Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

The State House monument to Confederate women

Confederate women monument

As part of my daily walking regimen, I had probably passed by it scores of times over the last few months, but never turned my head at the right moment to notice it — which is weird, because once you notice it, it’s hugely imposing.

I’d missed it because if you’re walking up the concrete incline from Pendleton toward the State House, you can’t see it until your eyes are at the right level, and if you don’t look more than 90 degrees to your left at that precise instant, it’s behind you. (When I took the shot above, only my head was higher than the base of the statue.)

Yesterday, the freshly-planted (I think) flowers caught my eye first, and as my eye rose above them, I saw the monument.

It’s so huge and elaborate, it’s kind of startling when you first see it, so close by.

I looked it up when I got back to the office, and found this page, which told me:

The Monument to Confederate Women, called Angels of the Confederacy, was erected in 1912. The sculptor was Frederick W. Ruckstull. The inscription on the northwest side reads: “In this monument, generations unborn shall hear the voice of a grateful people testifying to the sublime devotion of the women of South Carolina in their country’s need. Their unconquerable spirit strengthened the thin lines of gray, their tender care was solace to the stricken. Reverence for God and unfaltering faith in a righteous cause inspired heroism that survived the immolation of sons, and courage that bore the agony of suspense and the shock of disaster. The tragedy of the Confederacy may be forgotten, but the fruits of the noble service of the daughters of the South are our perpetual heritage.”

The cult of the Lost Cause ran to flowery exaggeration, didn’t it? But of course, that was the style of the time. And what was being described was something that stirred strong emotions.

The really sad thing about it, though, is that the real tragedy escaped the practitioners of this faith. It escaped them, and in some cases yet escapes some among us, that all of that suffering, which was entirely real and even awe-inspiring, was in the service not of a “righteous cause” but of its opposite. The ultimate tragedy is that South Carolina and the other states started the whole thing, causing so many to suffer, to defend the institution that was the central evil of our history.

In other words, it would have been extremely helpful if that “faith” had been less “unfaltering.”

But it wasn’t, and our collective psyche as a people was further scarred by what happened as a result…

Another angle so you can see the base, and know how massive this thing is.

Another angle so you can see the base, and know how massive this thing is.

Henry McMaster’s accent is a state treasure and should be preserved in a museum

I thought that all through his State of the State address back in January, but I don’t think I said so here at the time.

It’s one thing to quote Henry saying some awful things. It’s another to watch the video above. You forget what he’s saying because you’re so fascinated by the way he says it. Or at least, I do.

The problem, you see, with those high school kids walking out of class the other day is that “Ah unduhstayund that theyah’s a left-wing group that is, uh, co-awdinading this around the country…”

They’re being used as a “tooool,” you see. (Actually, I don’t know how to represent the way he says it phonetically, but the “oo” sound is wholly unlike the way I say it.) At least, that’s the conclusion he’s drawn from the “infuhmation” he’s seen.

Every time I listen to him, I’m sort of struck with awe. I feel I’m transported back in time, although to where or when I’m not sure. I hope a museum somewhere in South Carolina is saving good recordings of this.

Mind you, I’m not pointing to the way he talks as a bad thing or a good thing. But it’s definitely a thing, and it seems to be unique. I don’t know anyone else who speaks quite the way he does.

I know some other folks in public life who have thick, distinctive accents, some of them very smart people — folks such as Jean Toal and Alex Sanders, and to some extent Dick and Joe Riley. And let us not forget Fritz Hollings. But none of them sound like they’re from the same place Henry comes from.

I notice that the folks I mention are a few years, or even a generation, older than I am. (They also, with the exception of Henry, are Democrats. Don’t know why, but thick-accented Republicans don’t leap to mind as readily. Joe Wilson, for instance, is virtually accentless.)

That make me think it’s to some extent a TV thing. These folks’ speech patterns had just enough time to take hold before television taught all of us to sound like we were from Nebraska, or wherever the geographical home of Standard American English is located.

Which is not to say that younger people don’t have accents. For instance, no one would doubt that James Smith, to name but one, is from the South. But their accents tend to be softer, less in-your-face, than the older folks I mention above.

Of course, I’m talking about smart, educated people. I notice their accents more than I do those of people who are neither of those things, because I expect education to have sanded off the rough edges of their manner of communication. Which is generally the case.

But not with Henry. His accent is perfect, untouched, and really something special…

Henry still

One place I did not expect to find cheesy artificial diversity

secessionist

Original photography is expensive. So website designers on a budget often opt for stock photography.

If you choose well, you find some that goes well with your site, enhancing your message or the image of your organization without distracting.

But if you choose poorly, you can come across as cheesy and artificial.

