hall at Clemson today.

Basically, she took apart the silly argument from certain quarters that changing such a name constitutes “rewriting history.” A salient passage:

The comparison to slave owners might work if this debate were simply about someone who owned slaves. That is, someone who was simply following the accepted norms of his day. That is not what Benjamin Tillman was.

Tillman, sans patch

Tillman, sans patch

Benjamin Tillman was an outlier, an extremist, a brutal racist even by the standards of his time. Many of his contemporaries considered him a dangerous man who wanted to push our state and nation in a dangerous direction — among them the men who founded my newspaper in 1891, for the primary purpose of opposing the new governor’s policies.

Many white people in post-Reconstruction South Carolina disliked black people, even considered them inferior. Most did not collude with lynch mobs and defend murdering black people, as Gov. Benjamin Tillman did. Most did not threaten to kill black people who tried to vote, as Mr. Tillman did in 1876. Most did not lead a militia that terrorized and killed former slaves in the Hamburg Massacre, about which Mr. Tillman frequently bragged that “we shot negroes and stuffed ballot boxes.” Most did not give speeches urging white people to prepare to respond with violence if black people tried to claim the rights promised us all under the U.S. Constitution, as U.S. Sen. Tillman did.

Sen. Tillman earned the name “Pitchfork Ben” when he threatened to impale President Grover Cleveland on a pitchfork. He was censured by the Senate for assaulting another senator on the Senate floor. Such brutality alone should have been reason not to name things after him….

Amen to that.

If one must honor Ben Tillman in order to respect history, then I will henceforth abandon my lifelong love of the subject. I not only have the prejudice here of a former editor of The State, which as Cindi says was founded to fight Tillman and all he stood for (which is why his nephew murdered our first editor). It’s my personal heritage. My ancestors despised him.

I’ve told you before the anecdote about my grandmother, as a child, living next door to Tillman in Washington, a state of affairs which appalled her parents (they later moved out to Kensington, Md.). She remembered sitting on his lap and asking what was under his eyepatch.

Her family provides the very contrast that Cindi points to. My grandmother’s family — my family — had owned slaves, long before she was born. They were of that time and that class (other ancestors of mine, however, were far poorer and therefore innocent of slaveholding). Her grandfather had served in the Legislature both before and after the War, and that was what that demographic did in South Carolina.

As uncomfortable as that personal history makes me, my family by contrast looks great next to Tillman, who was a monstrous figure.

Cindi’s piece mentions the decision to strip ex-Sheriff James Metts’ name from a boat landing. That was a perfectly appropriate thing to do, after the sheriff’s disgrace. But I tell you, I’d name the whole state for Jimmy Metts before I’d name a mad dog after Tillman. Metts is not 1,000th the malevolent figure that Tillman was.

I say that not because I want to rewrite history. I say it because I know my history (although still not nearly as well as I should, and my education continues), and choose to learn from it.

Sheheen’s bold stand is the ONLY way the flag will come down

Vincent Sheheen’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds isn’t some here-today, forgotten-tomorrow campaign gimmick.

It’s a game-changer. But only if he somehow manages to win the election.

Sheheen was paraphrased in The State today as saying that this is an issue best addressed by a governor. Sure, he could have introduced a resolution to have it removed every session, only to have it die in committee, as did Cleveland Sellers’ one such attempt as a freshman House member. One or two lawmakers might be willing to stick their necks out, but there aren’t enough others willing to go along with them to make the effort viable. Knowing that, lawmakers see little point in making enemies over a lost cause — they have other things they want to accomplish.

But a governor has the bully pulpit to raise the issue so it can’t be buried or ignored.

That said, not just any governor would have the political leverage to overcome the General Assembly’s profound inertia on the issue. It would take a governor who campaigned on the issue, and got elected. A governor who does that would have political juice, and moral authority, unlike any we’ve seen in our poor state, which has been so sadly short on political courage for the generation that I’ve covered it.

So that raises the issue, does this move hurt or help Sheheen’s chances of getting elected? I truly don’t know. His chances were slim as it stood, barring something to shake up the equation. And I’d rather see it shaken this way — by Sheheen doing something right and good and visionary and courageous — than by some new scandal or other disaster befalling Nikki Haley.

Some think it’s automatic political death for a governor or gubernatorial candidate to embrace this issue. They’re wrong. They point to what happened to David Beasley, who stirred up the Angry White Men of his party with his abortive, half-hearted attempt to take action on the flag. Yeah, a few more neoConfederates may have voted against him. But Beasley had also alienated those of us on the other side of the issue, by so quickly reversing himself and giving up on the issue when he experienced the white backlash. Even to people who, unlike me, didn’t care about the flag, it made him look weak, wishy-washy and ineffective.

