Category Archives: Confederate flag

CRC honors Jack Van Loan, Nikki Haley

Jack Van Loan in 2006.

Jack Van Loan, flying back-seat in a civilian aircraft in 2006.

Today at our annual luncheon at the convention center, the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council (of which I am a board member) honored my good friend Jack Van Loan and our governor, Nikki Haley.

Jack received the Milton Kimpson Award for a lifetime of service to his country and to this community. As you’ll recall, he was an Air Force pilot who was shot down, captured, tortured and held prisoner for several years at the Hanoi Hilton, where he became fast friends with fellow prisoner John McCain. Since moving to Columbia in retirement (he’s originally from Oregon), Col. Van Loan has been a community leader particularly in the Five Points area, and is the guy who built the annual St. Pat’s Day celebration into the huge event it is today.

We honored the governor with the Hyman Rubin Award for her leadership last year after the killings at Emanuel AME in Charleston — for the way she led us in mourning and honoring the dead, and for (in my mind, especially for) doing the unlikely thing and leading us, finally, to take down that flag. Her leadership during last fall’s floods was also mentioned at some of the meetings I attended.Nikki Haley

Now I’m going to tell a tale out of school, and if it significantly bothers a consensus of my fellow board members, I’ll take it down…

Some very good people who are deeply invested in the cause of the CRC contacted board members in recent days to protest our honoring Gov. Haley. In one case, we received a long and thoughtful letter reciting a litany of reasons why, because of her policy and political actions in office, she did not embody the spirit of Hyman Rubin, or of our group.

I can’t speak for the rest of the board, but I can speak for myself on this. My reaction was that the protests were thoughtful and respectful and stated important truths. Most of the items counted against the governor were things that I, too, disagree with her about.

But I strongly believed that we should give the governor the award. (And while I didn’t poll everyone, I haven’t yet spoken with a board member who disagrees with me.) Our group is about community relations, particularly in the sense of fostering better interracial relations, and what the governor did last year did more on that score than I’ve seen from any elected official in recent years. Despite what some believe, she did not have to do what she did. I did not expect her to do it, right up until the miraculous moment when she did. Based on what I have seen over almost 30 years of closely observing S.C. politics, what she did was a complete departure from the norm.

So I was pleased to see her receive the award. She was unable to attend personally, but she sent along a video clip in which she thanked us quite graciously.

Congratulations, governor. And thank you for your leadership…

Clementa Pinckney on the Confederate flag in 2000

Since they had unveiled Clem Pinckney’s portrait in the Senate that day, Joel Lourie got to talking with me about the late senator at his retirement party. Joel asked if I had seen this footage of Pinckney talking about the Confederate flag during the debate in 2000, when he the youngest member of the Senate.

I said I hadn’t, so he sent it to me.

It might give you chills to hear him on the subject, showing so much heart and idealism and love and promise.

He spoke of young people like him not wanting to still be talking about the flag for years to come.

There was no way for him, or any of us, to know that it would take his death, and those of eight others, to get us all to hear him and bring the flag down.

Speaking of youth… Dylan Roof was 6 years old at the time of this speech. I don’t know what I mean by observing that, other than to say we certainly had to talk about the flag for a long time…

The Pinckney portrait, from the Twitter feed of Tara Pettit of WACH-Fox.

The Pinckney portrait, from the Twitter feed of Tara Pettit of WACH-Fox.

The Whig and last summer’s anti-flag rallies

organizers

Jeremy Borden brings to my attention a piece he wrote for a site called The Bitter Southerner. It’s about the role The Whig played in helping get the Confederate flag down.

Basically, the role is this: It was a gathering place — and a fertile one, for those wanting a better South Carolina — for the folks who planned the two anti-flag rallies last summer. That would be Mariangeles Borghini, Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall, pictured above in a photo by Sean Rayford. (And below in a grainy screengrab from video I shot at the first rally.)

That was a natural part to play for a bar located just yards away from the Confederate soldier monument. And this piece was a natural fit for The Bitter Southerner, which apparently has its roots in its creator’s bitterness about Southern bartenders not getting enough respect. No, really.

The piece appealed to me because I appreciate what Mari, Emile and Tom did. And even more because one of the owners and founders of The Whig, Phil Blair, is one of my elder son’s best friends. Remembering his days playing in local punk bands, I marvel at what a pillar-of-the-community successful businessman he’s become. Whenever there’s something going on downtown to advance the community, Phil is there.

