Today finally IS ‘a great day in South Carolina,’ as we witness a host of miracles in the State House, of all places

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Today, the state of South Carolina leaped out into uncharted territory, launching itself from the 19th century right over the troubled 20th, and into the 21st. And it wasn’t even kicking and screaming.

It is, without a doubt, a miracle that today, Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to come off the State House grounds ASAP.

That is HUGE. That alone would have me walking around the State House (as I was just moments ago) saying, “What state am I in? Really, help me: Where am I?”

Today truly IS “a great day in South Carolina.”

NOTHING like this has ever happened in the 28 years that I’ve covered politics and government in South Carolina. Nothing even close to it. What happened today broke all of the rules of what does and does not happen in South Carolina.

Today, the state’s political leadership got together and said, “Hey, let’s just stop all the usual b.s.” Just like THAT (imagine me snapping my fingers)!

But I didn’t witness just one miracle today beneath the dome, with a storm raging outside and thunder crashing. Really, it’s impossible to count how many I saw. I’ll use a biblical accounting method and say seventy times seven. Or more than the stars in the sky…

Let’s just count a few:

  • Nikki Haley, elected as the darling of the Tea Party, standing there and saying “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds,” and saying that if the Legislature doesn’t do it while it’s already here in town (through a proviso, or somehow amending the sine die resolution), she’s going to call them right back to deal with it. And meaning it. Wow. God bless her.
  • Joe Riley, freighted with grief as mayor of a Holy City in mourning, standing there right with her and not having to say a thing because Nikki Haley is saying what needs to be said. So that second march won’t be necessary, Mr. Mayor.
  • Mariangeles Borghini, Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall, the regular folks who pulled together the impromptu, haphazard rally Saturday, standing there witnessing it. Afterwards, I had to go over to Ms. Borghini, a recent immigrant from Argentina, and say, “You know, you don’t normally get what you ask for this fast in South Carolina.” But… maybe you do, now. Who knows? Everything we all knew about SC politics just went out the window. And you know that second rally they’re planning on the flag for July 4th? It just turned into a celebration, instead of another small step on a long, sweaty road.
  • Jim Clyburn standing at her right hand, in total agreement with her on the most divisive issue that I’ve dealt with in my decades in South Carolina.
  • Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, who within the last few days was mouthing the usual stuff about how we had to understand that for some folks it’s about heritage, standing there on her other side. Mark Sanford, who was saying the same stuff a couple of days back, standing behind them.
  • Sen. John Courson, long the Confederate flag’s best friend in the Senate (except when Glenn McConnell was around), standing there with all of them. (Mind you, John has always been the most reasonable voice of that caucus, but he’s still the guy with multiple Confederate flags in his office, and is sort of the embodiment — the sincere embodiment — of the “honor the war dead” argument that has kept the flag up.)
  • South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore and Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison — one white, the other black, sort of like their parties — standing literally shoulder-to-shoulder and grinning without reservation, in complete agreement with each other on the issue that has most surely divided them since we turned into a two-party state, since long, long before either of these young men even knew what Democrats and Republicans were. Moore, who was mouthing the usual “it’s not the time” stuff a couple of days ago, now saying, “We can’t change our past, but we can heal our future.” And Harrison, who can usually be counted on for the usual “if it’s Republican, it’s bad” stuff, telling me “I have nothing but respect for Gov. Haley. She’s doing the right thing, and she’s doing it for the right reasons.”
  • Mind you, Haley and Sanford and Graham and Scott and Courson and Matt Moore all represent the Republican Party that essentially came to power on the issue of keeping the flag up. The GOP took over the House after the 1994 election. The party got an unprecedented turnout in its primary that year in part by, in the national year of the Angry White Male, putting a mock “referendum” question on the primary ballot asking whether the flag should stay up. One of the very first things the party caucus pushed through after assuming control of the House was legislation that put the flying of the flag into law, so that no governor or anyone else but the Legislature could ever take it down. (You might say, why bring that up at such a wonderful moment. Here’s why: To let you know how big a miracle this is.)
  • Democrats and Republicans who have spent the day working sincerely together in multiple meetings today, not to posture and get the other side to vote against something so it can be used in the next election or to raise money, but to solve an issue that cuts right through the heart of South Carolina, and defines the differences between them. I asked House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford whether he has EVER been in such extraordinary meetings as he has been in today, with leaders of both parties determined to reach agreement on such a heavy, politically impossible issue and put it behind us for good. For a second, he almost reverted to the usual, starting to say, not while this governor has been in office… But I said, no, I mean EVER. And he said, no. He has never experienced anything like this on any issue.
  • Drivers going past the flag on Gervais and not just honking their horns in celebration at the flag coming down, but playing monotonal tunes on their horns, a regular symphony of honking. Such giddiness is as unprecedented as all the rest of us. It’s almost like our local version of the Berlin Wall coming down.
  • J.T. McLawhorn, president of the Columbia Urban League, telling me, “Things can change in a moment.” Meaning ANYTHING, no matter how intractable, no matter how long-lived. In South Carolina, the most change-resistant state in the union.
  • The way the sentiment that it was too soon to talk about such a hairy political issue, when we haven’t buried the first victim of the Charleston massacre, had just evaporated. Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, told me that Clem Pinckney “himself would say, ‘Do not lose this moment.'” This was, as the governor had said, the way to “honor the nine blessed souls that are now in heaven.”
  • The way the entire world was there to see it and hear it. And yeah, I’m sure that’s one huge reason we’re seeing this happen so quickly — was best to come out and say this now, while the world was watching, so that everyone would know of the miracle that had happened in South Carolina. But it was still something to see. I estimate this media crowd was about twice the size of the one that witnessed Mark Sanford’s public confession upon his return from Argentina six years ago this month.
  • To hear the booming voices of people spontaneously crying out, “Thank you, governor!” as she left the podium. (Presumably, those were the non-media types, and there were a lot of them on hand.) And no, I don’t think that was planned. It sounded heartfelt to me. Just like the applause that interrupted the governor, and which she had to wait for the end of, after she spoke the fateful words, “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds.”
  • The way nobody was hedging, or qualifying, or talking about half-measures. In the state that normally doesn’t change, and when it does it does so in the tiniest, hesitating, gradualistic baby steps, the governor was like, Let’s just go ahead and take it down, and lawmakers of both parties were like, Yeah, let’s, and the rest of us were like Keanu Reeves, going whoaaaa