One thing stock photo providers offer businesses and organizations is the chance to project “diversity,” which may be desirable to the client. This can work, but like anything it can look out of place or contrived, and not only because the viewer is likely to ask, “How does a photographer find a group of people who not only represent every race under the sun, but are all wholesomely good-looking?”

stockAnyway, I ran across that kind of photo today in the unlikeliest of places: the website of the Secessionist Party of South Carolina.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Party chair James Bessenger has been trying hard to demonstrate that his organization is not racist, most laughably notably by pushing for recognition of basically nonexistent black Confederate soldiers.

But, come on. Surely we’re not to think that this is the aftermath of a Secessionist Party board meeting. These kids look like they just collapsed in exhaustion on that hilltop after too many takes of singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing…

Anyway, it was a bit… incongruous….

If you’re a white Southerner and you think your ancestors owned no slaves, you should probably dig a little deeper

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a correction that proves the point of this post. While I knew I had quite a few ancestors who owned slaves, just for contrast I mentioned one great-great grandfather (Henry Waller) who did NOT. I was wrong. A first cousin has written to let me know Henry owned at least one slave, whom he mentioned in letters home. I hope to get copies of those letters soon. So even I am guilty of falsely believing that one ancestor owned no slaves…

Last week, Catherine Templeton used the standard cliche rationalization for why she’s proud of her Confederate heritage:

“It’s important to note that my family didn’t fight because we had slaves,” Templeton said to a room mostly filled with university students. “My family fought because the federal government was trying to tell us how to live.”

We won’t get into the fact that the one thing white Southerners — the ones in charge — were afraid the federal government would make them do was stop owning slaves. And I’ll point out only in passing that if your ancestors owned no slaves and took up arms for the Confederacy, then they were victims of a major con job. Some of my own ancestors were duped in the same manner.

But not all of them. I’ve long known that some of my ancestors were slaveowners. But it wasn’t until I started seriously building out my family tree that I realized how many of them fit that description.

As much as I love talking genealogy — as y’all know, to your sorrow — I hesitated to post this. But my tree is the only one I know this well, and I think what I have found argues against the claims that all too many white Southerners make. And I think people should know that. So here goes…

Patrick Henry Bradley

Patrick Henry Bradley

At first, I had thought that slaveholding was limited to my paternal grandmother’s people, the Bradleys (for whom I’m named). Patrick Henry Bradley, her grandfather, was one of the leading citizens in his part of Abbeville County. When the War came, he raised his own company and led it in the field, but soon returned home to serve out the rest of the war in the Legislature. His eldest son stayed at the front, and was killed at Trevillian Station in 1864.

I would have assumed that the Bradleys were slaveholders just because of Patrick Henry’s service in the Legislature, which was largely made up of the slaveholding class. But I don’t have to assume; I have documentary and anecdotal evidence to that effect. I don’t know whether he had a lot of slaves, but he had some.

James Chesnut Jr.

James Chesnut Jr.

I had accepted this as fact long ago, but I had assumed that my ancestors in other branches of the family were generally innocent of having owned other humans. Not based on anything, really, beyond the fact that none of them were quite as upscale as the Bradleys. Of course, when I say “Bradleys,” I’m lumping in a lot of folks who bore different surnames — pretty much that whole quarter of my tree. For instance, James Chesnut — husband of famous diarist Mary Boykin and one of the leading men in Confederate South Carolina — is a 3rd cousin four times removed. (That means my 6th-great grandfather, Alexander Samuel Chesnut, was his great-great grandfather.) He was in that Bradley fourth.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following paragraph is dead wrong. Henry Waller DID own at least one slave, I am reliably informed. I hope to have evidence of that soon…)

But I had liked to think that another great-great grandfather, William Henry Waller, was more typical of the rest of my tree — just an ordinary soldier who got caught up in forces bigger than he was. I’ve never seen or heard anything to indicate Henry owned slaves, or money or much else. But admittedly, I don’t know a lot about him. He went AWOL to visit the family farm in Marion County when his unit was marching north toward Virginia. My great-grandmother — who died when I was 4 years old (yep, that’s how recent that war was: someone who lived then overlapped with my life) — was born nine months later. She, my mother’s father’s mother, never knew her father, because Henry died of disease at the siege of Petersburg. Consequently, I know practically nothing about him. I don’t even know who his parents were, or whether he had siblings. That line is the shortest on my tree, because of that break.

The old lady is the daughter of Henry Waller. The big-headed kid on her lap is me.

The old lady is my great-grandmother, the daughter of Henry Waller, who died at Petersburg. The big-headed kid on her lap, grooving on the apples, is me. This was 1957.

I picture Henry as being one of those guys like Virgil Caine in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” A sympathetic character caught up in events and trying to get by the best he could. And I tended to lump others from the non-Bradley portions of the family into that category.

But I was wrong, as I learned from early census records after I finally paid to join Ancestry and gained access to that site’s documentary “hints” about my forebears. Later census records name everyone in a household (although their names are often spelled wrong). But in the early decades of the 19th century, the records would just name the “head of household,” and then give a demographic breakdown of the rest of the household — X number of “Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25,” and Y number of “Free White Persons – Under 16.”

