This oughta be good

A Kiwi in peach country

My friend, Judy, is making her first trip to the South tomorrow. She lives in California kiwi_peachbut 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.


Sightseeing in Charleston

What only a transplanted Yankee knows

Charleston PostcardSo 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 Carolina Pecansthings, 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.

James Island


She was there for us when we needed her

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 South CarolinaChurch 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 In July, we cringed as racial tension erupted again when what amounted to an in-state war over an outdated flag was fought in front of the media’s cameras.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..

Then in October it rained. And rained. And rained. None of us ever experienced a flood like that and likely never will again, thank God. Nearly six months later and we’re still in the recovery stage.

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 thGovernor Nikki Haleye 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.

The Bad Boys of South Carolina

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 Domestic Violseveral 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 Sheriff James Mettscorruption 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.

Adding polish to the pandemonium

Clear, pink, or black – everyone has an opinion

“What I Really Hate About South Carolina” caused a huge stir. One result was quite a few negative posts by people who didn’t like what they perceived to be my anti-South Carolina attitude. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Another result was the post being viewed by more than 10,000 people through reblogging, overwhelmedFacebook shares, Twitter, email, etc.

You can find my responses to the haters and criticizers (at least those of whom merited a response) where I don’t so much defend myself or my choice of words, but put the burden back on them to actually read what I wrote. That people didn’t even get the joke about the USC Gamecocks and mentioned shotguns and other violence to “put me in my place” was quite ridiculous and half the reason I closed the comments section of the post. The point of the post was to bring awareness to a pervasive, shameful problem in South Carolina, not bash the state, people, or culture in general.

I was contacted by many people, male and female, thanking me for writing what I did and encouraging me to continue writing about the topic. There were so many comments (overwhelmingly positive) that I just couldn’t keep up so I ended the conversations, except on Facebook. I’ll admit I took down a few individual comments because they were too nasty or ignorant to pollute my website. It’s my site and I’ll censor if and what I want.

One gal was very upset Nailpolishand decided she’d never visit my blog again. But when she realized I have a sizable audience she got back in touch with me wanting me to share this photo with my readers, which I’m happy to do. I have no idea of this product actually works, let alone exists, but if so, then it’s a terrific one. Think Christmas stocking stuffer for your daughters, nieces, and friends! The person who sent the picture knows who she is and I thank you.

Welcome new followers and thank you to those who passed the message along. It’s still getting hundreds of views a day a week after being published because of those who shared it with someone else.

And just for the record, I LOVE South Carolina. Just not everything about it.

A man speaks up!


champagne-toastI won’t pretend that South Carolina  House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s announcement was in response to my recent blog post about our state’s shameful domestic violence statistics. I believe the Post and Courier deserves that credit. Cheers!

Let’s hope the committee Harrell sets up will actually accomplish something… and include an abundance of women. businesswoman-wearing-heelsBetter yet, let’s all contact him and make that suggestion!

I confess my curiosity: Is Harrell actually concerned about reducing domestic violence or using the platform to rehab his own questionable reputation? Tsk tsk to me, but what would a post from yours truly be without a little snark?

To end on a more positive note than that, I’d like to thank everyone who shared my blog post on social media and took the time to contact me with their opinions and comments – positive and negative. I read and responded to all of them. The response has been terrific. Let’s keep up the good work bringing awareness to the need for change in the laws and culture regarding domestic violence in South Carolina.

What I really hate about South Carolina

And why you should, too.

Welcome to SCI’ve spent the past two years or so sharing my perspective, often with my tongue held firmly in my cheek, about the people, places and culture of South Carolina. Today, I won’t hold my tongue at all, but will go full Yankee on you.

I’ve made no secret that much of South Carolina culture and politics causes me embarrassment, most of which I can laugh off. However, the fact that I live in the state that boasts the highest rate in the nation of women murdered by men makes my blood boil. South Carolina is at or near the top of too many embarrassing lists, but this statistic can no longer be kept buried on the back pages of unread newspapers. Shame on the legislators, educators, clergy and citizens – especially the women – of South Carolina and beyond who remain ignorant, silent and idle about this epidemic by not creating and demanding solutions. I’m talking to YOU.