How did we get here, and so fast? I don’t think we can explain it in earthly terms. A friend who gave me a ride back to the office after the miracle said she felt like maybe, just maybe, it started when those family members stood in that courtroom the other day, looked at the (alleged) brutal killer of their precious loved ones, and forgave him. I nodded. Maybe so. Maybe that was the beginning of some sort of chain reaction of grace, which led to this.

I don’t know.

Yeah, a lot has to happen before this thing is done. But I think it’s going to happen. I asked James Smith whether he thought, based on his interactions with those involved, the consensus to act was solid. He nodded: “Rock solid,” he said. I believe him.

95 thoughts on “Today finally IS ‘a great day in South Carolina,’ as we witness a host of miracles in the State House, of all places

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Lindsey Graham said this after the historic presser:

    “After the tragic, hate-filled shooting in Charleston, it is only appropriate that we deal once and for all with the issue of the flag,” Graham said. “The love and forgiveness displayed by victims of this horrific, racially motivated shooting, along with all the people of Charleston, is an example to us all. The victims’ families and the parishioners of the Mother Emanuel AME Church reflect everything good about the Christian religion and the people of South Carolina.”
    Graham added: “I hope that, by removing the flag, we can take another step towards healing and recognition – and a sign that South Carolina is moving forward.”

  2. Lynn Teague

    I hope that James Smith is right, that this is rock solid. It feels like a genuine tipping point. The flag has been such a powerful symbol, it will be fascinating to see if this will lead to other great days for South Carolina.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      People were walking around kind of giddy. Dazed, and giddy. I kept asking people, “Did you ever think for a moment, before today, that this would happen?” And they all said NO.