But the really revelatory data comes under such headings as “Slaves – Males – 26 thru 44.” I assume the records were kept that way so each slave could be counted as three-fifths of a person for the sake of electoral apportionment.

Perusing these records can be a real eye-opener. While Henry Waller may not have owned slaves, others on my mother’s side did. Take, for instance, my 4th-great grandfather Henry C. Foxworth, also of Marion County: There were six slaves in his household in 1820. This sort of thing will pop up again and again in a white Southern family. However humble and righteous you may think your ancestors were, a family tree is likely far more diverse — here I mean economically diverse in particular — than you give it credit for being. And the people who bore your surname are only a tiny fraction of the people from whom you are descended who lived during the centuries of slavery. Until I really got into building my tree, I had no idea I was descended from anyone named “Foxworth.”

Wesley Samuel Foxworth marker(By the way, like Patrick Henry Bradley, Henry Foxworth also lost a son in the war. My great-great-great grandfather Wesley Samuel Foxworth was also killed during that Petersburg campaign. Fortunately for me, his daughter from whom I am descended had been born 12 years earlier.)

I am three-fourths South Carolinian, but hey, at least I won’t find any of that slavery stuff among the Warthens up in Maryland, right? So I thought — somewhat irrationally, since Maryland (although it stayed in the Union) was a slave state.

My great-grandmother Rebecca Jane Rabbitt — who married my great-grandfather Warthen — died in 1898, two days after the birth of her sixth child. She was 35. But I’ve been a lot luckier tracing her tree than poor Henry Waller’s, taking it back to the Middle Ages. (Through her, I’m a Tudor, making Henry VIII a cousin.)

But one of the more interesting things I’ve found on that line is much more recent — it involves her grandfather, John Thomas Rabbitt Jr., 1779-1863. It’s an indenture contract. One William Frumfree, described as “a colored man,” owed $40 to the state of Maryland, and was in jail in 1829 because he couldn’t pay it. My ancestor paid it for him, in exchange for which… well, here’s a quote from the document Mr. Frumfree signed:

… I do hereby bind myself to the service of said Rabbitt in any manner in which he may chose to use me for and during the term of one year from the date hereof to be considered and treated as the slave of said Rabbitt during my term of service as contracted by this paper…

Oh, and just in case you thought that would be lighter service than being a permanent slave, there’s this language:

… the said Rabbitt is to be subject to no liability for his treatment or chastisement of me which he would not own in the case of one of his own slaves for life…

But hey, don’t think the only thing Mr. Frumfree got was out of the jail. He was also paid “the sum of one cent.” No, really. It’s all in the document signed on May 13, 1829.

About all I can say for John Thomas is that as of the 1820 and the 1840 censuses, he didn’t own any slaves. So, there’s that.

Why do I tell you all of this? To shame myself, or to perversely brag about what wheeler-dealers my ancestors were? No. Of course I’m uncomfortable with this topic and these details, but my point is that I highly doubt that my tree is unusual. Note that these slaveowners I’ve mentioned had nothing to do with each other. They never met. They were from very different families living in different places under different circumstances. In other words, these incidences of slaveholding were independent of each other.

And it crops up often enough that I can’t believe I’m anywhere near alone in this. Almost half of white South Carolina families (46 percent) owned slaves. What do you think the chances are that none of the many families that led do you owned human property?

If other white Southerners really knew who their ancestors were, you’d seldom hear a proud neoConfederate say, ever-so-self-righteously, that his (or her) ancestors didn’t own slaves. The odds are against it being a fact.

It is a wise child that knows his own father, and a wiser one who knows even more of his forebears, and faces up to reality.

You say we NEED the slaves to work the fields? So much for philosophy…

The capacity of the human mind for rationalization is an amazing thing. The things we can talk ourselves into without breaking a sweat…

Seeing this sentence this morning in a story about honoring the slaves who built USC sent me off on a tangent: “Sancho and his wife Lucy became the property of Thomas Cooper, president from 1821 to 1833 of what was then South Carolina College, with Sancho becoming a well-known figure on campus.”

Thomas Cooper

Thomas Cooper

My wife’s mother was a Cooper. All the Coopers in living memory lived in West Tennessee, but I knew that if you followed the line back to the mid-19th century, some of the Coopers lived here in Richland County, SC. And a number of Coopers were named Thomas.

So I had often wondered whether there was a connection to the famous Thomas Cooper of USC, and this morning I decided to read up on him.

Apparently, there’s no connection, since the academic Cooper was originally from England — whereas my wife’s Cooper ancestors had been in America a couple of generations ahead of him. With such common first and last names, that’s hardly surprising.

