Category Archives: Blogosphere

Time runs short to testify on redistricting!

The Op-Ed Page

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

Time is running short to make your thoughts known on South Carolina’s redistricting, the process of adjusting our legislative districts to 2020 census data. The resulting maps will be in place for the next decade. Many citizens of South Carolina feel that they are not represented in the General Assembly or in Congress. Redistricting is a significant contributor to that. If a district has been distorted to make it “safe” for the incumbent, help make it better by identifying what you think should be considered in drawing districts.

Lynn Teague

Help ensure that legislators know about the important communities of which you are a member when they draw legislative districts. Do you want an S.C. House district that doesn’t break up your county or city? Do you want a House district that leaves your neighborhood or an area with a shared economic foundation intact? Do you want a Congressional district that meets Voting Rights Act requirements, but isn’t stretched out across most of the state to pack in every possible minority voter? You need to tell legislators about it now.

S.C. Senate hearings around the state have been completed, but the last few S.C. House hearings remain and are taking testimony relevant to Congressional and S.C. House maps. The House hearing schedule is posted at https://redistricting.schouse.gov/docs/Public%20Hearing%20Schedule.pdf. The last in-person-only opportunity for oral testimony was last night, Sept. 22, in Orangeburg.

There are now two meetings at which virtual oral testimony will be accepted. The first virtual opportunity is now scheduled for Tuesday, September 28, at 4:30-8:30 PM in the Blatt Building, 1105 Pendleton St., Room 110. The second is scheduled for Monday, October 4, at the same time and place. To sign up for virtual testimony on either date, email virtualtestimony@schouse.gov and specify the date that you wish to testify.

In addition, written testimony can be submitted to redistricting@schouse.gov.

Speak up, in whatever way you choose to do it! Redistricting may determine whether you have a meaningful vote when you go into a voting booth in November, and whether you have legislators who consider your interests and respond to your concerns.

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

Top Five Social Media I Hate (Personally)

The above is an email I got today. My reaction was, “LinkedIn deserves to be ‘moentized,’ far as I’m concerned. I may moentize it myself, next time I see it…”

We’ll talk another day about people who send out such emails, and are so careless with their headlines. Today let’s stick to LinkedIn, shall we? I hate it.

Which inspired me to write this quick-and-dirty list of social media I hate. And when I say “quick and dirty,” I mean even quicker and dirtier than the sloppy one about the Top Songs earlier.

I think I spent way less than one minute coming up with the five. Which is fitting, when writing about social media, don’t you think?

Anyway, here’s the list. Note that this is a personal list. I have to deal with some of these professionally, and in truth for many in business something like LinkedIn actually is useful, and I often help people make it more useful to them. But for me, I don’t get much out of it. This is partly because I’m not at a point in life when I’m trying to a) get a job or b) build a career. In other words, this is not business; it’s strictly personal:

  1. LinkedIn — Years ago, a colleague persuaded me to sign up for this, because it was the “professional Facebook,” or something like that. Not long before that, someone had persuaded me to sign up for Twitter, and I had loved that, so why not give this a chance, too, I figured. Also, I was briefly persuaded that in my post-newspaper career, I needed to be on LinkedIn. I no longer am. In fact, I haven’t been for years. Persuaded, I mean. Maybe y’all can argue me into believing again that it serves a purpose to me. Have at it.
  2. Snapchat — OK, I think maybe this feature has changed, but I’m not going to look it up, because I don’t care. I mean the feature that anything you posted there would soon disappear. This was touted as a feature rather than a flaw, which means it was being pushed to people who were stupid enough to post, on the internet, things they did not want other people to see. Here I was, glorying in the fact that anything posted on the Web could stay there forever (unless one’s blog disappeared), meaning that I would never in my life have to type or copy or in any way again publish the “background” we used to have to put in news stories — all you had to do was link to the old material, because it wasn’t going away! That was possibly the one most wonderful thing about the Web. And these people were giving it the finger. So I hate it.
  3. Instagram — It’s about pictures, and yet you can’t right-click and save a picture from it. How stupid and pointless is that? I can grab pictures, if I need them, from anywhere else. But not from here. Which I realize is intentional, and that irritates me no end. I’m responsible with pictures, and careful not to use them if I don’t have permission to do so, within the boundaries of Fair Use. (Ask Paul DeMarco.) So I stay away from it.
  4. Reddit — Listen, I know a lot of intelligent people who really like this medium. But I don’t, because I don’t understand it. I’ve tried using it, and couldn’t find any reason way in which it was a helpful or useful tool, and decided I didn’t understand it. Which meant the people who love it must be smarter than I am. And what do I think of a social medium that shows me other people are smarter than I am? I hate it.
  5. Facebook — It’s a little weird that this is only No. 5 on my list, because I’m sure that I say “I hate Facebook” more than I say I hate all other social media combined. But that’s just because I deal with it that much more. So does everyone, because it is by far the most ubiquitous. And one of many reasons it’s so dominant is that in many ways it is useful. Like for sharing pictures and news with a group of friends and relatives. For instance, one branch of my family has a members-only group from which I’ve gotten lots of great old family pictures for my tree. And Facebook does that better, and more conveniently, than most other instruments. Of course, if you start using FB as your sole Source for News and All Knowledge, it will mess you up. But that’s your fault. So really, I just occasionally dislike it fairly strongly, and other days enjoy what I get out of it….