  3. bud

    The flag isn’t down yet. But it does look promising. Hopefully we can do this quickly and respectfully, perhaps with some type of Confederate re-enactors honor guard, and finally move on from this divisive issue.

  4. Gary Karr

    From afar now, this feels different. I hope the people who are together on this will stay together on it, even when the inevitable bumps in the road come. I wish we’d been more successful during Gov. Beasley’s days — heck, like everything else in my past, I always wish I’d been more successful — but it’s better to be hopeful for the future than to lament the mistakes of past.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Have you talked to Beasley?

      I ran into Jim Hodges this morning and we spoke briefly. He said he and David had been in touch as recently as yesterday, and spoke about this.

      Hodges was optimistic but noted how hard it still may be to get it down.

      He also said while it’s horrible that it took the deaths of 9 innocents for this to happen, that is indeed the difference between now and when he was dealing with the issue 16 years ago. It took a horrific external event…

      1. Gary Karr

        Just saw your question, Brad. Yes, I talked to David a couple of times today and yesterday too. He’s optimistic and encouraged. He was at the Statehouse today, and look for more Hodges-Beasley cooperation tomorrow (or so I hear.)

  5. Karen Pearson

    I am hopeful, but I refuse to be giddy until that actual vote comes in. It seems to me that many of our legislators lack the guts to stand up to angry calls which they will be getting from some of their constituents. I am sure Gov. Haley, our senators, and others have finally realized just how bad that flag has made us look in the eyes of the rest of the country and the world. Lets hope they don’t turn tail and run when the ra–more conservative voters start yelling.

  6. doug T

    Wow. What a day. I caught a glimpse of John Courson nodding his head in the affirmative. Consider the flag gone.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Is this not the Bill who rejoiced over the civic recognition of gay marriage?

      I’m pretty sure that was also society saying it was time for a more inclusive future. So your “disgust” is a bit much, in my book.

    1. Doug Ross

      FITS NEWS reports that senators McMaster, Peeler, and Bright are not on board with taking down the flag.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Will be interesting to hear the arguments for keeping it up. Another group of outnumbered men in another Lost Cause, perhaps?

        Even Lee realized he was beaten at some point. If it’s truly the case that there is a two-thirds majority to take it down, then it would be nice to see the flag come down without people kicking and screaming in vain.

      2. Lynn Teague

        As Lt. Governor, McMaster doesn’t normally get a vote. As to the others – as always in the Senate, the vote count is only part of the picture. Will someone filibuster? Quite possibly. If so, then we get the big question – can they get 2/3 votes to sit him down?

        1. Jeff Mobley

          Henry McMaster’s Facebook page has a statement in favor of taking action on the flag.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I didn’t see him. For whatever reason, House members were more in evidence than senators, with a couple of exceptions — the notable one being Courson.

      I didn’t see Jay Lucas, either, even though he had sent out that release calling for “swift resolution.”

      James Smith — Sheheen’s closest ally in the House — was of course there. He told me that the House had already been working on acting to take the flag down before the governor got involved…

      Of course, there was a mess of people there, and I was seated on the floor — only way I could get in close for pictures without blocking the TV cameras — and couldn’t see those in the back. Then, when it was over, most of those in the group disappeared with the governor. For instance, I had wanted to talk to Courson and couldn’t find him.

      So, some people may have been there, and I just didn’t see them.

  7. Matt Bohn

    I was at the rally Saturday evening and stood for about twenty minutes or more near the sign wavers facing Gervais Street asking people to honk. I wanted to see the reactions of passers-by. I only saw one negative response. A young male on a motorcycle yelled an obscenity and raised his middle finger after the light turned green as he sped off. The rest of the drivers either drove by quietly or honked in support. Probably a hundred vehicles passed. I was surprised to see what appeared to be working class whites honking. An eighteen wheeler trucker and several men in plumbing or other trade vans honked in support. I was at first ashamed that I had expected them to at most ignore the rally. But I also began to feel like this was something big and different. This wasn’t the reaction I saw in 2000. There was a real feeling of “just take it down already. It’s time.” I’m glad I went and I’m glad I learned, yet again, not to judge people by their appearances.