But I found reading about the USC Cooper interesting. He was apparently quite the philosopher, friend to Thomas Jefferson and other leading lights of the time. But this bit from Wikipedia sort of blew me away:

He supported the institution of slavery, although he had strenuously opposed the slave trade. In the mid to late 1780s Cooper fought passionately against “that infamous and impolitic traffic”. He wrote that “negroes are men; susceptible of the same cultivation with ourselves”, claimed that “as Englishmen, the blood of the murdered African is upon us, and upon our children, and in some day of retribution he will feel it, who will not assist to wash off the stain”. But in America Cooper accepted slavery itself, as he doubted that “in South Carolina or Georgia…the rich lands could be cultivated without slave labour”….

Let me make sure I’m following you, Tom: The slave trade is “infamous.” People of African descent are just as human as whites and just as worthy, and all of us who fail to do something to remedy this injustice are deserving of “retribution.”

But hey, we need them to work the plantations, so never mind! That cotton’s not going to pick itself!

Wow. He was celebrated for his great intellect, and this is how he used it…

A look back: Henry’s 2010 interview with the pro-flag guys

wary

Remember the squirm-inducing video of Nikki Haley being interviewed by some pro-Confederate flag guys back in 2010? Remember how she meekly gave them the reassurances they sought, while looking like a hostage forced to say these things?

Something caused me to look back at that (I think it was a comment on this blog, but it may have been on an old post, because I’m not finding it now), and to note that Henry McMaster, too, was interviewed by the same guys at the time.

“These guys,” by the way, were a group that redundantly called themselves “South Carolina Palmetto Patriots,” and said this about their agenda on their now-defunct website:

The Federal government has stolen our liberties and rights and nullified our ability to self govern as a state. It is the obligation of all people of our great state to restore unto ourselves and our children these inalienable rights as set forth in The Constitution of the United States of America.

As I noted at the time, that was their 2010 agenda and not their 1860 agenda, but I can see how you might have been confused.

I’d show you more, but the URL they were using then takes you to a page that shows a picture of a hat rack and the words, “This site has stepped out for a bit.”

Yeah, no kidding.

Back to the McMaster videos: There are six clips of about 10 minutes each, and there are commonalities with the Haley clips. For one thing, Henry sometimes looked very wary of these guys and their questions, as I think you can see in the still above. Or maybe that’s just me; I share the image so you can decide yourself.

He doesn’t seem to be having a rollicking good time. Still, he gives them the answers they seek, promptly and perfunctorily, as they tick off their list of traits that make an acceptable person in their book.

In the first clip, he starts out with a recitation of the 10th Amendment’s limitations on the federal government, which seemed welcome to these (as we learn later) latter-day nullificationists. At times, it takes on the cadences of the Catholic baptismal rite — if you’re a Protestant, you’ve heard it in “The Godfather:”

Do you reject Satan?
I do.
And all his works?
I do.
And all his empty promises?
I do.

Only on this video, it’s:

Have you read the constitution of the state of South Carolina?

Yes.

Do you believe we should be governed by this document?

Yes.

On that second “yes,” Henry seems a bit impatient. Of course, it is an idiotic and insulting question to ask an officer of the court, but you get that sort of thing from the kinds of extremists who believe that they are the only ones who understand what the constitution in question truly means.

Continuing…

Do you think it is better to have the government spending money to improve the economy or have tax cuts to improve the economy?

Tax cuts. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

Do you think we should amend our state constitution to include the right of petition and recall by the people…?

Yes….

Are you a Christian? What is your current church membership?

Yes. First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina; I’ve been there my whole life.

After that last, there is a pause, and the questioner explains, “Some of these questions are designed for other candidates…,” because, as he notes twice, he had known Henry was a Christian.

Which candidates might those be?, one wonders…

Eventually, after Henry makes it clear that he adamantly disapproves of illegal immigration, they get down to the nitty-gritty, at 8:10 in the clip:

Do you support keeping the Confederate Battle Flag in its current location…?

Yes.

At that point, the questioner turns things over to “Bob,” who possesses an accent that gives Henry’s a good run for its money. The grilling on this subject continues to the end of the first clip, and all the way to 5:16 on the second one — after which “Bob” moves on to nullification.

When I listened to all this this morning, I typed up Henry’s answers in some detail — and my PC crashed before I could save it. Suffice to say, he further assured them that the flag flying on the State House grounds was a settled matter. Everyone had had their say during the debate before the “compromise,” and that was that.

Of course, he now says that the removal of the flag is a settled matter (if I read it correctly), so let’s give him credit for that.

I confess I didn’t spend an hour listening to all six clips. Do so, if you’re so inclined, and share with us what you find. I just found it interesting to revisit, however briefly. I’ll leave you with this: As marginal as these guys might have seemed in 2010, the video seems almost quaint today — after Charlottesville. And at the same time chilling, after Mother Emanuel…

KKK questions in the 5th grade, and the ‘virtues of slavery’

They may look scary, but look at it from their perspective, kids...

They may look scary, but look at it from their perspective, kids…

Well, we’re in The New York Times again. This time it’s for asking a bit much of 5th-graders in Irmo:

“You are a member of the K.K.K.,” the fifth-grade homework assignment read. “Why do you think your treatment of African-Americans is justified?”