(I had only contempt for his surprised, shocked and weak reaction to the angry calls and letters. I, and to an even greater extent my colleague Warren Bolton — flag defenders got especially angry at a black man who dared to say the same things I was saying — had experienced the same phenomenon every single time we published another editorial or column on the subject. That means we had experienced it hundreds of times since I had joined the editorial board and started writing on the subject in 1994. Beasley couldn’t take a few days of it.)

And there were other reasons for Beasley’s loss.

In Sheheen’s case, not only is this likely to galvanize voters who would likely have supported him anyway — motivating them to get out and vote and urge their friends and neighbors to do so — it elevates him as someone willing to lead among many who might have been on the fence. Say, business leaders. If you’ll recall, the state Chamber backed Sheheen last time, and this time (thanks in large part to the rise of some Haley allies on the Chamber’s board), it went for Nicky. Business people can be favorably impressed by someone who is willing to lead, and to lead us in a direction that sweeps away such atavistic nonsense, such unnecessary barriers to progress, as flying that flag.

People who were dispirited by Sheheen’s lackluster, take-no-chances campaign thus far will be willing to step forward and put out some effort to get him elected.

I believe it’s at best a wash, and could be helpful to his chances.

But win or lose, he’s doing the right thing. And it’s been far too long since we’ve seen anyone who would lead us do that.


Well, this is welcome news. In fact, the most welcome news I’ve seen out of the rather lackluster Sheheen campaign this year.

Vincent Sheheen is stepping out and taking a stand on something that speaks to the essence of who we are, who we have been and who we aspire to be as a state and as a people:

Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen tried to shake up the governor’s race in South Carolina on Wednesday, calling for the removal of the Confederate flag that flies on a pole in front of the Statehouse.

Sheheen, who is lagging in the polls, is the most prominent political voice to call for the removal of the flag — a somewhat quixotic attempt that would need a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate at a time when few others in the state are publicly demanding it.

The two-thirds vote requirement was included in a compromise 14 years ago that moved the flag from atop the Capitol dome to a place just a few feet south of a monument honoring Confederate soldiers on one of the state’s busiest streets.

The state senator from Camden has proposed replacing the Confederate flag at its new location with an American flag. The American and South Carolina flags still fly over the Statehouse.

“I want South Carolina to be celebrated not as the state that left America, but as the best state in America,” Sheheen said….

As Bryan Caskey observed to me via email, Sheheen must have been listening to Doug Ross, who has repeatedly urged him on this blog to take this stand. Perhaps — although Doug won’t be satisfied until Sheheen also comes out “for gay marriage, legalized marijuana, and casinos in Myrtle Beach.”

That’s Doug. Me, I’m just glad to see Vincent do this. He’s taking a stand. A quixotic one to be sure, the way the Legislature has rigged the deal. But it’s the right stand. And it offers a clear contrast, if you’ll recall the way Nikki groveled before neoConfederates four years ago.

Let me clarify a couple of points here. First, the Legislature didn’t just codify the flying on the flag in the 2000 “compromise.” They did that back when the GOP first took over the House in 1995, shortly after I started writing extensively (my detractors would say obsessively) about the issue.

Second, this is not a new contrast between Sheheen and Haley. Sheheen indicated his openness to removing the flag four years ago. What he’s done now is shift from that passive stance to an active one, and put forth a specific plan.

I tell you what I’d like to see now: I’d like to see Joe Riley and others who have shown courage on this issue in the past get enthusiastically and visibly behind this effort, rallying the forces — in business, church, civil rights and other leadership circles — that came together in 2000 to get the flag off the dome.

It’s time to rally around the cause of putting this issue behind us forever, placing it in the museums and history books where it belongs. So we can move forward as South Carolinians, as one people, without this nonsense dividing us.

Some will say — as they have said after each of the hundreds of times I’ve called for removing the flag — that this is a distraction, that it is not a serious or core issue. But I assert that if we are not a state that can muster the courage and good sense to dispense with this flying of a divisive relic on our state’s front lawn, then we are not equal to tackling any of the challenges before us.

In my last column for The State, I wrote about South Carolina’s unfinished business — the need for reform in government, in education, in taxation. All of the things I wrote about were complex issue that would take a lot of heavy policy lifting, except for two, which I mentioned at the end:

Some of these things are tough; others are less so. But they are all essential to getting our act together in South Carolina. To help us warm up for the harder ones, I suggest we do the following immediately:

Raise our lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax by a dollar, bringing us (almost) to the national average, and saving thousands of young lives.

Remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

While those last two are easier to implement, they are essential to proving to the world and ourselves that we are serious about building a better South Carolina. The reasons that have been offered not to do those two, simple things are not reasons in any rational sense, but rather outgrowths of the mind-sets that have held us back since 1865.

Which is long enough.

We sort of halfway addressed the first of those two easy, no-brainer actions. It’s far past time to address the other.

How McConnell is playing nationally

In one venue, at least…

Slate runs a fairly even-handed (despite the Slate teaser, “IS A MAN WHO DRESSES LIKE A CONFEDERATE GENERAL UNFIT TO BE A COLLEGE PRESIDENT?”) piece that first appeared in Inside Higher Ed. There are no surprises in it. I just find it interesting to see how our controversies in SC play elsewhere, particularly in a case in which the protesters claim that McConnell’s selection will hurt out-of-state recruitment and the value of a College of Charleston education.

An excerpt:

Trustees at the College of Charleston are facing heat from faculty and students for picking South Carolina’s lieutenant governor as the college’s next president. In the process, critics say, the trustees brushed aside warnings that Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell’s promotion of Confederate history could damage Charleston’s reputation and turn away prospective students and donors.

In picking McConnell, the public liberal arts college’s trustees reportedly ignored the school’s own search committee, which did not recommend the politician—who has never worked in higher education—for president.

Backlash has been swift. Students rallied against McConnell’s selection Monday in the largest campus protest in recent memory. “This is 2014 NOT 1814,” one sign read. On Tuesday the student government voted no confidence in the college’s trustees. …

As you see, not much new. I just thought I’d share.

Glenn McConnell, president-elect of College of Charleston


The trustees of the College of Charleston went for political clout over the weekend, unanimously electing Glenn McConnell to be their new president.

It was the smart move, and the best for the public college’s future, to pick the longtime parliamentary master of the State House.

Yes, he has an affinity for all things Confederate. There’s the flag, which still flies in front of the State House because of the “compromise” he and a few other senators crafted when it became inevitable that it would no longer stay up on the dome. There’s the Hunley, the raising and preservation and study of which has been a pet project of his. There’s the memorabilia shop he owned (I don’t think he owns it anymore, but I could be wrong about that). There’s the 17 or 18 re-enactor uniforms he has in his closet.

Then there’s the fact that, as the most powerful and knowledgeable defender of the Legislative State, he has resisted substantive reform for decades.

That’s the bad stuff, which is all detractors have focused on. And you can see how they would.

But those who have worked with him in the State House mostly just respect the guy — and not just because he understands how the system works better than they do. He’s a hard worker who can be relied upon to do what he says he will do. And that has benefited South Carolina, from the judicial selection reforms (keeping selection in the hands of the Legislature, but making it much more merit-based) of the ’90s to his conscientious efforts on behalf of the elderly as lieutenant governor.

He earned a huge amount of that respect with the way he gave up his Senate power to accept the lowly job of lieutenant governor when that seemed to him the most honorable course, and rather than mope in the corner, got out and took his responsibility as head of the Office on Aging (lawmakers had put a former lieutenant governor in charge of the office just to give him something to do) seriously.

Those are the kinds of factors that led a couple of young Democrats to issue glowing praise of him on Twitter in response to the news over the weekend.

  • Sen. Thomas McElveen Tweeted, “Congrats to Glenn McConnell on being named @CofC ‘s 22nd president. His statesmanship, pragmatism & steady hand will be missed in the Senate.”
  • Former Rep. Boyd Brown wrote, “Very proud of Glenn McConnell and CofC, and wish both great success. Any entity should hope to have such an honorable and fair leader.”

Brown went further, arguing with the critics in two subsequent Tweets:

  • “Some of the folks manufacturing outrage over Glenn McConnell being tapped to lead CofC have clearly never met the man…”
  • “…Sure, McConnell is an easy target if all you know about him is ‘Civil War buff/politician.’ But as a leader, he’s in a class all his own.”

I’ve spent a lot of time on the opposite side — the losing side, of course — from Glenn McConnell on important state issues. I could get pretty indignant about it. But that has generated respect, and I know what these guys are on about.

As I said, the trustees made the right call. The smart call, certainly. But near as I can tell thus far, the right one, as well.

Slate is doing its best to keep Confederate flag flying in SC

Josh Voorhees posted this at Slate this morning, under a picture of the Confederate flag flying in front of our State House:

March Madness kicks into full swing today with games in Buffalo, Milwaukee, Orlando, and Spokane. Another four cities—Raleigh, San Antonio, San Diego, and St. Louis—will see men’s action on Friday. The women’s tournament then tips off on Saturday with weekend games spread out over 16 other cities. By the time the NCAA crowns a men’s and women’s champion in Arlington and Nashville, respectively, more than 30 cities will have hosted tournament games. None of those games, however, will be in South Carolina or Mississippi. The reason: The Confederate battle flags that still fly over the state capitol grounds in Columbia and Jackson.