    1. Doug Ross

      You shouldn’t have been surprised that working class whites supported the cause. Most people are not racist.

      1. Doug Ross

        I’ve lived in South Carolina for 20+ years and have never heard anyone use the N word. The only time my wife had heard it was when it was used by black middle class co-workers to describe young black men.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              No, not frequently. Unless I’m watching “The Wire.”

              At least, not in the last 40 years. When I was in my teens, I heard it frequently, sometimes in surprising places.

              Once, when I was in college and my parents were living at the Naval Air Station in Millington, TN, I was standing in a group of people that included a high school girl who was also a Navy brat, and she was going on about N this and N that, and I was deeply shocked. I had NEVER met a racist military brat before. Our moving around usually gave us a way too broad perspective on the world and its peoples to be like that. But my younger brother would tell me that there was a lot of racial tension in the public schools in Millington. And evidently that temporary environment had had a stronger influence on that girl than the rest of her background did.

              When I started this comment, I was thinking, “Well, when I was young I had a second cousin who used it all the time.” But as I’ve been typing, I keep thinking of another example and another example and another.

              From back then.

              More recently, of course, my dealings with the flag and other things brought me into contact with the dregs of our society. And when Warren Bolton dared to speak up on the flag or anything else, the responses were particularly ugly.

              1. Kathryn Fenner

                Just b/c folks are saying the most overtly racist word imaginable doesn’t mean they aren’t racist.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                And sometimes, at least long ago, they didn’t necessary mean anything bad or insulting. And you don’t have to go all the way back to Huck Finn for that, I was shocked to learn in my late teens.

                I’ve got a great story about that, about an old white man who was a very close friend of my family when I was a kid who used to use the word as freely as Stringer Bell.

                He was WAY too old for me to presume to tell him he shouldn’t say it, so I would just wince and find any excuse I could to get away when he got started. (I’ve never been much of one for correcting people who are not being ideologically correct, even when they’re being offensive. Something about being the sort of person who becomes a journalist — I have this fly-on-the-wall instinct that causes me, when people are saying outrageous things, causes me to get quiet and OBSERVE their extraordinary behavior. I don’t want to break the spell; I want to see where they’ll go with it. But he would make me so uncomfortable that I would just find an excuse to get away.)

                But then one time, in the midst of the most uncomfortable instance of this proclivity that I can recall, that he said something that absolutely floored me, and showed me his heart was in the right place — he had just grown up talking like that…

                But it’s an awkward story to tell.

                I tried telling it to Warren Bolton once, thinking we were close enough for that, and once I’d launched into it it got so awkward, I got so embarrassed, that I didn’t tell it very well, and the anecdote didn’t have the desired effect…

          1. Doug Ross

            Of the pepole you interact with on a regular basis, what percentage would you label as racist?

            1. Mark Stewart

              Regardless of the state we’re talking about, inclusive of SC, my experience would lead me to say about 10-15 percent, Doug.

              I’d say for 10% nobody would be really surprised to hear them slip into racist fear/anger. Another 5% of people one might suspect such an outlook but then still be a bit surprised to hear it emerge from drink, in a moment of attempted conspiratorial bonding, or most unfortunate of all, from a lifetime of subconscious racial programming. Then maybe another 2-5% may, in a moment of emotional stress, display that kind of words or thoughts. I’d like to think that 10% of people come to regret their behavior – and would (hopefully) guess that over a lifetime many of these people do move away from racism.

              Unfortunately, I think that there are others who develop hardened racism later in life, often born from their own bitterness.

              It’s a sizable minority without doubt. But let them fuss; their numbers are small overall and the rest of us should never loose sight of the fact that they are the intractable few .