The work sheet, given on Thursday as part of a lesson on the Reconstruction period, caused an outcry after one student’s uncle, Tremain Cooper, posted a photo of the assignment on Facebook.

“This is my little 10-year-old nephew’s homework assignment today,” he wrote. “He’s home crying right now.”

Mr. Cooper identified the teacher as Kerri Roberts of Oak Pointe Elementary School in Irmo, S.C., a suburb of Columbia, and added, “How can she ask a 5th grader to justify the actions of the KKK???”

Reached by phone, Ms. Roberts’s husband said she was unavailable and was “not going to comment on anything.”…

Hoo, boy.

Of course, that’s a perfectly fine question to ask, to get the ol’ gray matter working — in a graduate poli sci course. I think it’s a shame that Ms. Roberts — who is on suspension pending investigation of the incident — isn’t commenting, because I would dearly love to know the thinking behind asking 5th-graders to tackle it.

Had she even looked at the lesson before she passed it out? Or was this enterprise on her part? Had she decided to go for a real challenge, asking her students to reach for understanding beyond their years?

One thing I’ll say in defense of this: It’s a more reasonable question than this one asked in California:

In February, second graders at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Los Angeles were asked to solve a word problem: “The master needed 192 slaves to work on plantation in the cotton fields. The fields could fill 75 bags of cotton. Only 96 slaves were able to pick cotton for that day. The missus needed them in the Big House to prepare for the Annual Picnic. How many more slaves are needed in the cotton fields?”

Correct answer: “That’s a trick question! Masters don’t have to do math!”

Of course, we have at least one person here in South Carolina who might love to be asked such a question. His letter to the editor appeared in The State today:

Teach truth about the virtues of slavery

The recent controversy about Confederate monuments and flags ultimately revolves around one man and one question. The man is John C. Calhoun, the great philosopher and statesman from South Carolina, and the spiritual founding father of the Confederacy. The question is: Was Calhoun right or wrong when he argued, from the 1830s until his death in 1850, that the South’s Christian slavery was “a positive good” and “a great good” for both whites and blacks?

If Calhoun was wrong, then there may be grounds for removing monuments and flags.

But if Calhoun was right, the monuments and flags should stay and be multiplied, blacks should be freed from oppressive racial integration so they can show the world how much they can do without white folk, the Southern states should seize their freedom and independence, and the North should beg the South’s pardon for the war.

Calhoun’s views are unpopular today because, since 1865, the Yankee-imposed education system has taught all Americans that the South’s Christian slavery was evil and that everyone is equal. But unpopularity cannot make a truth untrue, and popularity cannot make error truth.

WINSTON MCCUEN
AIKEN

“If Calhoun was right….”

Excuse me while I sit here and try to come up with a justification of Mr. McCuen’s point of view. It might be on the six-weeks test…

This is where the South Carolina Court of Appeals sits.

This is where the South Carolina Court of Appeals sits.

Another Democrat who apparently can’t afford a razor

Trent

 

I had to smile at this.

Remember I told you about that OZY profile of Jaime Harrison, in which I was quoted again noting that I’ll believe Democrats are serious about winning a congressional seat when they recruit a candidate willing to shave for the campaign?

Well, the writer of that piece sent me this today:

This website made me laugh and think of you — Dem running in a R-leaning Georgia seat formerly repped by centrist John Barrow. https://votetrent.com/

Whoa! That boy’s taking the whole facial-hair thing and squeezing it until it hollers!

He’s a little different from the hirsute ones who have run in South Carolina. Arik Bjorn and Archie Parnell, both being graybeards, had a sort of professorial look — they looked like they wouldn’t be out of place teaching a graduate-level course called “Marxist Perspectives on Shifting Gender Roles in Patriarchal Societies.”

Trent Nesmith, by contrast, has more of a hipster look going, and not just because of his youth. He seems to be saying, “Call that a beard? Check out this waterfall of fur!” Fortunately, his smile prevents you from thinking “Rasputin.”

Watch: I’ll get a lecture from Bud about focusing on style instead of substance. But that would be missing the point. The point isn’t the beard. The point is, how committed is the candidate? And when’s the last time you saw someone with a beard elected to high office in this country? And how big a deal is it to shave?

Yeah, you’re right — a beard is a stupid reason not to vote for somebody. But knowing how few bearded men (and even fewer bearded women, I’ll add for those who think I’m failing to be inclusive) get elected, you really have to wonder about the commitment of a candidate who won’t take the minimal step needed to remove a possible obstacle…

Yikes! A statue even neoConfederates should want taken down

forrestMeant to share this the other day. It was in a Tweet from Noelle Phillips, who used to work at The State:

Yowee! Never mind the meaning! That is one ugly statue!

Personally, I would lead the charge to get that taken down — if I were the president of a society dedicated to protecting the reputation of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Meanwhile, folks who don’t want the Confederacy glorified would seem likely to demand that this one stay up.