In 2001, the NCAA imposed a ban on either state hosting post-season sporting events at predetermined sites (an important caveat I’ll get to in a second) as long as the flags continued to fly, and neither it nor the states have budged since. That is set to change somewhat next year when a format tweak will allow for a key exception for the women’s tournament. But that change won’t be in place in time to help the Lady Gamecocks, who are currently bearing the brunt of the NCAA post-season boycott of the Palmetto State…

As you and anyone else who’s ever read my stuff knows, I take a backseat to no one in my ardent desire to get that flag down. In fact, starting with my first editorial on the subject in 1994, I almost certainly hold the world record for number of words written with that aim in mind.

But as you probably also know, I think one of the most powerful factors keeping the flag there is the NAACP boycott. It causes a defiant backlash effect among the majority in the Legislature. History, and in our case personal experience, teaches us that the surest way to get a white South Carolinian to do something is to get someone from other parts of the country to try to make him stop doing it. (OK, technically, the NAACP boycott is driven by the South Carolina chapter, which had a lot of pull in the national organization at the time the boycott started — which is why SC is singled out while states like Georgia, which at one point during the life of the boycott even incorporated the symbol into its state flag, escape this censure. But the boycott is under the authority of the national organization, and in SC minds qualifies as out-of-staters trying to tell us what to do.)

And Slate smugly moralizing on the subject — the Tweet promoting this post said, “The (excellent) reason South Carolina and Mississippi don’t get to host March Madness” — only increases the effect. So, way to go there, Josh. Sheesh.

We lose Maurice Bessinger and Harold Ramis on the same day


Which means nothing, of course — I mean, the fact that they died on the same day means nothing; obviously their respective deaths mean a great deal to their families — but it struck me as an odd juxtaposition.

Maurice Bessinger, purveyor of yellow barbecue and “South Will Rise Again” tracts was 83. The man who gave us Egon “Print is Dead” Spengler and Army recruit Russell Ziskey (and as a writer and director, such gems as “Groundhog Day” and “Analyze This”) was only 69. And yes, my very first thought on the latter’s passing was that maybe collecting spores, molds and fungus was not the healthiest hobby. I mean that fondly, and intend no disrespect.

In Maurice’s behalf, I’ll note that his barbecue was my youngest daughter’s favorite. As the baby of the family, she had trouble understanding why the rest of us preferred not to give him our custom while that flag was flying at his restaurants. But now my daughter is off in Thailand with the Peace Corps, so I don’t think her BBQ preference limited her horizons or worldview any.

As for why the juxtaposition is notable, well… Maurice was a man who went out of his way to stand up for outmoded ideas, a man who insisted on pushing a discredited worldview even when it drove customers away. Ramis, on the other hand, was a harbinger of a new ironic meme in our popular culture, the smirking wise guy who poked gentle, mocking fun at our social foibles. One insisted on respect for ideas that had never deserved it; the other urged us not to take ourselves so seriously.

For what that’s worth…

McConnell to step down from elective office

By all accounts, he has really thrown himself into the work of running the Office on Aging as lt. gov.

By all accounts, he has really thrown himself into the work of running the Office on Aging as lt. gov.

Wow, it’s kind of hard to imagine the State House without Glenn McConnell.

He was, for so many years, arguably (that being every journalist’s favorite hedge word) the most powerful person in state government, for good or ill.

He’s the guy who was the biggest defender of the Legislative State and barrier to reform, yet led a significant improvement in the way South Carolina chooses judges.

He was the champion of limited government and spending ceilings, yet managed to come up with all that dough for the Hunley.

He was, finally, the man who liked to dress up as an Old School Southern gentleman, who then acted like a real gentleman by giving up power for a point of honor (when he agreed to give up his position in the Senate to occupy the low-status job of lieutenant governor, rather than trying to engineer a way around the rules).

Now he’s giving up that job, for a shot at academe:

COLUMBIA — S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell will not seek another term and instead push to become president at his alma mater, the College of Charleston.

McConnell has said he wanted to make a decision since the college’s presidential search timetable conflicts with the June primary. A new president to succeed George Benson will not be named until around March.

“Any effort to pursue both goals at the same time is simply not an honorable path,” McConnell said in statement Monday. “It would not be fair to good candidates who may want to seek this office. Most of all, it would not be fair to the voters of South Carolina to ask them to support me for lieutenant governor if there is even a chance I might not remain in the campaign. For those reasons, I have decided I will not be a candidate for re-election. And I will instead formally offer my name for consideration to the College of Charleston.”…

The State House is losing a true original…

First, key SC lawmakers were dead serious about nullification; now, they’re taking testimony from a secessionist. And yes, it’s 2013

We are really on a roll in South Carolina this week. On a rapid downhill roll, as on the proverbial handcart to hell.