It’s a piece with a strong sense of place, and that place is the very heart of our community. You may recall that, just as getting rid of the flag was, for The Whig, about “Neighbors… cleaning up their trashy yard,” Emile saw the banner as bad for his own business, Soda City. As I wrote about Emile in June:

He fantasizes about getting a bunch of Confederate flags, some poles and a few bags of cement, and driving them in a truck to the places of business of some of these lawmakers — their law offices, their insurance agencies and so forth — and planting the flags in front of their businesses and seeing how they like it…

Anyway, you should go read the piece. Excerpts:

In the wake of the murders, Hall and others had gathered mournfully at The Whig that same June week to try to digest the event’s enormity. And to make plans. Hall and two others — Emile DeFelice, Hall’s close friend and fellow South Carolina native, and Mari Borghini, an Argentine immigrant — began to stoke local furor. DeFelice described the trio this way: “Old, rich South Carolina,” he said of Hall. “Old, poor South Carolina,” he said of himself. “And a recent immigrant,” he said of Borghini. “Awesome.”

At The Whig, they planned protests they hoped would pressure the state’s leaders to bring down the flag they viewed as as plague on the statehouse grounds. But their plans had been made with some trepidation.

“Do we go for this now while these people are not even cold dead?” Hall asked. “And we all said yeah. Yeah, I’m grieving I don’t know them; I’ve never been to that church. But that (the Confederate flag) was his (the killer’s) Army, that was his uniform. We’re not waiting and not sitting back.”

As Borghini put it, “Why would they not do something about it?”…

Whig denizens don’t like the word “hipster,” and they’re probably right that the self-righteousness implied doesn’t fit — even if the bar’s detractors detect a whiff of it. The Whig is one of only a few eclectic gathering places in what many complain is Columbia’s often banal college-town existence wrapped in a family and church town’s restrained conservatism.

The bar differs from its stiffer neighbors in more ways than one. The statehouse politics steps away are usually divisive, ugly and superficial. But even many of those bow-tied politicians and operatives sidle up to The Whig’s bar, where the conversation is generally more elevated and congenial….

Phil Blair, the bar’s co-owner who runs it day-to-day, calls it “alcohol philanthropy.” He wants to do more than sling beer and burgers. “I’m from here,” Blair said. “I have that local chip on my shoulder that we’re trying to catch up to other cities around us.”

The Confederate flag on the bar’s front perch was yet another reminder for Blair and others that Columbia hadn’t yet entered the 21st Century.

Those who inhabit The Whig are usually passionate people who rail against the status quo from the sidelines….

rally 2

 

 

 

‘The Nation’ on politics and race in South Carolina

My headline might make you cringe a bit, but the piece isn’t bad. It doesn’t really say anything about us that I haven’t said, or that you don’t already know.

After all, we are the state that seceded first, and some of us would do it again with just a modest amount of encouragement.

It’s tone-deaf in a couple of spots, though. For instance, it equates Strom Thurmond, the segregationist, with Ben Tillman, the advocate of lynching. Most of us can see the gradations of wrongness there rather clearly. And speaking of Thurmond — the writer either doesn’t know or has forgotten that the senator cleaned up his act in the last few decades of his career. In other words, he spent far more years in the Senate NOT being a segregationist than most people spend in the Senate.

That leads to confusion. After noting approvingly that Paul Thurmond says a lot of enlightened things — which he does; he’s a fine young man — the writer observes,

I leave Thurmond’s office wondering whether what I’ve just heard can be real. He seemed like a sincere man, but he, too, was eager to get beyond race. “My generation has not been taught to hate people based on the color of their skin,” the son of South Carolina’s most notorious segregationist told me.

Yet someone taught Dylann Roof and Michael Slager, the cop who shot Walter Scott in the back. The Confederate flag may finally be on its way to a museum, but the attitude of racial arrogance that the flag represented is very far from being a mere artifact. That’s a fundamental truth of our national life—though not one that’s easy to see from Iowa or New Hampshire. Perhaps South Carolina’s role in our politics is to remind us of all those parallel universes—not just Republican and Democratic, or rich and poor, but yes, still black and white—we work so hard to ignore. We always have a choice. We can carry on pretending that it’s still morning in America, that we’re all in this together. Or we can take a good hard look in the mirror.

Yep, Strom was a notorious segregationist, before he wasn’t. (Oh, and do I think it’s because he had some road-to-Damascus transformation, like Tom Turnipseed, the opponent of integration who did a 180 to become possibly the most ardent, sincerest progressive in South Carolina? No. The world changed, and Thurmond adapted. Early in his career, it was helpful to be a segregationist, so he was one. Later it was not, so he wasn’t. But it’s still true that he wasn’t.)

And the fact that Dylann Roof is a racist does in no way demonstrates that Paul Thurmond is lying when he says he wasn’t brought up that way. Possibly, Dylann Roof wasn’t brought up that way, either. I have my doubts about the old saw that children have to be taught to hate. I strongly suspect that people are capable of getting there on their own. Anyway, almost no one Paul Thurmond’s age was brought up that way, although his father certainly was. We live in subtler, politer times.

