Scenes from a triumphant moment for South Carolina

Not much to say at the moment, because I’ve got to run to a meeting. I’ll say more later. In the meantime, some images from the big moment.

54 thoughts on “Scenes from a triumphant moment for South Carolina

  1. David Carlton

    I really love Nashville, but this has really made me homesick. Seeing the State House grounds from the air, remembering walking across them from my old haunt the South Caroliniana Library to downtown, and longing to have been there to celebrate one of the most amazing moments in SC, and southern, history. Historians of the South are all too used to tragic themes, but here we have a tragedy that turned into something good–maybe even, I hope and pray, a turning point. I wish I’d been able to do more to bring it about, though perhaps Lacy’s and my op-Ed had some small impact (Lacy’s going to be on All Things Considered this afternoon, BTW).

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Folks, here’s that op-ed piece. And here’s an excerpt:

      The slung smooth stone of forgiveness hurled by the families of the victims and the congregation of Emanuel A.M.E. Church stopped the Goliath of racism and hatred in its tracks and aroused a sense of unity and compassion among South Carolinians that has been inspiring to us all. It has given us all a glimpse of what the spirit of a new community in South Carolina might look like: one reaching across the divides of race, party, denominations, faith traditions, generations — indeed, across all divides — to nurture a full sense of community, of common humanity, throughout a diverse population. It might even give rise to a new community that could serve as a model to the nation.

      Let us remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds and move it to the appropriate museum to mark the moment of this new community and recognition of our common history. Let undeserved grace continue to lead us home from this terrible tragedy, and let all South Carolinians, and all Southerners, respond to that grace with works of reconciliation.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      I really liked the piece, but dude, it’s 102 here today. Stay put until 2nd week in October, at least

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way folks, those re-enactors Valerie was interviewing were not of the angry, “Fergit, hell!” variety. They were father and son, and the father (I’m sorry I didn’t catch the name when the father told Valerie; I wasn’t taking notes) told her that on the whole he thought bringing down the flag was a good thing — at least, he hoped it would be.

    Then, in response to her questions, the Dad amiably described to her all of the gear they were wearing.

    So basically, these guys pretty much embodied the true (historical) heritage, not hate position…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Here’s Valerie’s story, and here’s the part about the re-enactors:

      Bill Feus and his 15-year-old son William of Fort Mill, S.C., were among a dozen or so Confederate re-enactors at the ceremony dressed in period clothes. Mr. Feus wore the tan layered uniform of the Army of Tennessee and William wore the blue woolen uniform of the Army of Northern Virginia. They said the day was bittersweet.

      “I can understand how the Confederate flag has been hijacked by hate groups,” Mr. Feus said. “But it also represents the flag my kin fought and died under…It’s in my blood in a way.”

      Mr. Feus, an Episcopal priest, said the flag coming down will be a good thing only if it leads to “true reconciliation,” which is yet to be seen….

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    I really got lucky on this video clip. Basically, Ryan Nevius (at least, I think that was her in the cap at the center of the initial part of the clip, with most of her face obscured by someone’s smartphone) had started singing “Amazing Grace,” and was trying to get the surrounding people to join in. You hear her say, “Everybody!” about five seconds in.

    As a few people took her up on it, I panned the camera up toward the flag, and with the flag in the center of the frame, to my surprise, it started coming down.

    You have to realize that most of us could not see ANYTHING happening on the ground level around the flag, so we had no idea that anyone had arrived at the pole and was preparing to lower it.

    That’s why you hear all those pleased, surprised cheers. We had no warning; it just started coming down, about 9 minutes after 10. I think most of us groundlings figured that with the event starting at 10, it would be longer before it actually started to come down.

    But we were pleased to see that no one in charge was interested in delay.

    So… it may seem like a perfectly ordinary clip to y’all, but for me, it was a minor miracle that my video was running and pointing in exactly the right direction at exactly the right time…

  4. Burl Burlingame

    And all this is partially thanks to your long crusade, Brad. Thanks. The country was full of millions of folks like me who tolerated the flag but also despised what it stood for.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks, Burl. It’s been a long road. Maybe .00001 percent of this is due to my efforts, but I still feel now like I wasn’t wasting all that energy and effort…

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    For most of the time while I was waiting for the flag to come down, I was standing in one of the few shady spots on the western side of the flag. It made a HUGE difference in the heat.

    The shade was provided by a Palmetto tree. How poetic is that?