SC Democrats put out this release today:

Well-known Secessionist invited by GOP lawmaker to give testimony in support of Nullification

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Laws held a hearing on H3101, otherwise known as the “Nullification” bill that seeks to nullify the Affordable Care Act, heard testimony from dozens of Tea Party activists on Wednesday. One of the speakers, Dr. Donald Livingston of Georgia, separated himself from the other speakers when he publicly advocated for secession during his testimony.

Dr. Livingston, a retired philosophy professor testifying in support of nullification, was invited to give the lead testimony by the bill’s chief sponsor, Representative Bill Chumley. Dr. Livingston later admitted in his testimony that he had not actually read Rep. Chumley’s bill.

Dr. Donald Livingston is the former director of the League of the South, a neo-confederate group that actively supports southern nationalism as well as secession from the United States. (Source) The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the League of the South as a “racist hate group.” (Source) Dr. Livingston has been dubbed the “Intellectual Godfather of the secession movement” by New York Times journalist Chris Hedges. Dr. Livingston has written extensively in support of secession and southern heritage. (Source)

In 2001, he told the Intelligence Report that “the North created segregation” and that Southerners fought during the Civil War only “because they were invaded.” The next year, he established the Abbeville Institute, based in Atlanta, along the lines of the League of the South. (Source)

At a 2003 “Lincoln Reconsidered” conference he said that “evil is habit-forming” and no habit is as evil as believing that Lincoln acted out of good motives. (Source)

Representative James Smith, a member of the subcommittee, released the following statement in response:

“I was surprised and extremely disappointed Rep. Bill Chumley would invite Dr. Livingston to serve as his chief advocate in front of the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee. His extreme views on secession and his association with a known racist hate group insults the institution we serve and reveals the motives behind many who support this legislation. I fundamentally reject his vision for our country and I call on my colleagues to do the same.”


It’s really been weird lately. At home in the evenings, I read Team of Rivals, and just started rewatching Ken Burns’ classic “The Civil War” on Netflix. Reading and watching at night, I think that what I’m doing is studying history.

But then I get up in the morning, and day after day, this insane nonsense turns out to be current events over at our State House.

Tom Davis at the ‘nullification rally’

This morning, I saw this on Twitter from Tom Davis:

Thanks, Ed Eichelberger, for this video of my speech at Tuesday’s nullification rally at the S. C. State House.

“Nullification rally?” Is that what was going on when I passed by on Tuesday.? Wait, let me go check. No, I was right: This is 2013, and not 1832…

I didn’t have time to look at the video until tonight. Before I wrap up for today, I want to take note of it here. We must all remember this when Tom runs against Lindsey Graham next year. If he does. Or when he runs for anything in the future.

I have always liked Tom Davis personally, and I have been very disturbed to see his steady descent into fringe extremism.

In case you don’t have time to watch it all, some lowlights:

  • Lee Bright’s absolutely right.
  • Launching on a history lesson — neoConfederates are big on condescendingly explaining their version of history to the rest of us, and Tom is picking up their habits — he says that George Washington was president in 1800. No, Tom, he wasn’t. Kind of makes you want to double-check all the other stuff he says. In case you didn’t already know to do that.
  • He says, with fierce, defensive passion, that as a South Carolinian he is “proud of John C. Calhoun,” whom he characterizes as “a great man who has been maligned far too long.”
  • “You have the intellectual high ground here.” This to the assembled nullificationists.
  • “I can’t do anything right now up in Congress…” As opposed to later, I guess.
  • “This state has a proud tradition of leaders stepping up and holding aloft the candle of liberty at a time when things were darkest.” Really? I would like to have heard an elaboration on that, with names and dates, so I can understand how Tom is defining “liberty” these days.

Lee Bright: Trying to secede every which way he can

What with the holidays and all, I didn’t get around to snorting in derision at the latest secessionist (or at least nullificationist) nonsense from state Sen. Lee Bright:


Lee Bright

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A proposed piece of legislation intends to exempt pistols and rifles made in South Carolina from federal regulation as long as they stay in-state.

The Firearms Freedom Act, pre-filed earlier this month by state Sen. Lee Bright, would mean that firearms, ammunition and gun accessories made in South Carolina aren’t subject to federal rules and oversight. Weapons made in South Carolina, the bill notes, must be stamped with the words “Made in South Carolina.”

