Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The South Carolina bashing is getting old
Perhaps we have to blame Governor Sanford. After all, it was Governor Sanford and his pack of out of state carpetbaggers that started bashing South Carolina about eight years ago. They told us that our state legislature was filled with crooks and clowns. They told us our state government was racist and our schools were a dismal failure. They told us that opportunities were limited for people in South Carolina. Never before in the history of the state has a Governor and his backers seemingly thought so little of South Carolina and got elected and re-elected.
Part of it has to do with the clichéd pseudo intellectualism of the “in” class in both parties. Being proud of South Carolina’s natural beauty, its people, its accomplishments and its rich culture and history is frowned upon by the chattering classes. If a politician wants big money from out of state and wants to lock up the transplant vote, he has to talk about how bad South Carolina is and how things are done better elsewhere. On the Democratic side, self loathing seems necessary for South Carolina Democrats who want to appease the Obama Administration’s early strikes against Sanford.
There are problems to be dealt with in South Carolina. However, the success of South Carolina is ignored by the Governor and his opponents. There are several things to be proud of that get ignored.
South Carolina has an outstanding State Park’s system that showcases South Carolina’s beauty and rich history. I have seen other places. But, the view of Jones Gap from atop Ceaser’s Head and the view of a sunrise on Hunting Island are among the most beautiful natural scenes that there are. There are the Carolina Bays, the Congraree Swamp, along with the waterfalls of the upstate. There is the Harbison State Forest in the Midlands. There is the history at Rose Hill Plantation and Charlestowne Landing.
South Carolina has remarkable people as well. While there are writers, singers, artists, comedians, commentators, politicians and astronauts that call South Carolina home, it is the average South Carolinian that ought to be spoken up for. Over the years, I have been thousands of living rooms from Sunset in Oconee County to Bluffton on the coast and all points in between. Most of us are more alike than different. Rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, it does not matter. By and large, South Carolinians are courteous, work to find a way to better their lives, and have the things that they are proud of on display in their homes. They are not stupid. They are not backwards and waiting for some politician to save them or their children. With the exception of some pockets of failure, most South Carolinians have their kids in public schools, and are proud of their kids and their school. They attend plays, recitals, ball games, and help with homework. They volunteer at ball games selling concessions, join the booster clubs and the PTO. Other South Carolinians give generously, even with meager means to their church and to charities. The people of South Carolina are generally a good people and they do not deserve the snake oil being sold to them by those who keep telling them how bad their lives are.
There are so many other good things to address about South Carolina, like the high tech jobs at BMW and other places in the upstate, the research done at Clemson and the University of South Carolina, and how a network of small colleges and technical colleges around the state make higher education a realistic goal for people of any age.
Over the past eight years perhaps no one in South Carolina has taken a harder hit than those in public education. We are told constantly that our schools are failing and are backwards. Reform in administration and curriculum is needed, but again, by and large, most teachers are hard working and dedicated to their jobs and get the job done. Frankly, most of South Carolina’s public schools do work. They turn out future doctors, lawyers, businessmen, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, soldiers, writers, artists and teachers. It is simple minded and ignorant of political activists to label public schools as a failure just because they choose to not let their children attend them or are paid by someone to attack public schools. The people who work hard to make their public schools work do not deserve that.
But, it is not about deserve. It is about big money from outside the state and national politics. I wish I could say that South Carolina will not get bashed anymore in the next few years, but chances are it is going to get worse. As it gets worse, chances are economic opportunities will decline. Part of the reason that Mark Sanford has not had a “BMW” type deal is because he runs down the state. It is hard to sell South Carolina as a place to come build a plant and live when the Governor himself calls education a failure and government broken and has his own paid for Greek chorus backing him up. (I wonder how many of the private school advocates will get that reference from a public school education. )
Past Governors, Republicans and Democrats, and Republican leaders like Strom Thurmond and Floyd Spence always spoke well of the state, even if they wanted to change things. Not so in the Sanford era. Here is hoping that candidates for Governor in both parties dwell more on what is right about South Carolina and less about what is wrong. The South Carolina bashing is getting old.