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    Let me ask y’all something, although a Friday afternoon is not the best time, I realize (after a VERY busy week, and 42,000 pageviews in the past month, there are only 5 users on the blog at this moment)…

    Do y’all enjoy these photo galleries when I do them? They’re a little awkward, and time-consuming to put together. But I think they’re good when the topic is right.

    I just have no way of telling whether anyone is even looking at them…

    1. David Carlton

      These are wonderful! For those of us who wish they’d been there, these photos are the next best thing.

    2. Norm Ivey

      I very much appreciate the pictures. WIS had a nice vantage for watching the lowering and furling on TV (and kept quiet during it, thank you), but I kept checking Facebook updates prior to and after the ceremony because the crowds were much more interesting than the shots from their (WIS’s) helicopter. Your pictures helped add to the experience. I really, really like the one of the kid watching from the Capitol City Club.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I like that one, too. The Club was pretty busy this morning, with folks either coming in to have breakfast and then go down to the flag lowering, or planning to watch from the Club.

      2. Pat

        I agree, your videos and photos do add to the experience for me. I wish I could have been there, but your pictures and commentary have captured the essence for me. Thank you!

  7. David Carlton

    Brad, I’ve neglected to say how much I admire and appreciate your often thankless persistence on this issue over the years. Credit where credit is due, I’ve been saying to those who wish to deny it to certain people they don’t like for other reasons. But you’re owed a heap of it.

  8. Burl Burlingame

    The pictures are cool. You can kick the guy out of journalism, but you can’t kick the journalism out of the guy.

  9. SBS

    The photos are great! I especially like the one you did of the cowbell ringer man from the previous rally. Wish you could have gotten a translation from him. Maybe he wasn’t giving interviews?

    There was a photo in The State’s current gallery of photos today of a man with lots of messages printed on the back of his t-shirt passing out lots of pink and yellow flowers. Gerber daisies maybe. I’m most curious about his story.

  10. Doug T

    The State reprinted some of Robert Ariail’s flag cartoons today. Most were under Brad’s watch? The Linus cartoon was worthy of a Pulitzer by itself. Just outstanding.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, those were from our time working together, except for the one from 1989, back when I was still in the newsroom as the governmental affairs editor. I remembered it, though — I probably saw it in one of his books.

  11. Dave Crockett

    For me, today has been a regular Friday with errands to run, food to cook and friends to greet for an afternoon in the pool. But I did take time to catch the noon news and saw the brief clip of the flag’s lowering. I was pleased to see the scene was peaceful.

    But before hitting the rack tonight, I also wanted to add my voice to those commending your efforts, Brad, especially since tempo picked up in June finally to bring the flag to an appropriate resting place. In a museum. This blog has been a source of news, introspection and inspiration for someone far removed from the Columbia scene. Thanks.

  12. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here’s something to contemplate…

    My wife and I just finished watching the PBS show about Harper Lee. It examined everything going on in the South at the time when “To Kill A Mockingbird” and the film came out, in terms of the Civil Rights struggle.

    And today, The Wall Street Journal — the paper of my friend Valerie, seen above interviewing the Confederate re-enactors — published the first chapter of Harper Lee’s long-unpublished first novel.

    The same day the flag, which featured so prominently in those scenes of violence against the Civil Rights movement in the documentary, came down.

    That’s just… astounding…

  13. Jeff Morrell

    Jenny Horne and I share a common bond as decedents of Jefferson Davis ( I didn’t know previously). This whole flag deal I could have cared less about. The flag is gone and tomorrow people still get cancer and some die, babies are born into poverty, the education stinks, the roads need fixed, Lindsey Graham still wants to go to war and Haley can go back to being less “than kind” to us union thugs. Naivety applies to smart folks too.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Yes, but on Monday, tomorrow, the State of South Carolina will no longer provide official sanction of the symbolism of the Confederate flag; a sanction which has poisoned this state since the flag first hung in the Senate in 1954 in defiance of the dismantling of Jim Crow segregation and bondage.

      Naive is the failure to appreciate the power of that sanction. Naive is to believer that all problems will now be solved. They won’t. However, an important step was taken last week.

      The future is now free to be something other than the past.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Naive is cheap sarcasm and cynicism worthy of a teenager, in the face of such literally stunning grace shown by so many people who flat out had every reason to be otherwise, or had nothing to gain, or even plenty to lose.
        One of my favorite quotes is from Goethe, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” (it reads better auf Deutsch). It’s like training animals, if you want to be pragmatic and science-y about it: you recognize and reward the behaviors you’d like to see more of.