Bright, R-Roebuck, says his bill would allow South Carolina manufacturers to skirt federal regulations because the materials would not cross state lines. He introduced a similar proposal last session, but that measure died in committee…

Y’all remember Lee Bright. He previously wanted South Carolina to coin its own money. Before that, he was the sponsor of a Senate resolution demanding that Washington stop stepping on our unspecified “rights” down here in SC.

You know how atheists these days — well, some of them, anyway — have taken to calling themselves “Brights,” seeking a more upbeat image? Well, if the senator from Spartanburg becomes any more of a household name nationally, they might want to reconsider that move…

How’s your Confederate Memorial Day going?

Stream of consciousness this morning…

I got a bit of a late start and didn’t get to the Capital City Club for breakfast until after 9. I had been struck, when I parked my truck on the southbound side of the Assembly median between Lady and Gervais, that there wasn’t a single other vehicle parked on the block. Many days, you can’t get a space.

Forty minutes later exactly, I come out and my truck is still completely alone. What causes such fluctuations in the demand for parking in that area? No idea…

NPR comes on as I crank up the truck. As I move toward Gervais and prepare to turn left, author John Irving is being interviewed. This prompts thoughts about why he’s so celebrated. I read a review in the WSJ of his latest, and saw nothing that made me want to read it. At the insistence of a friend (who was sure I would love it) years and years ago, I tried to read A Prayer for Owen Meany. Distaste caused me to quit after the first chapter, much as I did with Conroy’s Prince of Tides. (I have a strong negative reaction to novels that start out heaping horrific personal misfortune on the central characters — I mean, come on; gimme a chance to get used to who they are first.)

Turns out that — possibly because his latest is about a sexual omnivore; at least they seem to be relating the question to that — he’s being asked about Obama endorsing the idea of same-sex “marriage.” Great. KulturkampfYesterday’s post was enough time spent on that for me. With an air of weariness, I change to Steve FM.

Just as I do so, into my view come two jokers dressed up in butternut imitation uniforms, standing at attention in front of the Confederate soldier monument. Aw, gee, not… yes. It’s Confederate Memorial Day.

I would say, “Get over it!” But what would be the point? South Carolina is so not over it that this is an actual state holiday. Really. In fact, this observance should have been on the front page of The State this morning, right next to the Obama gay-marriage thing, to remind us all where our state leaders’ priorities lay. But I had to be told about it by these guys.

So now I know why there was a whole block of empty parking spaces.

It’s a good thing I got some good personal news this morning (my mother, who is in the hospital, is doing better). Otherwise, the day would be starting out feeling rather hopeless.

In South Carolina, we can’t get our stuff together on anything that would actually advance our state and make the lives of its citizens better. Everything that might move us forward languishes, year after year. But we can decide to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, yet again. Because that does everyone so much good, you know.

Here I would type “sigh,” but that wouldn’t express the weariness that I feel.

Newt answers flag question as I would

Our friend Michael Rodgers brings this to my attention:


Have you seen this video with Newt in Charleston?

The reactions of the crowd are revolting.  Why would they cheer so
much?  After all, the people of South Carolina want the flag down.
Our will is being thwarted by our legislature.  That’s where we are
today.  This issue is just one example of far too many issues where
partisan politics and legislative dominance trample over what’s
clearly right.

BTW, the Republican presidential primary in SC is just a few days
after MLK day.  It’s Saturday the 21st, when MLK day is Monday the
16th.  Should be an interesting week.



Well, I have to say first that Newt answered the question about the way I would — although perhaps for different reasons, since he’s running for the GOP nomination here. Of course what we South Carolinians fly on the State House grounds is our business and no one else’s. And if I were a presidential candidate passing through from elsewhere, if asked, I would say, “That’s your problem, not mine.”

If someone from elsewhere could somehow coerce South Carolina into removing the flag, nothing would be accomplished. The only way that anything is accomplished by furling the flag is if South Carolina grows up enough to decide, on its own, through our elected representatives, to take that step.

That step is long, long overdue. Every day that we leave it there is an insult to our ancestors as well as to ourselves and our neighbors today. We’re not hurting anyone in the world but South Carolina by flying it, and it’s incumbent on us to decide we’ve engaged in far more than enough nonsense, and put the thing away. A banner designed to be taken into battle in a war we lost 146 years ago should be under glass in a museum (and we have one for that purpose), or represented with a modest bronze plaque, not flying as though it and what it stands for is alive.

It’s no one else’s concern. Of course, it helps them decide what they think of us. But so far, we’ve been satisfied to let them think what they like. Which is fine, in a way. Because in the end, we need to get rid of the flag because we understand that it’s wrong, that it’s something we need to put behind us. If we did it simply because of what others thought, and still wanted, deep-down, to fly it, nothing would be accomplished. We would not have grown as a people.