The sculptor must have really hated the early KKK leader. Do they keep that up to frighten children? Or to make them laugh? I think the former would be more likely to happen…

Cindi’s proposal with regard to monuments

soldier (1)

I meant to call attention to Cindi Scoppe’s column yesterday

In light of the fact that, without two-thirds majorities in both legislative chambers, no one in South Carolina can remove a Confederate monument from any public space — whether state or local — she dusted off her idea for an alternative:

… I was so delighted by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg’s idea. Well, it’s not actually Mr. Tecklenburg’s idea. It’s one I’ve proposed numerous times, and it certainly wasn’t original to me. But it’s a great idea. Leave up the monuments — not that South Carolinians have any choice — but add signs to provide context.

To Mr. Tecklenberg, it’s not just about doing an end-run around the Legislature. As he told Charleston’s Post and Courier newspaper last week: “I don’t believe we’ve done a good job of telling the whole story of slavery and Reconstruction and what happened there and Jim Crow. One hundred years from now, you want people to know the great lengths the white folks who were in charge around here went to try to put racial barriers back into place.”

First on Mr. Tecklenberg’s add-to-rather-than-subtracting-from list is a towering monument to John C. Calhoun, which includes the words “Truth, Justice and the Constitution” and little else. Like the fact that he provided the intellectual underpinnings for the Confederacy….

As a way of protesting the Legislature’s habit of telling local governments what they can and can’t do, it’s an excellent approach. A sign saying, “This monument is still here because the General Assembly won’t let us take it down” has merit — if, indeed, you do want to take it down (a subject on which I remain agnostic until you tell me which monument where, and give me time to think about it).

And beyond that, there is also merit to adding educational information to monuments, if we choose to leave them up. Perhaps this approach would be a good substitute for the current Heritage Act, if lawmakers would consider it.

At least, it would be a good approach in theory.

In practice, well… Can you imagine how hard it would be to get a truly representative group of people — by which I mean, representing every possible position regarding Confederate monuments, which is the kind of panel the Legislature would (and should) appoint — to agree on the wording of such a plaque?

By contrast, the decision to take a statue down or keep it up is child’s play…

One way to think about Confederate monuments

The soldier monument, back before the flag came down.

The soldier monument, back before the flag came down.

Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist for the NYT, set out an interesting train of thought in a dozen Tweets today. Maybe they’ll turn into a column; maybe not. But here are the Tweets:

I like the dichotomy — separating monuments to soldiers who suffered and died in a cause that was above their pay grade from monuments and plaques to people who had a choice, and decided policy.

Oh, by the way, the monuments debate is coming home now. I suppose we’ll need to discuss it:

But, along the lines of Douthat’s argument, I can’t see ever going after the generic Confederate soldier monument that stands at the juncture of Main and Gervais.

In any case, I’m with Joel Sawyer on this point. If you want to go after statues of individuals, I’d start with Ben Tillman. But by way of full disclosure, I suppose I’m biased: My grandmother’s family was squarely opposed to Tillman, which made it awkward when he was their neighbor in Washington. And my newspaper The State (it’s still my newspaper) was founded to fight the Tillman machine.

So consider the source…

What do you MEAN, ‘I am proud of the Confederacy?’

A moment in our history that makes ME proud: Leaders stand with Nikki Haley as she calls for the flag to come down.

A moment in our history that makes ME proud: Leaders stand with Nikki Haley as she calls for the flag to come down.

First, let’s give Catherine Templeton credit for doing one right thing.

Or rather, for not doing one horrible thing. It would have been truly horrible to, like Sheri Few, play to the Trumpian faction in her party by denouncing the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds.

But she didn’t do that. So, kudos there, as far as it goes.

But then she felt compelled to qualify that by saying, “I am proud of the Confederacy.” She elaborated on the point:

But I am South Carolina born and raised, and I am proud of our history. We are standing on the shoulders of giants, and I don’t apologize for that….

I am proud to be from South Carolina. I am proud of the Confederacy….

I’d like for her to have elaborated a bit more. I’d like for her to have spelled out what it is about the Confederacy that makes her proud.

Templeton

Templeton

I want to know because being proud of the Confederacy — an insurrection against the United States, based in the rebelling states’ wish to continue the institution of slavery (and they were quite specific about that, whatever neoConfederate revisionists may say) — and being proud of South Carolina are not the same thing. What is it about the Confederacy, as opposed to South Carolina, that gives her a warm feeling? Is it just that she has an affinity for, say, a slower, more traditional, politer, more agrarian way of life than the mercantilist, impatient, abrupt way that Yankees chose to live in their big cities?

Is she proud at how many victories the Confederacy won on the battlefield before Gettysburg and Grant turned the tide — is it a purely martial pride in the fighting ability of Southern manhood? If so, how does one separate that pride from the cause? (And don’t try to distract me by pointing out that many individual soldiers owned no slaves and thought they were protecting their homes from “Northern aggression.” When I say “the cause” in speaking of the “Confederacy,” I mean the reason the Confederacy came into being, the frank reason for secession.)