Of course, there are other social media I love, even as I see their profound flaws and worry about the Rabbit Hole phenomenon. Those include Twitter — use it responsibly — and YouTube.

Then there are in-between social media — such as Pinterest. I go surf through it occasionally, and it intrigues me, but I can’t shake the feeling that it could be so much better

DeMarco: What Trump Could Have Learned From 9/11

The Op-Ed Page

Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

We’ve just marked the 20th anniversary of one of the worst days in American history. We remember the horror and heroism of that day and all those we lost. We also recall the strong sense of unity that Americans showed in the aftermath of the attack: the countless Americans who gave blood, held vigils, and supported the grieving. Over the next several months, our national mood gradually returned to a bickering normality as the divisions that we had put aside resurfaced. But many of us recollect with pride how we as a nation responded to that dark day.

In the winter of 2020, Americans became aware of another assault, not as sudden, but one we quickly realized would dwarf the number of casualties from Sept. 11. COVID was a second attack on the homeland. It could have been framed as such by our President Trump and used to galvanize the nation.

To be fair, George Bush had it easier than Trump. All of us over a certain age can tell you where we were on 9/11. Few of us can remember where we were when we first heard the word “COVID.” But the difference between the men is that Bush responded quickly to solidify the national moment. The image of him with a bullhorn exhorting weary first-responders as they sifted grimly through the rubble at Ground Zero is iconic. “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you!” he told them.

The COVID pandemic, of course, did bring us together in many ways. The images of medical teams clapping for COVID survivors being wheeled out of the hospital, neighbors banging pots and pans to celebrate healthcare workers, and nurses with tears in their eyes after losing COVID patients have created a sense of shared struggle. Too many of us have a mental scrapbook of the family and friends we have lost. Mine includes three of my patients. For more than a year and a half, we have been arranging our lives around the virus, caring for one another, and grieving together.

But the unity we have shown during COVID has been despite Trump, not because of him. He had several opportunities for an “I can hear you” moment, but he missed them all. He initially tried to wave away the pandemic and then downplayed its seriousness. Despite the bubble in which he exists, he managed to contract COVID. And because he spent years denigrating the mainstream media, many of his supporters ignored medical experts’ advice to wear masks and get vaccinated.

When he was hospitalized, the nation held its breath. Fortunately, he recovered quickly and returned to the White House after only three days. He released a video that evening in which he could have changed course and brought us together. Here was a moment to trumpet American exceptionalism. What if he had said “I’ve been too cavalier about the coronavirus and I paid for it. I might have died like so many other of my fellow Americans. If a president can end up in the hospital, so can you. Even if you are young and at low risk, take precautions for the elders in your life. Let’s demonstrate American greatness by ending the pandemic quickly.”

But instead he rambled. He minimized. He talked about what a good leader he was. The line that made the headlines was “One thing that’s for certain: don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it.”

In the subsequent 11 months, approximately 400,000 Americans have died.

Another misstep in Trump’s messaging was his failure to publicize his own vaccination. Many high-profile politicians including Mike Pence, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris widely distributed images of their vaccinations, as did a host of athletes, musicians, and other celebrities.

Donald and Melania Trump were vaccinated sometime in January prior to leaving the White House, and released no photos. This is surprising since Trump’s Operation Warp Speed was a spectacular success. It was the Manhattan Project of public health, something about which Trump and all of America can be proud. Our nation’s ability to simultaneously develop and produce a vaccine saved precious time and countless lives.

But Trump has undercut the success of Operation Warp Speed by his half-hearted endorsement of the vaccine. Since losing the White House, he has continued to send mixed messages. At a rally on August 21 in Cullman, Alabama, he was booed when he suggested that the crowd get vaccinated. He quickly backpedaled. “You’ve got your freedoms, but I happened to take the vaccine.” In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sept. 3, he said he “probably won’t” get a booster shot.

We will never know how much better it could have been. A different approach by Trump, or a different president, could have prevented much suffering. In an interview with Bob Woodward on Feb. 7, 2020, Trump indicated that he knew early on how deadly the virus was but didn’t want to stoke panic. That was a grave miscalculation. Unlike Bush, he underestimated the American people, and for his lack of confidence, we have paid dearly.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net. A version of this item previously appeared in the Florence Morning News.

I think we’re back up and running…

It was a… complicated process. I mean the process of getting from there to here. (Maybe when I’m not so tired I’ll tell you about it, if you care. Which you probably don’t.)