But there is no doubt that, decades after the Southern Strategy transferred the Solid South from the Democrats to the Republicans, race is always, always on the table. The article gets that right. It just misses some of the nuances…

Did you read my comments in the NYT?

Over the weekend, the NYT finally ran that piece by Richard Fausset, in which he quoted me on the subject of the Confederate flag.

Some people are nationally recognized experts on quantum physics. Others are sought after for what they have to say about macroeconomics. Me, I’m seen as a boffin on South Carolina’s cheesy, nylon, fake Confederate flag.

Hey, it’s something. And if anybody’s got an idea on how to monetize this, my super-power, I’m listening.

Anyway, here’s my bit in the story:

The museum is also full of Confederate battle flags that were used by South Carolinians during the war — unlike the flag that was removed from the State House. That makes the whole issue of honoring the State House flag in the museum particularly absurd to critics like Brad Warthen, a former editorial page editor at The State in Columbia, who now blogs about South Carolina politics.

Mr. Warthen has noted that legislators, years ago, mandated that the flag be made of nylon, rather than cotton, to keep the colors from fading. He ridiculed this as ahistorical and “cheesy.” (One of his old columns began with altered lyrics to the song “Dixie”: “Oh, I wish I was in the land of nylon.”)

Like many here, Mr. Warthen believes that spending millions to display the flag makes little sense in a state that is struggling to find funds for road and infrastructure repairs (much needed after catastrophic flooding in October), educational initiatives and changes to a scandal-plagued Department of Social Services.

“Our state’s spending needs are legion,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter how you feel about the flag. It’s a ridiculous waste of resources.”…

I tweeted about this Sunday morning, and Phillip Bush responded:

Yeah, it’s pretty cool. This may be my first time in that august publication. I’ve been in the WSJ once or twice, but not, as I recall, in the Gray Lady. It’s nice to be quoted in a paper where they call you “mister.”

But think about it: Donald Trump is in there every day. So, you know…

Oh, yeah? Trying cutting it by $5.3 million

The last time I saw the flag in question. I'd be happiest if it remained the last time.

The last time I saw the flag in question. I’d be happiest if it remained the last time.

Don’t know whether you saw this story this morning:

The Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum Commission on Tuesday lowered to $3.6 million a proposal for displaying the Confederate battle flag that was removed from the State House grounds in July.

The new proposal is about $1.7 million less than what a consultant proposed earlier this month. The new plan also reduces projected annual operating funds to $234,000 from the consultant’s proposed $416,000.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the plan, which includes opening a new wing at the Relic Room, which is located in the same renovated textile mill as the S.C. State Museum. The proposal also includes an electronic presentation of the names of all 24,000 South Carolina Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War and the conservation and display of period Confederate battle flags now in storage. The war began when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and was fought from 1861 to 1865….

Folks, it’s still an outrage until you get down to something under $100. Actually, spending anything on displaying this inauthentic nylon knockoff is an outrage, especially at a museum containing genuine military artifacts.

Harrell replacement: Use private money to display flag

If you’re counting up the ways that Bobby Harrell’s departure from the House was a blessing to South Carolina, add this…

Mary Tinkler, the young Democrat who won his seat by default when Harrell had to withdraw from the 2014 election, is stepping up to avoid the obscenity of state taxpayers paying an exorbitant amount to display the fake nylon flag removed from the State House:

Representative Mary Tinkler to Prefile Bill Creating Commission to Fund Confederate Flag Display with Private Dollars

Tinkler bill would prevent taxpayers from funding proposed Confederate Flag Display

Charleston, SC – State Representative Mary Tinkler (D-Charleston) announced Wednesday that she will prefile legislation creating a nine-person commission to raise private funds for and oversee the maintenance of the display of the confederate battle flag that was removed from the statehouse grounds in July.

Last week, the museum commission approved a costly, $5.3-million design incorporating the display of the confederate battle flag in an expanded Confederate Relic Room in Columbia.  As proposed by consultants, the display features eight-foot-tall panels with millions of small LED lights and requires significant security enhancements for the flag, which was removed after the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Rep. Mary Tinkler

Rep. Mary Tinkler

“When the flag was removed from the statehouse grounds, we overwhelmingly agreed that it should be displayed in an appropriate manner,” said Tinker.  “But this proposal is irresponsible and not in the best interest of South Carolina’s taxpayers.  We have thousands of flood victims in this state who still haven’t seen relief, roads that are literally crumbling, and schools that continue to fail.  Their needs should take priority.”