And once you say you’re proud not only of South Carolina but of the Confederacy — the low point in the South Carolina story — it causes me to wonder what else it is about “our history” that makes you proud. Are you proud of the role South Carolina played in the Revolution? Are you proud of John Laurens, the Founder from SC who was a courageous critic of slavery? Do you take pride in the wit of James L. Petigru, who of secession said “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum”? Does your pride turn to science? Does your chest swell at Charles H. Townes invention of the laser? If so, I share your pride.

On the other hand, are you proud of Ben Tillman, Cole Blease and Cotton Ed Smith? I am not.

Here’s a Rorschach test for you: Are you proud of Strom Thurmond? And if so, which version: The Dixiecrat who famously filibustered civil rights? Or Ol’ Strom who later devoted himself to constituent service regardless of the color of the constituent?

Are you proud of his son Paul, who so eloquently explained why the flag had to come down?

Be specific, please.

For my part, I’m deeply proud of my state and its leadership for taking down the flag, and for the reasons and way they did it. Is Catherine Templeton? Or does she merely not want to “second-guess” them for “what the people in the Statehouse did when I wasn’t there?” Because to me, she really seemed to be damning them with faint praise.

Just to get us in the right mood for the snow…

I’ve got to stop by the Food Lion to make some routine purchases for the weekend, and I’m already dreading having to fight the “Oh, my God; we’re all gonna die!” crowd stocking up on bread and such because the world will be coming to an end with a few flakes of snow.

So I rewatched the video above, to get me into a mood for laughing at the situation…

The ‘pastor’ who offered this ‘prayer’ is, sadly, from South Carolina

Pastor Mark Burns speaking at Trump rally in Greenville. Wikipedia says I should credit this to Debrareneelee "in the manner specified by the author or licensor." But I was unable to find out exactly how to do that.

Pastor Mark Burns speaking at Trump rally in Greenville. Wikipedia says I should credit this to Debrareneelee “in the manner specified by the author or licensor.” But I was unable to find out exactly how to do that.

When I saw this Tweet from Nicholas Kristof:

I figured maybe Nicholas just doesn’t grok how evangelicals express themselves or something.

Then I read it, and cringed, because Kristof’s language had been too mild:

Cnr3MB0XEAASffC

Oh, Lord, why do you let such people claim to represent you? Shouldn’t you have a licensing process or something? (Oh, that’s right — you did, but then the Reformation came along. Smiley face, Protestants! Just joshing you a bit — kind of.)

I just don’t know where to start. Perhaps we should just pick out the most offensive thing in this speech — I cannot call it a “prayer.” Is it Donald Trump being held up as a model of righteousness? Or is it that, in this country united by the holy words of St. Donald, “our enemy” is “Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party?”

I can’t choose. Normally I’d pick the second thing, because you know that a pet peeve that is for me. But the other is so deeply, profoundly sacrilegious…

Or is the very worst thing the fact that he’s telling the world he’s from South Carolina?

Y’all choose. I can’t…

Drawing a connection between Trump and Tillman

My old colleague and friend Jeff Miller brought this to my attention, as he had not seen anyone draw a direct connection between Donald Trump and Ben Tillman, although he was “Surprised it took this long.”

The relevant passage:

As the civil-rights movement burgeoned, Wallace repositioned himself to lead the white resistance and famously declared, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Wallace, a political innovator of the first rank, pioneered the sublimation of racial rage into hatred of government, not just the federal imposition of black rights in a second Reconstruction, but government meddling generally. This anticipated the politics of Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, and the Tea Party because it connected Southern racial resentment to the anti-government libertarian economics of the business right. The explicit racism became latent and coded—a dog whistle. The stars of today’s Republican right are all practitioners of this art. But Trump went them one better.

“Trump doesn’t tweet dog whistles, he blasts foghorns,” wrote Washington Post op-ed columnist Eugene Robinson. In this, Trump echoes an earlier band of 20th-century Southern demagogues. Southern politicians such as Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo, South Carolina’s “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, and Georgia’s Eugene Talmadge were more blatant and direct than Wallace in demeaning blacks. And like Trump, they relished the fact that they were not about issues—for issues (other than race) mattered little in traditional Southern politics. Instead, they concentrated on providing a venomous, racist form of entertainment for the white working class—another parallel with Trump.

I have to disagree with the premise, though. I don’t think Trump is more overt than Wallace, or that he “blast foghorns” rather than “dog whistles.”

Mr. Articulate

Mr. Articulate?

The truth is that Trump is not articulate enough to blast any message clearly. He is well within the tradition of implying rather than directly stating, at least most of the time.

But that suggests to me one way in which Wallace was superior to Trump: He was far more articulate.

I watched a documentary recently about the annus horribilis 1968, and was struck by one thing: All of the candidates, including Wallace, had such a clear grasp of issues and expressed their views clearly as well.