          2. Rose

            I’ve heard it from past coworkers 20 years ago, and from cousins much more recently. Hispanics slurs, too. I only see them at family reunions, fortunately, and they learned the hard way from my immediate family that we had better not ever hear those words again.

      2. Matt Bohn

        I don’t think I’d say that I thought they were racist, more that the people I know who are more vocal about the flag are the ones in my family and circles that have blue collar lives. What I saw watching the reactions made me think that many in this group might have been swayed. That surprised me.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      Working class whites are not typically part of the usual hippie left fringe crowd Brad derides.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          I believe Kevin Fisher calls us wine-and-cheese liberals…at least that what he called me.

          I was offended. I am a whiskey or Gibson liberal…

          1. Phillip

            Yeah, you can’t tell me all those people subscribing to Wine Spectator and very carefully making sure they have the right Sauternes to go with their Stilton are liberal Democrats! Now, run-of-the-mill overoaked Chardonnay and bland cubes of white cheese on toothpicks, that IS offensive, regardless of political ideology.

  8. Sally Huguley

    I cannot give praise to any politician for this turn of events. For some, it is pure political expediency, as your timeline shows. If the flag is taken down, elected officials will quickly bask in public glory. However, never forget the removal of the flag will be due to pthe blood of nine people of faith and the examples of grace by their nine grieving families. It’s a price too high to pay.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      For some, it is pure political expediency…

      Hypothetically assuming that’s true, isn’t that okay? As Uncle Milton says:

      “The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

      1. Jeff Mobley

        In sort of the same vein as Bryan’s point, I would say that doing the right thing can sometimes be politically expedient. I think it’s important to judge this decision by whether it’s right or not.
        Will moving the flag now remove a major distraction from the South Carolina presidential primary campaign? I’d say yes.
        Will it cause people to view Haley favorably (particularly those outside the state who don’t know much about her)? Probably.
        Will it solve all of the problems relating to racial relations in our state, or in the country? No.
        Does any reasonable person expect that it would? No.
        Will it do anything to help racial relations? I think it is meaningful step.
        Will it elminate sin and darkness from the heart of man? No. Only God can do that.

        Is it the right thing to do? Yes.

        And my personal take is that, whatever other motivations Nikki Haley and other leaders may have, she and they (along with all of us) have been truly touched by the outpouring of love by the people of Charleston and the state at large, and especially by the tremendous and miraculous strength and faith of the families of the victims of the shooting, and I think it really is in the spirit of honoring them and in the desire to bring us together that this thing with the flag is happening.

        1. guest

          Ok, but that begs that we ask a harder question:
          Would as many people still consider it the right thing to do if Black folks in Charleston or elsewhere across the state instead of playing nice were demonstrating their anger, maybe even rioting? Is this a case of “rewarding” the “good Negroes”?

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Not from where this white woman sits. Some of us always wanted it down, some see an opportunity in the tragedy, some were embarrassed by national media scrutiny, some may have been schooled by the national GOP party powers-that-be….
            This tragedy, unlike the riot situations, is not a situation where governmental actors (police, prosecutors, jurors) acted.

          2. Bryan Caskey

            It’s not really productive to a dialogue to play “what if”, but I’ll bite:

            Yeah, I would guess that massive race riots and the resultant burning of Charleston would have inhibited the feeling of togetherness that spurred the massively bi-partisan movement to take down the flag. The focus would have been on the smoldering wreckage and looting of stores in Charleston, not a little flag in Columbia. How does this alternate history end? I don’t know.

            What if fire-eating Southerners hadn’t seceded from the Union in response to Lincoln’s election?

            What if Jackson hadn’t been killed at Chancellorsville?

            What if Lincoln hadn’t been assassinated?

            What if time-traveling white supremacists from the future had gone back in time and given the Army of Northern Virginia modern weapons?