Tinkler says she plans to prefile legislation on Thursday that would limit public funding for the confederate battle flag but protect the planned display in perpetuity.

“Taxpayers should not be required to fund such an extravagant project when we have so many needs that aren’t being adequately addressed,” said Tinkler. “However, we can still honor the history of the confederacy with a flag display at the Confederate Relic Room.  My bill is a free-market compromise that allows for an appropriate display, funded by private donations.”

Tinkler’s proposal tasks the legislature with appointing a commission, made up of lay people, to create and direct a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to raise the necessary funds for an appropriate confederate flag display. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore would each have four (4) appointments, while the Governor would have one.  The commission would also be in charge of raising the funds to maintain the display and support necessary personnel and security.

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Good for her. But I’d go a step further: Even if every penny comes from private sources (which would be a challenge, since the proposal involves an annual cost of $416,000 in perpetuity — or until the rent goes even higher), this display should not be erected within the context of a museum under the purview of the state.

Even if the money drops from the sky, devoting that kind of space and energy to this tawdry token instead of to the real military relics at the museum would be obscene.

$5.3 million for Confederate flag? An outrage on every level

flagproposal

Artist’s conception of the shrine to a nylon fake. Another reason to oppose the proposal: Apparently, people who view it turn into shadows of themselves…

Sorry not to have gotten to this one sooner.

It’s been proposed — not by any elected official, thank God, but by a private consultant — that $5.3 million be spent to display the fake Confederate flag that flew on the north lawn of the State House until the wonderful moment back in the summer when we removed it.

Let’s examine a few of the ways in which this is an appalling, outrageous idea:

  • The waste of money. Our state has so many unmet, actual needs. On that basis alone, this would be a sinful waste. We have many millions worth of infrastructure needs after October’s floods. This amount would at least allow us to fix a dam or a bridge or two. The State reported today that it would cost $55 million to fix 32 structurally deficient bridges damaged in the flooding. So rather than waste the money on this flag absurdity, we could fix three bridges. Meanwhile, DSS needs $32 million to hire 157 more people to protect children. With $5.3 million, we could hire 26 of them. And so forth, all through the litany of real needs in South Carolina.
  • This flag in no way represents the men who served in the Confederate army. It is a cheesy fake made of nylon. NYLON! It never went into battle with a soldier in the service of any cause, good or bad. No Confederate soldier ever even beheld such a thing — their flags were made of heavy cotton. An authentic flag that flew on the State House grounds was replaced with this tacky fake at the behest of then-Sen. Glenn McConnell, who wanted a flag that didn’t fade in the sun and rain — and which, incidentally, would flap in the breeze much more readily than an authentic one, being lighter. So basically, what this flag represents is the reprehensible motivation that one portion of our state’s population had to rub its dominance into the faces of another portion of our state’s population. As I wrote in The State back during the summer: It was “a way white South Carolinians — some of us, anyway — have had of saying that, despite Appomattox and the civil rights movement: We can do this. We don’t care about you or how you feel about it. It was a way of telling the world whose state this is.”
  • The lion’s share of the cost of this proposal would be to expand the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum by a third, onto the second story of the building in which it is situated. So… we’d be saying that this nylon, fake battle flag is worth a third of all of the real sacrifices made by real soldiers throughout our history, starting with the Revolutionary War. How gross can you get?
  • The $5.3 million price tag apparently doesn’t even include the $416,000 in rent that would have to be paid each year for the new, additional space.

I could go on, but I’ll end my litany there, and let y’all add any other outrages that occur to you.Patrick Henry Bradley

I’ll close with a personal anecdote and a proposal. It relates to one of my great-great-grandfathers, Patrick Henry Bradley, for which the tiny community of Bradley, S.C., is named.

In family lore he is known as “General Bradley,” because he was elected to that rank (brigadier, I think) in the South Carolina Militia. But in the Civil War, he served as a captain. And he obtained that rank by raising his own company from the countryside around his home.

He left behind his unit’s battle flag, which eventually came into the possession of my grandmother, his granddaughter. Long ago, she donated the flag to the Relic Room. Much later, in the 1980s, she went to the Relic Room hoping to view it. It wasn’t on display, which is not surprising — the museum has lots of relics that are in storage. That wasn’t the bad part, although it did disappoint my grandmother.

The bad part was that they couldn’t find the flag.

Museum director Allen Roberson — a good guy I happen to know from Rotary, whom I do not blame for this travesty unless I see evidence to the contrary — said that part of this ridiculous addition would be devoted to some authentic “garrison flags that have never been seen.” Who knows? Maybe my ancestor’s is among them.