  14. KMP

    Meet the new SC – same as the old SC.
    (apologies to Pete Townsend)

    Submitted for your consideration:
    (apologies to Rod Serling)

    The past still is not even past.
    (apologies to W. Faulkner)

    Re-reading Ms. Finney’s poem, these are the lines that stand out:

    “It will be just us again, alone, beneath the swirling indigo sky of South Carolina, working on the answer to our great day’s question: Who are we now? What new human cosmos can be made of this tempest of tears, this upland of inconsolable jubilation?”

    It’s proper that she puts it as a question — Who are we now? — rather than as a statement, let alone a declaration of “a new South Carolina.” This chapter ends not with a declarative statement but rather with a question mark – sorta like “The Birds” (apologies to A. Hitchcock).

  15. Brad Warthen Post author

    A certain person who has been banned from the blog keeps trying to post, and trying to make some kind of point about people in the crowd, at various times, singing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.” As Valerie mentioned in her story that I linked to:

    Many people waved American flags and a smaller number of people waved Confederate ones. As the troopers took down the flag, some chanted, “U.S.A.!” Others sang the chorus to “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” and some sang the refrain from “Amazing Grace.”

    She left out “This Land is Your Land,” which the guy with the guitar and harmonica, pictured above, kept singing over and over, and occasionally people would join in.

    He seems to think this is some sort of “gotcha,” as though there was something wrong with the singing, which is ridiculous. I took it as an expression of how happy everybody was. It’s a cheerful song, and they were happy to see the flag go. That was obvious if you were there, and I would think it came across the same way on TV.

    The crowd had an air of a joyful block party, and the off-and-on singing was a part of it. It was great. Probably the most friendly, happy crowd I’ve ever been in. Very different atmosphere — 180 degrees, the exact opposite — from the harsh, shrill, hateful scene when the flag went UP in 2000. That scene, with whites screaming at and taunting flag protesters, was like something out of the civil rights counter-demonstrations of the 60s. Watch it if you can stand it. Some of the taunts of “back to Africa” are a little hard to hear (these people, particularly one near the camera, were screaming themselves hoarse), but the crowd chanting “Off the dome, in your face!” is pretty easy to make out, starting at 11:10 on the video.

  16. Phillip

    Jeff, I’m pretty sure you’re right about all that stuff still continuing. But, had we not taken the flag down, that stuff would still be going on, too. Now it’s going on, but with one very obvious symbol that was contemptuous and dismissive to a huge segment of our state’s population gone. Given those choices of “bad” vs. “bad with one good, if symbolic, thing” I’ll take the latter. Maybe some small progress can be made, around the edges, on some issues…capitalizing on this spirit of coming together.

    If some of the GOP members that had an epiphany on this (and let’s face it, this was accomplished not because of the NAACP, not because of the Democratic party in SC, but because white Republicans in this state finally agreed it had to happen) , from Nikki Haley to Jenny Horne, can extend that sense of empathy…understanding that suffering doesn’t always take the sudden violent form of mass murder at the hands of white supremacist terrorists, but can also be in the slower, less obvious form of thousands of people’s inability to afford adequate health care, and the even slower-motion-form of lack of access to decent education…etc….

    …well, one can hope that whatever it was that spoke to Nikki Haley and some others, can keep on speaking to them.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      and to all of us. I don’t want any gloating from my side of the aisle. There’s been a lot of grace.
      There’s a beautiful video billboard (words i never thought I’d write) on Route one in West Columbia just east of where 12 forks off. It’s indigo blue, with the word Unity in white with a white dove flying off the upper right corner. Stunning. I hope it touches others as much as it touched me.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Heading into town, just past the Chick Fil A and Marpie’s Antiques. You might have to wait for it to cycle through. I didn’t check to see if it was a Grace billboard (Hal Stevenson)

      1. Brad Warthen

        And yes, “grace” has been the word.

        Whatever your theology, we are experiencing a powerful spiritual moment. Not since the days of the Apostles has Christian love and forgiveness had such a powerful, transformative effect on an entire people.

        As Phillip says, this happened because SC Republicans had what a former editor of mine used to call a “come-to-Jesus” moment.

        All these years, I’ve said THIS was the way the flag had to come down — through a general consensus of our political leadership, across the spectrum, coming together. I kept saying it, but I had no idea how to bring it about.