            All fun to ponder, but not so insightful to discussing things here in reality.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              I credit the grace shown by the bereaved families and the church members, cultivated, no doubt by the Reverend Pinckney, and by Mayor Riley, for a lot of the goodness that has been in evidence. Also, the prompt, effective response by North Charleston to the Walter Scott murder.
              Frankly, since the mid 20th century, South Carolinians have been rather graceful in terms of race relations. Schools and universities were integrated without the violence and belligerence shown elsewhere in the South, or the North, for that matter.
              Not perfect by a long shot, but far more civil.

            2. guest

              The point here has nothing to do with alternate universes and instead involves that whiff of Kumbaya I detect in the air, with White folks perhaps just a little too eager to pat themselves on the back. If there’d been rioting, would Black folks had been somehow less “deserving” of the respect shown by removing the flag?

              1. SBS

                Maybe we are just being respectful of one another as the shock phase of grieving isn’t even over yet. Typically that is +/- seven days.

                Also, there are other types of bondage that the Confederate flag can represent.

                Are you disappointed in the lack of reactionary bloodshed?

              2. Kathryn Fenner

                Kumbaya is exactly what this is: Oh Lord, come by here.
                and a beautiful thing it is.
                Do you have a problem with that?

              3. guest

                No, I am not disappointed at the “lack” of bloodshed. (How anyone can even suggest that after what happened in Charleston is beyond me.) But as for Kumbaya, well, it depends.

                I spent a lot of time and effort on this matter back in the 1990s and early 2000s – maybe even more than Warthen. I spoke with many of those involved at the time to get a handle on the different perspectives, including with Glenn McConnell, Arthur Ravenel, David Beasley, Bob Coble, Clyde Wilson, Tom Turnipseed, Rep. Maggie Glover and Dan Hollis, the last surviving member of the SC Confederate War Centennial Commission. I also talked with Rev. Joseph Darby, then at Morris Brown AME Church, who spoke of his suspicion of Kumbaya politics, by which he meant White folks getting together and congratulating themselves for largely empty gestures of goodwill.

                Removing the flag would be more than an empty gesture, of course – particularly given SC’s history of wrangling and resistance over the flag and related matters. And yet, I still can’t help but be a little concerned that Whites may be a bit overeager to engage in the kind of self-congratulation that Rev. Darby was suspicious of in taking this comparatively small step toward communal respect by removing what is essentially a redundant display of ancestral veneration.

              4. Kathryn Fenner

                I don’t see any self-congratulation here–at least not yet–more like making some very weak lemonade out of some very bitter lemons.
                I see some rather humbled folk trying to do the right thing, however feeble

        2. Kathryn Fenner

          Yes, I get the sense Haley is genuinely touched *this* time. Maybe I’m just projecting. I know I am.

      2. Lynn Teague

        Uncle Milton knows politics, Bryan. It’s votes that are counted, not hearts and minds.

    2. Bill

      An intelligent comment on Brad Warthen’s blog.Thanks.I’m almost giddy. This truly is a Pyrrhic victory.

  9. Phillip

    To me it took courage for Haley, Graham, and Scott, and all the GOPers who came around on this issue. Make no mistake, they are already awash in some very nasty pushback from the real Confederate die-hards. Read some of the messages on Haley’s Facebook or Twitter account to get an idea. Basically many variations on “traitor.”

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Do you have any respectable citations to hard facts for your annoying assertions?

      2. Bryan Caskey

        Could you be specific on how you reached this conclusion? I’m having trouble understanding how you reached this result, based on the facts currently in evidence.

        Are you saying that, Boeing, BMW, and Volvo all pulled a Luca Brasi and told Nikki Haley that either the flag comes down, or else she’ll find a horse head in her bed? Or are you saying that someone paid money to all these politicians to get them to do this?

        Mind you, I’m not arguing with your statement, because I don’t understand it. After I understand it, I’ll decide whether or not to argue with you. At this point, I’m simply moving for a More Definite Statement.