Here’s my proposal: Take one of those flags and put it into a nice, plain wooden display case with a glass front, and find a corner of the existing museum space to place it in. Budget no more than $100 for this project, and I’ll raise the money from private sources.

Then you can take that embarrassing nylon thing, which is already conveniently folded up in a tight triangle, and put it where my ancestor’s real flag was.

Any heritage advocate who has a problem with that is lying about what motivates him.

But wait — the reports I’m seeing say that the bill that removed the flag required that it be “displayed.” OK, fine — put that in the $100 box, if there’s no way around the provision.

And then, let’s move on.

 

 

 

SC public backs leaders’ decision to bring down Confederate flag

THE moment -- the flag starts coming down.

THE moment — the flag starts coming down.

In case you had a creeping feeling at the back of your mind that were it not for the fact that we are, thank God, a republic instead of a direct democracy, the Confederate flag would still be flying…

I offer this reassuring news:

Two-thirds of South Carolinians agreed with the General Assembly’s decision in removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds this summer after the Charleston church shootings, a Winthrop University poll released Wednesday found.

Less than a year ago, just one-third of South Carolinians thought the Civil War icon should come down after flying at the state’s most prominent public building for five decades.

That was before an African-American pastor, who also was a state senator, and eight of his parishioners were gunned down at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June. Authorities brought hate crime charges against the accused killer, who is white.

Slightly more than half of white respondents thought lawmakers made the right decision in taking down the Confederate flag, the Winthrop survey found. More than nine in 10 African-Americans backed the decision….

At least, I find it reassuring to know that, while I still praise our elected officials (starting with Nikki Haley) for courage and leadership in bringing the flag down without waiting around for polls, even if they had, the result would have been the same.

So South Carolina really has grown up, finally, and put the flag behind it.

That is wonderful news.

Cindi’s good idea for Greenwood monument could be applied in a lot of areas

Cindi Scoppe had a good column about the absurd problem that the town of Greenwood faces. The town decided some time back that it wanted to revise the lists of dead from the world wars on local monuments so that they were no longer separated into “white” and “colored.”

But the Legislature’s execrable Heritage Act, which was passed years ago for the now-irrelevant purpose of protecting the unlamented Confederate flag on the State House grounds, forbids the town from doing so. Which is absurd and wrong on several levels.

And unfortunately, Speaker Jay Lucas’ Shermanesque statement that while he is speaker, no more exceptions will be made to the Act, period, means there’s no hope for what the town wants to do. (I can appreciate Lucas’ pragmatic desire, once the good work of lowering the flag was done, to get onto other issues without distractions, but this is a particularly unfortunate effect of his declaration.)

Anyway, I like Cindi’s solution:

We should all hope that once cooler heads prevail, the speaker will walk back his Shermanesque statement, and the Legislature will give the American Legion and the city of Greenwood control over their own property — and give all local governments and private entities control over their property as well, for that matter.

If that doesn’t happen, there’s a better solution than a lawsuit: The folks in Greenwood should take up a collection for a new sign, to erect next to the monument, that says: “These lists of Americans who gave their lives for our nation remain segregated in the 21st century because the S.C. General Assembly either opposes integration or refuses to let local governments make their own decisions or both.”

That idea could be applied in a lot of situations where the Legislative State ties the hands of local governments. For instance, signs could be posted at Richland County polling places saying, “You are waiting in such long lines because the Legislature, in its ‘wisdom,’ gives control of the voting process to the local legislative delegation.”

Given the many ways the Legislature reaches down to meddle in local affairs, the possibilities for applying this idea are practically endless…

 

Lee Bright draws primary challenger

The shenanigans of state Sen. Lee Bright have attracted a primary challenger for next year:

Greer businessman David McCraw is challenging state Sen. Lee Bright for the Republican nomination next year for Senate District 12, pointing to Bright’s support of the Confederate flag and his failure to back a GOP roads plan.McCraw

McCraw, 48, said “while our roads were crumbling,” Bright worked on legislation for an independent currency and supported the flag when most senators voted to remove it from the Statehouse grounds.

“Lee Bright has done an awful lot of talking, but very little doing,” McCraw said. “This month the General Assembly concluded their work for the year with very little to show for it. Partisan bickering and an attitude of self-promotion and political grandstanding instead of cooperation means that we still do not have a plan to improve our roads; it means that you will not see any decrease in your tax bills this year; and it means another year will go by without any real ethics reform. We deserve better from our elected officials. That is why I am running for Senate.”…

Interestingly, the Spartanburg paper’s report on this development didn’t mention the flag a single time. Which was odd. But it did mention another of Bright’s more notorious stands:

“It really shocked me when (Bright) suggested an independent currency for South Carolina,” McCraw said. “It’s one of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve ever heard. We are a global economy.”

