We don’t get too many days of comfortable temperatures and low humidity here in South Carolina. We’re having a lovely spring that includes lots of rain to nourish the posies and wash away the pollen.
A Kiwi in peach country
My friend, Judy, is making her first trip to the South tomorrow. She lives in California but was born and raised in New Zealand. Even after living in the U.S. for over 30 years she retains her prim and proper British airs, but not without a sense of humour about it.
Judy’s clueless about Southern culture. She actually asked me if it’s acceptable to wear shorts. I reminded her that Jessica Simpson wore daisy dukes. The only thing I’ve found to be unacceptable down here is putting sugar or anything sweet on your grits. That’s lynch-worthy behavior.
This visit’s gonna be good for a few laughs.
What only a transplanted Yankee knows
So several of my friends from up North rented a house on James Island, South Carolina this week. Of course, I was invited to join them, which I did.
The first day I guided them through downtown Charleston where we visited the farmer’s market (where we purchased, among other things, pecans (please say peh-cahn), peanuts, strawberries, corn, squash and Italian Ice). We got goosebumps when we stopped in front of the now-famous Mother Emanuel AME Church, then strolled down East Bay Street, had lunch at Magnolias (fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits, mmm…mmm!), and wandered through the Charleston City Market. It was an exhausting day.
Today, some of them headed to Ft. Sumter to soak in a little history, while others went on the Old Village Home, Garden & Art Tour. Tomorrow evening a ghost tour of Old Charleston is on the agenda.
And what I am doing? Sitting back at the house with my feet up looking at this because this is what I come to see and do in Charleston.
And, boy, did we need her.
I don’t typically define myself as a South Carolinian, not having been born or raised here. But this past year, I found it difficult not to.
Every South Carolinian will admit that 2015 was a horrible year. We were in the international spotlight way too many times last year for all the wrong reasons.
First we were horrified by the racially-motivated massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Our grief was nearly as deep as that of the victims’ family members and were deeply ashamed that one of our own could cause us such heartache. In July, we cringed as racial tension erupted again when what amounted to an in-state war over an outdated flag was fought in front of the media’s cameras. In the end, South Carolina entered 21st century when the Confederate flag FINALLY came down from the S.C. State House grounds, where it never should have been flying. And then we had to suffer through endless video broadcasts of two tragic and allegedly racially-related shootings of possibly innocent people by law enforcement..
Probably the only person to come out a winner in all this is our governor, Nikki Haley. And kudos to her. Time Magazine listed her as one the “100 Most Influential People” for her leadership during these days (among other reasons, I’m sure). If you don’t have a copy you can read Sen. Lindsey Graham’s tribute to her here.
Gov. Haley had a rough first term – so rough that one wonders how she got re-elected. She battled allegations of extra marital affairs, was accused of numerous ethical violations, clashed with her Republican colleagues, and showed poor judgment on numerous occasions – all while trying to improve the state’s 10.8% unemployment rate during the devastating economic crisis that began in 2008.
Most of the contention has quieted down and the rumors of personal and ethical indiscretions have all but evaporated. She’s matured, learned a few lessons, and done a lot right during her second term (including putting Donald Trump in his place with some well-timed Southern charm).
But most importantly, she won our hearts during the distressing events of 2015 when she responded to each one with compassion, intelligence and determination. We were proud to have her represent South Carolina’s sorrow and humiliation with such dignity.
I’ve never been a huge Haley fan and often criticize her policies. Nevertheless, I appreciate her leading us with such grace and empathy during our worst days. We needed that.
2016 College Football Playoff Championship
Today everyone in South Carolina is a Clemson TIger. Yes, even the Gamecocks are pulling for Clemson because South Carolinians pull together as one when it counts. This year we saw each other through the Emanuel AME Church shooting, two brutal police shootings of defenseless citizens, a catastrophic flood, embarrassing behavior by presidential candidate Donald Trump and his followers, and Christmas week average temperatures of 80°.
2015 wasn’t our best year. Let’s start 2016 off right and roll right over that Crimson Tide!
But not the kind we gals like
First, the good news. South Carolina’s governor finally saw fit last January to put together a domestic violence task force. That group met this week and heard the personal testimonies of several domestic violence survivors. I sure hope they listened and will make realistic recommendations to Gov. Haley. Recommendations that will actually be implemented. I’m a vociforous advocate for stronger laws (or in some cases any laws!) to protect victims and help reduce the rate of domestic violence in this state. My post “What I Really Hate About South Carolina,” which caused quite a stir in August, 2014, and several follow-up posts are still being viewed, shared and reposted, thankyouverymuch. Obviously, I’m pleased that the subject of domestic violence in South Carolina is finally getting the attention it deserves.
I’m cautiously optimistic that the powers that be are actually dealing with the fact that South Carolina has the highest rate in the nation of women murdered by men.
Now for the bad news.
Former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts got a slap on the wrist for corruption and accepting bribes. This is just the latest in a long list of many South Carolina law enforcement officers who find orange jumpsuits flattering. Metts is the eighth sheriff in South Carolina to be charged or investigated in the last four years. The list of South Carolina police officers and deputies fired, indicted and/or investigated in connection with criminal cases is longer than my arm.
In Metts’ case, I fault the voters who have elected and repeatedly re-elected him as their top law enforcement officer since 1972. Why would anyone continue to vote the same person into office for 40 years knowing the risk of corruption? My guess is ignorance, complacency and personal favors are the biggest factors.
One thing that I think would make an improvement in both these areas is more women being involved in South Carolina politics. Our good ol’ boy culture and the lack of participation by women are at the root of many of South Carolina’s problems. Did you know that South Carolina has NEVER been represented in the U.S. Senate by a woman? Women’s voices in politics and presence in law enforcement, on any level, would make a huge difference in our communities. Not every woman can or should run for office. But we can support those who do and encourage those who should. Attend your school board meetings. Be a campaign volunteer for a female candidate for county council, state legislature, or Congress. Encourage a female deputy to run for sheriff.
Better yet, don’t vote for the male candidates who have been in office for decades (can you say Strom Thurmond?). Look for a woman candidate who is in favor of term limits and vote for her! We won’t rid this state of it’s Neanderthal mentality towards women until we put women in positions of authority where they can represent and protect our daughters, mothers and sisters.