The root of the problem

South Carolina’s violence-against-women culture is perpetuated by citizens who complacently allow the good ol’ boy network to rule the roost with weak laws and hypocritical Bible belt values.  This Civil War-era mindset succeeds in keeping women right where the men want them: in the background. They know that women are intuitive, and a woman with a voice means potential exposure of the ineffective boys’ club.

Rather than empower women, in South Carolina we demean them.

Even the University of South Carolina’s mascot is a cock, for God’s sake!

Proof of this culture lies in the fact that not one of South Carolina’s 46 counties has a female sheriff. Our state law enforcement agency is led by men. All seven congressional seats are filled by men. In fact, only four women have ever served South Carolinians in the U.S. House of Representatives – the most recent ending her term back in 1993. No woman has ever represented South Carolina in the U.S. Senate. Let me repeat that: In 226 years of statehood, South Carolinians have NEVER sent a woman to represent them in the U.S. Senate.

Instead, we support ancient senators in office who legislate from a hospital bed, vote and revote sheriffs into 40-year terms and re-elect politicians who blatantly disrespect women.

In 2010 we finally elected our first female governor. Nikki Haley is of the generation of women who benefited most from women’s rights and is now in position to be speaking loud and clear on this issue. Instead she slashed funding for domestic violence and sexual assault programs in 2012 saying in part,

“Each of these lines attempts to serve a portion of our population for which we extend our sympathy and encouragement, but nevertheless, it is only a small portion of South Carolina’s chronically ill or abused.” (Emphasis mine)

She’s talking about women who are at risk of dying by the hands of men who profess to love them. Her many other shocking missteps are fodder for another [very long] blog post.

Of course, South Carolina’s perpetual poverty, unemployment and education problems also factor into the issue of domestic violence.

Will things ever change?

Has help for these women finally arrived? Charleston’s “Post and Courier” researched the subject in-depth and wrote a seven-part report entitled “Til Death Do Us Part.” The report was the subject of a segment on Public Radio International’s program “The Take Away” the other day. I listened to it on the way to work with tears of fury streaming down my face.

A few teasers from the article:

  • All 46 counties have at least one animal shelter to care for stray dogs and cats, but the state has only 18 domestic violence shelters to help women trying to escape abuse in the home.
  • South Carolina’s murder rate for women is more than double the national rate.
  • Maximum days in jail for first-time domestic abusers in South Carolina: 30 daysDomestic abuse in SC
  • More than a third of men charged with domestic killings over the past decade had at least one prior arrest for criminal domestic violence or assault.
  • The only consistent state money budgeted for programs and protecting victims of domestic violence is a portion of proceeds from marriage license fees, which equates to roughly $22 per victim.
  • State legislatures put up about a dozen bills aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence. All died except one, which protects the welfare of family pets left in the care of a person with pending domestic abuse charges.

The “Post and Courier” report offers insight into what other states are doing to reduce domestic violence and protect victims. The national rates have been declining for years, so we know it’s possible for South Carolina to get this under control. The women I’m talking about live next door to you, teach your children, share your office space and sit next to you in church. They don’t have a voice.   Your silence and inaction keep these women at risk.

Be a role model

If you can’t be bothered reading the report and educating yourself on the issue, you’re part of the problem. Women in South Carolina who don’t run for office or encourage and support other women running for office are part of the problem. Men who discourage or prevent women from participating in the public conversation and running for office are part of the problem. Governor Nikki Haley, you are part of the problem. Our attorney general, the S.C. Department of Social Services, every sheriff and police department, church, local Barefoot-Pregnantmedia outlet and emergency medical professional in South Carolina should be stepping out, speaking up and taking action against our culture of women as things to be played with, humiliated, and abused.

The culture in South Carolina has to change and it has to begin with you and me.

Not everyone is in a position to make big changes. But anyone can contribute to the solution. One simple step would be to share this post or the “Post and Courier” report with friends, family, co-workers and legislators. Talk about the issue. Raise your voice. Don’t vote for candidates who won’t address the issue. Volunteer for organizations that are part of the solution. Get your church involved.

I’ll be Tweeting, posting and emailing the link to this article to every person or agency mentioned in this post. You can do that, too. Some of us can do much more.

Silent acceptance of the status quo keeps women at risk. The statistics prove that your silence could one day result in the funeral of your daughter or granddaughter.