Yep, that one was a doozy, too…

 

It WILL take more than goodwill, Will. But goodwill is a prerequisite

There are those who refuse to participate in celebrating the spirit of unity over bringing down the Confederate flag. One of those, unfortunately, is my former colleague Will Moredock:

It will take more than goodwill to heal this state

After the Flag

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“To use Gov. Nikki Haley’s words, it truly is a great day in South Carolina” — that was the text message that awakened me at 7:15 Thursday morning from my cell phone by the bedside. It was followed immediately by other messages from friends near and far who wanted to check in and see what I had to say about the end of the Confederate flag debate and — let us hope — the end of an era.

In the days after the lowering of the Confederate flag in front of the Statehouse in Columbia, much will be written and said about the courage of Gov. Haley and the Republican General Assembly in taking that measure, to which I say, “Bullshit!”

Why did it take the killing of nine good people by a Confederate flag-waving bigot at Emanuel AME Church to open the eyes of these GOPers to what millions of South Carolinians and Americans have known for generations?…

Yes, it will take more than goodwill for our state to progress.

But the thing is, goodwill is a necessary ingredient.

And celebrating when people who have long disagreed with you decide to agree — rather than kicking them — is kind of an obvious first step.

Linking the flag and Atticus Finch

Samuel Tenenbaum — who goes to Publix each morning to by The New York Times because they refuse to deliver it in Lexington County, where he and I live — brought to my attention this piece from that paper, which notes the parallels between the Confederate flag we just got off our lawn and Atticus Finch:

FOR as long as many Americans have been alive, the Confederate flag stood watch at the South Carolina capitol, and Atticus Finch, moral guardian-father-redeemer, was arguably the most beloved hero in American literature.

The two symbols took their places in our culture within months of each other. The flag was hoisted above the capitol dome in April 1961, on the centennial of the Civil War during upheavals over civil rights. Atticus Finch debuted in July 1960 in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a novel that British librarians would later declare the one book, even before the Bible, that everyone should read. Given life by Gregory Peck in the 1962 Oscar-winning film, Atticus Finch would go on to be named the top movie hero of the 20th century.

Nearly at once, both icons have fallen from grace in ways that were unimaginable just months ago…

I just pass it on in case you’re interested. I’m not crazy about the way it ends up — suggesting that we should embrace this “new” Atticus as a way of coming more truly to grips with who we are and have been. I’m of the “Atticus is still a hero” school. But I pass it on nonetheless…

Speaker’s statement on other State House monuments

My attention is not focused on Tillman's statue at this time.

My attention is not focused on Tillman’s statue at this time.

I meant to post this yesterday when it came in, before it was in the paper:

Speaker Lucas Statement on Debate Over Public Monuments and Buildings

(Columbia, SC) – Today, House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement to reiterate his position surrounding future debate over public monuments and memorials.  In light of the recent tragedy, several South Carolina universities and colleges have formally asked or suggested the General Assembly address changes or exceptions to the South Carolina Heritage Act.  This law, which passed in 2000, protects all monuments, historical markers, street names, and buildings named for historical figures or events.

“The South Carolina House of Representatives will not engage in or debate the specifics of public monuments, memorials, state buildings, road names or any other historical markers. The General Assembly, the House in particular, made it abundantly clear during the debate of the confederate flag that the only issue they were willing to discuss was the placement of the battle flag on the north lawn of the State House. We reached a swift resolution last week and in doing so put an end to this discussion. Debate over this issue will not be expanded or entertained throughout the remainder of my time as Speaker.”

I’m satisfied with that, and I fully understand that the speaker, who just did yeoman’s work on getting the flag down, would be uninterested in any more battles over stuff on the State House grounds.

Before I move on, however, just to get certain points on the record, I wish to make these observations:

  • I have never promised NOT to advocate to remove other items from the State House grounds. What I have said (or at least what I thought) was that the Confederate flag that flew there until a week ago was in its own, special category, qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from anything else on the grounds in terms of its political significance. And that is why I have concerned myself with that and only that with regard to the grounds.
  • If I were ever to advocate to remove or amend (as Todd Rutherford suggests) anything on the grounds, it would be the Ben Tillman statue. My longtime newspaper was founded to fight the Tillman machine, and its first editor was murdered by one of its capos. My own ancestors, who actually lived next door to Tillman in Washington, took a very dim view of him. And my ancestors and newspaper were right: He may be the nastiest piece of work ever to wield political power in his state. Which puts him, rather like the flag, in a special category of his own.
  • I have NO interest in fighting such a battle at this time. I’m enjoying the reconciliation and togetherness that bringing down the flag has engendered in our state, and I intend to bask in it for the foreseeable future. I have NEVER been guilty of the kinds of intentions that neoConfederates ascribed to flag opponents — some sort of Orwellian desire to remove all reminders of the Confederate past. I’ve never been even slightly interested in that, and I would not want in any way to give them a reason to think their “slippery slope” argument was even vaguely justified. And even though Tillman is a separate issue from the Confederacy, I’m not interested in addressing him for now. And probably not for the rest of Lucas’ tenure as speaker, although I’m always open to a good argument.