Wallace was a hateful creep, but he was a hateful creep who could speak in complete sentences. He towers so far over Trump in that regard that it’s startling to go view those old clips, and compare them to the unintelligible mush that comes from Trump’s mouth.

Yeah, I know — you don’t think “erudition” when you hear “George Wallace.” But compared to Trump, he was the Algonquin Round Table

Members and associates of the Algonquin Round Table... Art Samuels, Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott

Members and associates of the Algonquin Round Table… Art Samuels, Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott

Uphold has a problem: California is even worse than SC

As you’ll recall, yesterday I said this about the company that is precipitously deciding to move from Charleston (supposedly, although its presence in Charleston seems theoretical) to California over the Bathroom Bill:

I hate to break it to this guy, but there’s a distinct possibility that there’s a lawmaker in California just as loony as Lee Bright who will propose a similar bill. Then what is he going to do? It’s a significant feature of representative democracy that people who have a different worldview from you get to vote, too — and elect people like them. So there’s no way to guarantee that someone won’t file a bill that you find unfair, unjust or abhorrent.

Well, it turns out, that has already happened — although it’s a proposed ballot initiative rather than a bill:

California’s system of direct democracy — the voter initiative process — has produced landmark laws reducing property taxes, banning affirmative action and legalizing medical marijuana.images

Now there’s a bid to declare that “the people of California wisely command” that gays and lesbians can be killed.

You read that right.

The “Sodomite Suppression Act,” as proposed, calls sodomy “a monstrous evil” that should be punishable “by bullets to the head or any other convenient method.”…

You can always count on California to make the rest of us look sane, can’t you?

True, the guy proposing this isn’t a lawmaker, but he is a lawyer. Juan should love that.

I want all y’all to remember this next time you find yourself wanting more direct democracy…

‘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…

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…

 

No more flags, no more pole, no more ‘compromises’ that are anything but

Rep. Mike Pitts, speaking in the House this afternoon.

Rep. Mike Pitts, speaking in the House this afternoon.

This is a dangerous moment.

More than two weeks have passed since that magnificent moment of unity and purpose in the lobby of the State House. And after that moment of clarity and understanding about what the Confederate flag, flying in front of our seat of government, actually means, some House members have had time to revert to habitual modes of thinking.

And to start acting on them. Which is why there are proposals in the House to do things that would make removing the Confederate flag meaningless — by proposing to replace it with other symbols supposedly meant to honor their ancestors (or, to take this one and fly it at the State Museum). While, of course, giving everyone else’s ancestors the backs of their hands.

Worse, the state of South Carolina would be the entity giving the back of its hand to the rest of the world, and especially to those whose ancestors were slaves in this state.

What is it with these people that they can think, or even pretend to think, that a public space is meant for them to honor their personal family trees?

An approach like what they are talking about is in no way, shape or form a “compromise.” It would be their way of winning again, of continuing to have it all their way. Which is what they have so much trouble letting go of.

The “heritage” argument is so bogus that I feel foolish taking time to refute it — but it’s on my mind because a House member I don’t recognize is going on and on about that nonsense right now, on the video feed.

As I said in my column this morning, there is only one way to see that flag (or a substitute also meant to “honor” some people’s ancestors) flying in that place:

And what did the flag mean? We know. Oh, news reports will affect that priggish, pedantic neutrality peculiar to the trade: “Some people see the flag as meaning this; some see it as meaning that.” But we know, don’t we? It is 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.

And any “solution” that continues to fly anything there to honor anyone’s ancestors at the cost of insulting other people’s is completely out of the question. If the House is going to do that, it should just adjourn and go home now.

Because anything short of what the Senate has done — passing a bill that brings us together as ONE people, no longer dividing us by honoring some people’s separate version of reality — will accomplish anything.

All a “compromise” will do at this point is guarantee that we’ll still be arguing about this 15 years from now.

And no sane person wants that.

Don’t go by me, though. Read Cindi’s editorial on the subject today.

Raw video of the Confederate flag being raised in 2000

“Raw” in more ways than one.

Bill Castronuovo, also a former editor at The State, shared with me this video that he shot on July 1, 2000, the day that the Confederate flag atop the dome was lowered, and the new one raised behind the soldier monument on the State House grounds.

As you can see, it was not the most dignified of occasions. A lot of rebel yells: Including, oddly enough, when the one on the dome came down. Was that flag opponents cheering, paradoxically, in a Confederate fashion, or the neoConfederates cheering because they knew another one was about to go up, in a more visible location? Or maybe they liked seeing the American and state flags lowered with it. I don’t know, and there’s no way to tell.

Anyway, I think that anyone in the House who wants to replace the current flag with another one in this location, or to fly this flag at the museum, should watch this and contemplate it — and ask, “Do I really want another 15 years of this?”

There’s only one way to put this all behind us: Pass the Senate bill as is. And let’s move on.

video still from 2000