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    This German-American, whose family came from both sides of the German divide, does feel a lot like she did when the Berlin Wall came down. I think you are right, Brad–this does seem to have that same snowballing effect as when the Wall came down.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Glad you brought up Germany. Here’s a parallel example of maybe why the flag should come down [warning long analogy]:

      Let’s say we have a German-American young man who is is proud of his heritage. He’s not a Nazi, he’s not a racist — he’s just proud of his family. Let’s say this guy’s great-grandfather served in the German Army before Hitler came to power, say around 1931. And so this German-American wants to wear his great-grandfather’s Reichswehr army shirt. The shirt is pre-Hitler — just a year or two before Hitlerism gets rolling, but it IS pre-Hitler. It’s not actually a Nazi shirt; it was the shirt from a couple of years before the rise of Naziism.

      And so this German-American guy could try and explain this to everyone who sees him wearing this 1931 era shirt. When people remark “You’re wearing a Nazi shirt!,” he can say — truthfully, accurately– “No, actually, you see, this is a German Army shirt from a few years before Hitler rose to power. It’s my heritage, and there’s nothing hateful about it. I’m just honoring my great-grandfather who served honorably in service to a country he loved.” All that would be technically correct.

      And yet, this German-American guy would be giving signals about himself, right? Now, he’s not wearing a Nazi shirt, and no, he’s not wearing it to honor the Nazis. And yet he knows he is plausibly confused with someone wearing Nazi uniforms, for the purpose of celebrating the Nazis.

      Maybe he’s cool with that. Maybe he’s aware that it’s a signal he knows he’s giving off, and maybe he doesn’t seem to mind giving off. Now, obviously, most German-Americans are extremely careful to avoid the appearance of doing this. This is why, as Kathryn has pointed out in the past, Germans are a very self-conscious of displays of patriotism, even to the point of being self-conscious of waving the flag of Germany these days (In the context of the World Cup, I think.)

      Sure, this guy can keep telling his friends that this shirt does not mean what most would take it to mean. However, eventually the easiest thing to do is to stop wearing the shirt, because too many people will get the wrong idea.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      So if I meet a girl who is wearing a Confederate Flag printed bikini, should I ask her to lower it?

    2. Bryan Caskey

      Seriously though: This Amazon and Wal-Mart idea of “we’re not selling this image” is starting to be a bridge too far. At some point, we’ve gone from “Let’s not give controversial symbols the imprimatur of the government” to “No one is allowed to engage in the exchange of this item that I don’t like“.

      And now e-bay and Sears are getting in on this?

      We need to pump the brakes, people.

      1. bud

        Nobody is mandating Walmart not sell the Confederate stuff. They’re merely exercising their freedom as a business entity in a capitalist society. No different from Chic Fila closing on Sunday.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          I know. They’re certainly within their legal rights to do so, and I’m sure they’ve made a logical business decision. I just start to worry about the slope starting to get a little slippery.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            But it’s not the same slope.

            A slippery slope would be if the government took subsequent actions after removing the flag. Other, private parties are on completely different slopes.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              Yes, you’re right. It’s a different slope, because it’s a whole other thing. I just kind of thought we we’re doing this one thing [of taking the flag down], but now, we’re doing like 50 other things before the first thing is even really done. The whole “we’re not selling this stuff” just feels way out of left field, to me.

              Oh well. I denounce myself, as usual.

              1. Kathryn Fenner

                How’s about “we’re not selling this stuff because we *finally* became aware that folks (besides just the Dukes of Hazzard fans) use it to express white supremacist beliefs we do not wish to enable.”

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        You are still free to sell anywhere you like–you just can’t use these businesses platform to do it.

      3. Brad Warthen Post author

        Careful, Bryan! Tim Cook has come out for the flag coming down. You don’t want your iPhone to start acting strangely, do you?

        Seriously, these private companies are free to embrace or reject the flag as they choose.

        Just like the guy I just saw driving down the road with a huge Confederate flag flying from the bed of his pickup. We’re going to see a lot of gestures of hostility like that. A gesture like that is easier than painting a message on the side of your truck that says, “Screw you, black people! (And all of you whites who don’t want your state flying the flag on your behalf, too!)”