Walid Hakim sticks to his guns

Just another one of those guys Obama spoke of, clinging to his guns.

Just another one of those guys Obama spoke of, clinging to his guns.

We last saw Walid Hakim suing the state — successfully — for throwing him and his fellow Occupy Columbia off the State House grounds.

As the best-known unleader of that movement, Walid looked and acted the part — Central Casting might have sent him over to play a part in a flick about the Days of Rage, or perhaps one of the lesser-known of the Chicago Seven.

Now, he’s suing the city of Columbia for trying to pry his gun from his warm, live hands.

So… the city is concerned about a bunch of redneck yahoos bringing guns to the city center in a tense moment, and the guy who sues is… Walid?

He just refuses to be typecast, doesn’t he?

He could be on his way to another victory in court, although I do have a question about one of his assertions:

As a lawful concealed weapons permit holder, he won’t be able to protect himself when he is near the State House if danger arises, his affidavit said.

“Unless prohibited by a valid law, I always carry at least one firearm on my person or in my car,” Hakim said. “I had planned to be near the State House for various lawful activities. Based on the ‘emergency ordinance,’ I am forced to change my plans.”…

Walid doesn’t go near the State House unless he’s packing? Really? His assertion seems to go beyond the feared danger of this Saturday — except that he says he doesn’t carry when “prohibited by a valid law,” which would mean he wasn’t armed while on the State House grounds.

Interesting.

Walid in the role we usually think of.

Walid in the role we usually think of.

Is the best response to racist rallies just to ignore them?

Hey, I was there to cover the Nazis.

Hey, I was there to cover the Nazis.

Today, Cindi is urging us all to stay away from the State House during the demonstrations by the KKK and the New Black Panther Party:

We recognize that many good and sincere South Carolinians feel a need to demonstrate to the world that such people are not welcome in South Carolina. But there is no need to do that; these are already marginalized groups. No one believes we want them here, or that they represent us. They’re coming to South Carolina because they hope to take advantage of all the national attention on our flag debate to steal a little of the spotlight for themselves.

There’s nothing we can do to stop hate groups from staging rallies at our State House; the Constitution gives even the most odious people and groups the right to hold peaceful protests in such public places. But we can do something even better. We can stop them from accomplishing anything they hope to accomplish — by simply ignoring them….

Do y’all think that’s best? I don’t know, now that the flag’s down.

Over the years, I’ve made a particular effort to show up for anything flag-related at the State House — pro or anti. I was there in 2007 the see the neoNazis. I felt it was important to document, and to comment on, the kinds of visitors that flag attracted to our state’s front lawn.

But now… there is no flag. So what’s the point? Two out-of-state hate groups want to converge on each other in the center of our town. If we can’t keep them from doing so, should we at least just stay away until they’re done? They seem so… irrelevant now.

I don’t know. Now I know that working (that is to say, paid) news people will have to be there. They really have no choice. When something this awful is happening in public in your town, you don’t get to ignore it, any more than if the State House were on fire. You have to report it. Or at the very least, be on hand in case there is violence.

As for me, well — I can certainly think of better ways to spend my Saturday.

Anyway… thoughts?

 

Did shoestring annexation bring down the Confederate flag?

Y'all, I'm sorry I was unable to find a map that shows how crazy the jurisdiction lines are in this area. Anyone know where I can find something like that online?

Y’all, I’m sorry I was unable to find a map that shows how crazy the jurisdiction lines are in this area. Anyone know where I can find something like that online?

Or, far more horrifically and directly, did Columbia’s shoestring annexation lead to the murders of the Emanuel 9?

This is Kathryn Fenner’s assertion, which she sketched out in an email:

Roof was arrested at Columbiana, by Columbia Police, in Columbia, but in Lexington County. When he went to buy a gun at Shooter’s Choice, the background check was done by calling Lexington County, who sent the checker to the police–the checker called the West Columbia Police, who had no record, instead of Columbia–because unless you are a wonk like me, you might not realize that Columbiana is in the city limits–shoestring annexation, just like Woodcreek Farms where the Mayor lives.
If Roof had not been able to buy the gun….