Everything I’ve ever written about the flag has been aimed at persuading my fellow South Carolinians who are not yet convinced that we need to go ahead and take it down. It’s about us, the people of this state. Always has been.

The Ariail cartoon that plumb tickled them ol’ fancy-pants NLRB lawyers

Here’s the Robert Ariail cartoon that the smart-a__ Yankee NLRB attorneys were passing around and giggling about:

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for the federal labor agency fighting Boeing’s new factory in North Charleston, N.C., repeatedly joked among themselves about the dispute and exchanged a political cartoon portraying S.C. Sen. Glenn McConnell as a crass-speaking confederate soldier, according to internal documents released Wednesday.

They enjoyed it as much as they could, but we can take satisfaction from knowing that they couldn’t possibly have enjoyed it on the deeper, convoluted levels of meaning that are accessible to us, the cognoscenti.

See how easy that was? Just vote it down…

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This Rachel Maddow report out of Louisiana comes to our attention today.

Couple of things to point out as you watch…

  1. See how familiar that display in front of the courthouse looks?
  2. See how easy it was to remove that flag? A  public hearing, followed by an 11-1 vote to take it down.

Our Legislature could do the same. If it only wanted to.

Of course, now that I see that embed in place and see that headline, Rachel isn’t helping us much. Ixnay on the ictoryvay against the Onfederacykay, OK?

But ignore the headline, and ignore that it’s Rachel Maddow, and just pay attention to the good-sense story that is told… Look at it for what it is, not the attitudes of the messenger.

… and beach traffic is still beach traffic

After all these years, and after all the frustration, I still prefer to take the Interstate route to and from the Grand Strand. The back route through Georgetown, Andrews and Manning that my wife prefers just seems to take much longer to me, even though there’s always less traffic. I’m not a two-lane road guy.

So since I was just taking one granddaughter home (the one who had to be back at school), and my wife would be going in a separate car the next day, I took my preferred route. On Labor Day.

I knew the chance I was taking. I was willing to take it.

And I had thought I had beat the odds. After swinging through the old Air Force Base to pick up some Starbucks, I got on the 17 Bypass. Not too bad. Then I got on 501. STILL not too bad. Then I got all the way to Conway without hitting any jams. I was practically laughing out loud. I was SO going to call and gloat to my wife when next we stopped…

But then we DID stop. Between Conway and Aynor. With this I had not reckoned. Nobody expects a jam between Conway and Aynor after having passed smoothly through Conway.

I had reckoned without the new connector to North Myrtle Beach. OK, so it’s not so new. But I suppose I hadn’t travelled that route, at such a bad time, since it was opened. WOW, it dumps a lot of traffic onto 501, seemingly out of nowhere.

So I spent the next half-hour mostly stopped (and yes, I was stopped when I took the photo) behind the vehicle pictured above. Imagine how much I enjoyed that.

Kind of makes you wonder what weird, unintended consequences might occur if they ever do build the I-73 extension.

How it actually looked...

The rambling monument

By the way, if you were surprised when I told you back here that the Confederate monument has not always been in the most prominent location in Columbia, you might be interested to read this excerpt from a column I wrote for July 2, 2000 — the day after the flag moved from the dome to the monument:

Well, here’s a fun fact to know and tell: The state’s official monument to Confederate soldiers was not always in that location. In fact, that isn’t even the original monument.

I had heard this in the past but just read some confirmation of it this past week, in a column written in 1971 by a former State editor. When I called Charles Wickenberg, who is now retired, to ask where he got his facts, he wasn’t sure after all these years. But the folks at the S.C. Department of Archives and History were able to confirm the story for me. It goes like this:

The original monument , in fact, wasn’t even on the State House grounds. It was initially erected on Arsenal Hill, but a problem developed – it was sitting on quicksand. So it was moved to the top of a hill at the entrance of Elmwood cemetery.

The monument finally made it to the State House grounds in 1879. But it didn’t go where it is now. It was placed instead “near the eastern end of the building, about 60 feet from the front wall and 100 feet from the present site,” Mr. Wickenberg wrote.

But another problem developed: The monument kept getting struck by lightning. “The last stroke” hit on June 22, 1882, and demolished the stone figure.

At this point, if I were one of the folks in charge of this monument , I might have started to wonder about the whole enterprise. But folks back then were made of sterner stuff, and they soldiered on, so to speak.

At this point a new base was obtained, with stirring words inscribed upon it, and “a new statue, chiseled in Italy,” placed at the top. On May 9, 1884, the new monument was unveiled and dedicated in the same location in which we find it today.

Of course, my purpose in writing that was to suggest, The thing doesn’t have to stay there! There were, and are, plenty of other places for it — places that seemed quite suitable to the generation that actually experienced the War.