        1. Bryan Caskey

          I use an Android. And yes, private companies are free to do as they wish for the most part. I am fine with that. I guess I just didn’t expect there to be this sort of “choosing sides” that has taken place all at once, which is making an issue of something that I wasn’t aware was an issue. Did anyone object to Wal-Mart selling images of the flag? Did anyone object to Amazon doing so? I just didn’t really see where this came from.

          Turning and turning in the widening gyre…

  11. Bart

    Apparently both houses have agreed to allow a “debate” about the flag. The flag will be flying when Clementa Pinckney is lying in state in the lobby Wednesday. Now, there is no reason the flag shouldn’t be removed if for no other reason than respect for Pinckney. It should be taken down if the darn flag pole has to be cut in half. This is ridiculous.

    Debate? Right!!! The feel good moment has passed and it will be the usual BS stench coming from the statehouse during the so-called “debate”.

    Please, for once do the right thing and take it down now, not later.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Wouldn’t it be nice if they could pass an emergency measure just to take it down for the time the Senator is here==at least?

  12. Scout

    Sheheen and some others have introduced a bill in the Senate to remove it to the confederate relic room. It has had first reading. I’m rusty on what is next in the process or how long these things take. That’s all I know.

  13. bud

    This isn’t over just yet so I won’t concede that I was wrong. But IF the flag comes down without a bunch of silly compromises and concessions then I will have to acknowledge the obvious.

    Yet I have to wonder. Once a bit of time passes and emotions aren’t so fresh will anything much have been accomplished other than a temporary feel-good moment? I hope not. SC is way behind in so many areas it really would be nice to see some real progress on real issues like health care. I would have much rather seen the governor push for accepting the Medicaid money.

    But for now this is a good thing. Hopefully there will be even more and greater days in South Carolina.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Not to get all Buddhist on you–well, okay, to get all Buddhist on you: everything is a temporary feel-good moment or feel-bad moment. Life is change. We are nudging it in a more positive one, but the pendulum still moves back and forth.

      1. bud

        Maybe I’ll become a Buddhist. Or perhaps start my own religion – budist. Some might call that a cult.

  14. Bart

    The members of the house, both chambers, will do their usual thing and debate the flag until the red on the flag fades from old age or at least it will seem so.

    The bandwagon is a great ride down the middle of Main Street and all on it share in the moment but when the wagon stops and everyone gets off, they move on to the next issue and unless they are committed to doing something about the reason they jumped on it, it will slowly fade away until something else happens to remind them of why they had the few minutes of exposure during the ride.

    Now we will see the character of our elected members of the house on full public display. You might want to cover your eyes, it may get ugly. Something akin to “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

  15. Bart

    This is my last comment on the issue until the house reaches a final decision about the flag. I can only hope Haley does as other governors have done and order the flag removed immediately until the “debate” is concluded. She does have the authority to do so. Shouldn’t Haley be the leader and not a follower in this crucial period?

    The Civil War officially started when the first shot was fired from Ft. Sumter. Since the end of the Civil War, another war has continued, the race war. Now, wouldn’t it be appropriate that the last shot fired by Roof on Wednesday night be the one that ends it all or at the very least, the beginning of the end, especially for South Carolina?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      To the best of my knowledge, Bart, she does NOT have the authority to take down the flag. The Legislature saw to that in 1995, and reiterated it in 2000.

      Some were noting, before Monday, that not having the authority hasn’t stopped her in the past when she wanted something, or someone, off the State House grounds. But she was slapped down on that by a federal judge.

      On Monday, she did what she does have the power to do — lead. And the Legislature actually seems inclined to follow…

  16. Sally Huguley

    After all the back-and-forth, here’s a question that bears asking: Why was National Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus standing in the crowd behind Nikki Haley as she made her announcement about the flag? I didn’t notice him at first until I saw the photo on this blog. I don’t remember Priebus being a S.C. elected official or even a South Carolinian. Wonder why he’s at the press conference and standing right behind Haley?

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