You’ve read about all the confusion over the jurisdiction in which Dylann Roof was charged. And you’ve probably been confused yourself passing in and out of jurisdictions in the Columbiana/Harbison area.

At least some of this confusion was caused by the shoestring annexation of Columbiana in 1989, as a way of grabbing those expected tax revenues.

Hence the connection that Kathryn has drawn.

To see ourselves as others see us can be… disconcerting

I was kind of puzzled by a piece in The Washington Post over the weekend describing the ceremony Friday taking down the flag. An excerpt:

The elaborate ceremony Friday to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse threatened to overshadow the very act of removing a symbol that had caused so much tension and testimony over the state of race relations in recent weeks.

The color guard, the phalanx of elected officials, and the cheering — and sometimes jeering — crowd of spectators all made the event feel at turns like both a state funeral and a pep rally. Neither seemed an entirely appropriate tone for the occasion, given the horrifying circumstances that led South Carolina lawmakers to finally retire the banner that, in spite of controversy, had defiantly held an official place of honor for more than 50 years.

Huh? The nature of the event felt perfect to me: A combination of the pomp that is sort of reflexive to Southerners and the bubbling, giddy joy at something many of us thought would never, ever happen.

Since I’m a South Carolinian, and I knew how I felt on the issue, and how lots of my fellow citizens felt, the event felt just right to me.

So I decided, as I read, that the problem was that Vanessa Williams must not be from around here. That seemed confirmed by this passage:

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has been widely praised for leading the charge to take down the flag, even after she balked at doing so last year…

Say what? “Even after she balked last year?” Even after? That’s inside-out thinking. She was widely and happily congratulated because she hadn’t been for it before. And I’m not picking on Nikki in saying that; I am currently running for president of her fan club! No, she was never for it (as opposed to merely “balking” on one occasion) because she was a South Carolina Republican.

Which made her normal. The only South Carolina Republican I had ever heard express an interest, even halfheartedly, in getting the flag moved was Ted Pitts, years before he was the governor’s chief of staff, and he walked it back really, really quickly once the backlash hit him.

Not having been for bringing the flag down before doesn’t say anything about Nikki Haley as an individual, but the fact that she got out front on it this time very much counts to her credit — and to the credit of the great majority of Republicans who rose up and decided to do the right thing, without amendments, qualifications, ifs, ands or buts.

That’s the news here, folks. Republicans not being interested in getting the flag down has always been a dog-bites-man thing. This astounding conversion is man-bites-dog. It’s an amazing thing. And Jenny Horne’s raging speech was an amazing thing, and wonderful. This is not the kind of thing that happens to us every week.

So you bet the governor is being widely praised, and she deserves it. As do all of those Republicans who responded to her call to get this done. And if you don’t think they’re going to pay a price for it back home, and therefore don’t realize that they can use all the encouragement we can give them, then you haven’t read the comments on this Meet the Press item yesterday.

It worries me when people write about stuff, and they don’t get what’s going on, on a fundamental level…

And now, even the flagpole is gone

hole where the pole was

At breakfast this morning, I thought I’d give myself a treat and look down at the naked flagpole where the Confederate flag once flew, so I leaned over, looked… and the pole itself was gone.

I just saw a couple of trucks, and a messy spot that looked at a distance like a hole filled with broken chunks of concrete.

We’ve all grown used to the South Carolina that had a fetish for resisting change, or only allowing it in slow increments. But here in the New South Carolina, when we decide a thing needs doing, and it’s long overdue, we just flat go ahead and do it.

I’m enjoying this new place.

Then and now: King Day at the Dome, 2000

King Day at the Dome, 2000 -- the largest demonstration against the flag ever

King Day at the Dome, 2000 — the largest demonstration against the flag ever

Cynthia Hardy, remembering the long road we’ve traveled getting to the point, at long last, of removing the flag, shared this photo on Facebook.

The flag as it flew then.

The flag as it flew then.

It’s from King Day at the Dome, 2000 — the day that a crowd estimated by some at 60,000 gathered before the State House to call for the flag to come off the dome, where it had been since the early ’60s.

As you know, it did come off the dome that year, only to move to the grounds in a more visible spot, in a ceremony as ugly and acrimonious as the one yesterday was beautiful and joyous.

If you’ve never seen this photo, or haven’t in awhile, you’re probably as stunned as I am each time I see it again. Never before or since, in my experience, has there been a crowd half as huge as this for any purpose.

This was back when Cynthia was on the staff of the Columbia Urban League, which did much of the work of organizing the demonstration. I was on the Urban League’s board at the time.

It was a long struggle, with both high and low points. This was one of the high ones, even though it was followed by years of frustration.

Ending, eventually, in triumph. The photo below is from yesterday…

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