        The families of the Emanuel 9 knew, though: Just do as Jesus commanded .

        They weren’t trying to get the flag down, they just did — by going against frail human nature to do the right thing.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          I thought Cindi’s piece after Haley came out for taking the flag dow captured that whole Zeitgeist.
          I can’t read comments and stuff on snarky sites I usually enjoy. Sincerity feels right, right now.

          1. David Carlton

            Good choice, not reading them. I’ve made the mistake of trying to *argue* with them–a real waste of time. Indeed, I found myself this afternoon thinking I’d rather listen to the song that my fellow Nashville expat Patrick Davis has written in tribute to the Emanuel Nine and those who’ve grieved for them, and which the online *State* offered up this morning. It really cuts through the snarling cynicism that I’m encountering on too many sites on my end of the spectrum, and reminds us that it’s about a common grief, a common love, and a common solidarity.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “Common” is the word. And not “common” in the sense that your great-aunt used it when she told you what you looked like holding your fork that way.

              I mean “common” in the sense of all those words from the same root: commonality, community, communion, communitarian….

              Another good word is “one” — one South Carolina, one people, represented by one beautiful, indigo-and-white flag.

              That’s what this is about.

          2. KMP

            And yet I find I have reason to be less than sanguine about our prospects. Just in the past year, I’ve had one relation almost slip and say “that nig…colored woman; and another use the term “jigaboo.” Neither of these people has generally used this sort of language in the past – at least not in my presence. And not long ago, my barber, an otherwise perfectly fine fellow, suddenly and for no apparent reason served up a blatantly racist joke. Moreover, I’m from that part of the state that provided the largest share of “ney” votes on the House bill – three of which came from my own district and two adjacent ones – all three of them overwhelmingly white. So I have no reason to be naively optimistic.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              How old are they, these people who didn’t say such things before?

              That aside, my own perspective is not naive, it’s about embracing a hope that I was too “realistic” to, well, hope for over the last couple of decades.

              One thing about being an editor wading into a topic such as the flag — you really get to see the ugly underbelly of society. It oozes up out of the darkness and flings itself at you repeatedly. (Don’t waste a lot of time trying to sort out those metaphors; I’m writing in a hurry.)

              After I’d been fielding those letters and phone calls and occasionally emails (this was the ’90s, when that was an innovation to most people) for a few years, I began to realize that most of my friends and family were shielded from that stuff. They didn’t run into people who said things like that or harbored such attitudes, and so they thought those were things of the past.

              Then, just when I thought I’d seen it all, my eyes were opened wider. I’d been writing about the flag for several years when I brought Warren Bolton up to the editorial board. He decided he would try his hand at writing about the flag, too, which I encouraged.

              Warren approached it carefully, kindly, if anything with less insistence than I did. He wasn’t as pushy as I was. But as soon as he wrote a column about the subject — as soon as a piece calling for the flag to come down appeared with the picture of a black man — the bile increased exponentially. I thought I’d seen ugly stuff, but it was nothing compared to the hatred that Warren unleashed for daring to write against the flag.

              I know what’s out there. And I know what it took, in the face of what’s out there, for lawmakers in super-white districts — that is to say, Republicans — to step up and retire the flag.

              And because I know how ugly the world can be, I appreciate progress when I see it. And this is progress of a remarkable sort.

            2. Kathryn Fenner

              I think there is not necessarily naivete in our optimism. Did you ever think, before, say June 15, that the flag would be down right now?
              Sometimes amazing things, good things, happen when we least expect them. I have not heard anyone say that all or even many of our racial problems have been solved. I do think we are justified in feeling good that at least one, not insignificant, thing has been.

            3. Bryan Caskey

              Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: You are being asked to determine if there has been a net positive change in South Carolina over the past few weeks.

              On one hand, we have the official elected government of South Carolina removing the Confederate Flag from the capitol grounds and thousands of people unified behind it. On the other hand, a family member of KMP’s family almost said a bad word in a private conversation, another one said a bad word, and Floyd the Barber told an allegedly racist joke.

              Obviously, these are almost equivalent things that counter-balance each other, so your job will be a difficult one. However, we have confidence in your ability to sort out the relative weight of these matters.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Interesting piece, Bill.

          We all know of the complicity of Yankees in the slave trade, particularly in colonial times. But I’ve never seen it broken down in such specific, personal detail as that.

          Thanks for sharing.

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