Why not a triumphal arch for the Gamecocks?

I’ll be at the parade for the National Champion Gamecocks on Friday, and I’m sure it will be great, but… we had a parade last year. And we flew a flag from the State House, etc.

All of that was very fine. But it seems like when they win the championship two years in a row, we ought to do something exponentially bigger. Something that really shows some lasting, monumental pride in the new Gamecock dynasty.

Yesterday, I was exchanging Tweets with Aaron Sheinin about the big win (he called it a “Great win for the common man”), when it hit me, and I responded:

If we don’t build a triumphal arch in front of the State House, we’ll never have a better chance. (Hey, I think I’ll blog that.)

Why not? Just move the Confederate soldier monument, and its flag, back to Elmwood Cemetery where it used to be (bet you didn’t know that), and replace it with something on the order of the monument they have in Paris, or Washington Square, or the Marble Arch in London?

This afternoon I heard SC Commerce Sec. Bobby Hitt touting the Gamecocks achievement as a sign to the world (and really, to ourselves) of what we can do in South Carolina if we work as a team. Instead of, I would add, fighting with each other all the time.

Wouldn’t that be awesome? Isn’t it high time that we start defining ourselves in terms of a famous victory, instead of our historic defeat? Isn’t it time to stop wallowing in the biggest mistake our (or any other) state ever made, and proclaim to the world just how great we can be?

I think so.

National media discover we’re (gasp!) still fighting the Civil War — where have they been?

The dim, hazy past? Think again...

Certainly not in South Carolina, where a week hardly passes without new Nullification legislation passing through the State House.

A friend brought my attention today to this CNN item, which cites various “ways we’re still fighting the Civil War.” The most pertinent passage:

Nullification, states’ rights and secession. Those terms might sound like they’re lifted from a Civil War history book, but they’re actually making a comeback on the national stage today.

Since the rise of the Tea Party and debate over the new health care law, more Republican lawmakers have brandished those terms. Republican lawmakers in at least 11 states invoked nullification to thwart the new health care law, according to a recent USA Today article.

Well, duh.

Other parts of the piece were less impressive. For instance this standard-issue 2011 take on what a dangerous thing religion is:

If you think the culture wars are heated now, check out mid-19th century America. The Civil War took place during a period of pervasive piety when both North and South demonized one another with self-righteous, biblical language, one historian says.
The war erupted not long after the “Second Great Awakening” sparked a national religious revival. Reform movements spread across the country. Thousands of Americans repented of their sins at frontier campfire meetings and readied themselves for the Second Coming.
They got war instead. Their moral certitude helped make it happen, says David Goldfield, author of “America Aflame,” a new book that examines evangelical Christianity’s impact on the war.
Goldfield says evangelical Christianity “poisoned the political process” because the American system of government depends on compromise and moderation, and evangelical religion abhors both because “how do you compromise with sin.”

Which sort of prompts one to ask, So… what are you saying? That owning other people isn’t a sin? Just curious.

How many SC lawmakers does it take to screw up light bulbs?

You thought that SC lawmakers had already done everything they could possibly do to emphasize to the world that, if given the slightest excuse, they would secede all over again? Well, you were wrong.

These boys are creative, and they never miss a new way to celebrate the spirit of Nullification. This just in:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – South Carolina legislators are throwing a lifeline to traditional incandescent light bulbs as they try to trump federal energy standards.

The House on Thursday approved legislation with a 76-20 vote that would allow companies to manufacture the bulbs in South Carolina and sell them here.

The measure needs routine final approval next week before heading to the Senate.

Federal energy standards have manufacturers turning to compact fluorescent, halogen and LED bulbs. Manufacturers phase out traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs next year.

Proponents say more efficient bulbs cost too much and they don’t like the light they provide.

The Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act allows manufacturers to make the traditional bulbs and stamp them as “Made in South Carolina.” They could only be sold in the Palmetto State.

Someone who doesn’t understand South Carolina — someone who thinks the sesquicentennial of secession is a commemoration of the way we were, rather than a celebration of who we ARE — might think that this is just a particularly moronic way of rejecting any kind of concern for the planet as “liberal,” and therefore beyond the pale.

But if you really do understand South Carolina, you realize that yes, it’s that, but it’s also a chance to relive the heady days of 1860, and cock a snook at the federal gummint. Especially that Obama.

So that’s, what? Three birds with one stone? Environmentalism. The Union. And Obama.

These guys aren’t dummies, no matter what you think. They are geniuses at what they do.

They’re going to keep trying until they provoke that Obama enough that he tries to resupply Fort Sumter. They’ll be ready for him, too.