How about giving it a try? See if you can leave a comment. On whatever you’d like. Comment on Rube Goldberg, if you like.

Or we could talk about that Goldberg-inspired game, Mouse Trap. Ever play that? I loved it when I was a kid, and then later when my kids were kids. (I need to break it out for my grandkids now!)

Anyway, once we have all the kinks out — and I think we’re about there — I’ll get back to actual, serious blogging. Or semi-serious. Perhaps seriocomic. Whatever…

The blog is dead; long live the blog!

At least, I think the old blog is dead.

I’ve got a new one up and running, but problems with it remain.

Please bear with me…

If you’d like to try to post a test comment, go ahead. I don’t know what will happen.

I would ask you to email me if you have trouble, but my email isn’t working, either — possibly because it uses the blog domain name. Or something. Anyway, see you later. I hope…

UPDATE: My email’s working again, and the URL is corrected on the blog, but there are still some major problems. If you’ve tried to comment, I assume you’ve failed. I’m working on it…

Hey, y’all, the whole blog is about to disappear!

Uhhhh... say WHAT?!?!

Uhhhh… say WHAT?!?!

That is, unless I do something. I’m not sure what yet…

Today has not been a good day. I had just been talking to my wife about how three things had happened in my world today already that caused great consternation to various people, and every one of them had seemed like someone who thought there wasn’t enough trouble in the world had gone out of his or her way to create the problem. Not that they had meant to do it; it just seemed like it, and it was weird how similar these unrelated problems were in that regard.

I’m sure you’ve had days like that. Anyway, other folks affected and I were staggering along trying to deal with these things and keep going, and then came a fourth in the series.

The first three are none of y’all’s business, but I’m going to share the fourth with you, because all of you have shown some degree of interest in this blog, so it kind of affects you:

Important information about the closure of WebFaction

Dear customer,

We’re getting in touch regarding your ‘bradwarthen’ account with WebFaction.

As previously communicated WebFaction is closing down on September 15th.

Before this time you need to ensure any sites, services, applications, email addresses
and domains (including NS records) are either migrated away from WebFaction to your new
service provider or you have made local archive copies outside of the WebFaction systems.

Please also make sure you have copied all relevant account information from WebFaction
that you may require, this includes any invoices and receipts alongside support contacts.

As of September 15th access to login to your WebFaction account will be fully disabled.

The platform will be archived, purged and fully shutdown soon after.

Regards,

The WebFaction team

Oh, yeah? Well, regards back atcha, buddy.

Webfaction is this outfit that the person who redesigned my blog a decade or so ago picked to be my host, and I’ve been automatically paying something like $9.50 to them every month since then. To the best of my knowledge, this outfit was based in England. Recently — like, the last year or so — it changed names a couple of times. The second time, suddenly my automatic payments stopped working, and they dunned me for the money, and I spent an hour of my life that I’ll never get back navigating through their system, trying to figure out how to do it. I thought I had done it, but then later my wife asked why I had paid something in pounds rather than dollars, and I said I didn’t know, because I didn’t.

And now this.

So now I have to spend time I definitely can’t afford right now dealing with this problem.

I’ll keep you posted, if I can find the time…

Teague: Math and Redistricting: Diagnosing a problem

The Op-Ed Page

An image from the presentation Lynn links to in the last graf.

An image from the presentation Lynn links to in the last paragraph.

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

Brad drew my attention to an article in The Washington Post about mathematics and
redistricting. This brought to mind some important math about South Carolina’s current
legislative districts. The majority of South Carolina’s legislative districts are non-competitive in
the general election. The winning candidate is selected in the primary in June. This makes
November elections meaningless in many cases and encourages polarization, since highly
engaged and often extreme voters are especially likely to participate in primaries. It also seems
odd, since we know that in S.C. statewide races the majority party draws about 55% of the vote,
while they now control a super-majority in the Senate and House. The most common
explanation for this disparity in proportions is partisan gerrymandering.

However, you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know what the problem really is, and guessing
isn’t good enough. Even well-designed districts can look odd, and gerrymandered districts can
look okay. An eyeball test isn’t enough. So, League of Women Voters of South Carolina board
member Matthew Saltzman supervised a Clemson grad student thesis to evaluate whether our
districts meet mathematical tests of partisan gerrymandering. Anna Marie Vagnozzi used a test
originally employed in the 2017 case League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Vagnozzi generated millions of maps and found that the current S.C. maps do not fall at the extremes of the resulting distribution and do not seem to have been pushed to extremes by partisan bias. Instead, they fall very much where the presumably fair post-litigation Pennsylvania maps do.

So, why are South Carolina’s maps so non-competitive? Some of this arises from demography.
South Carolina retains a significant level of racial polarization in voting, so the tendency of black
voting-age populations to be concentrated in some areas, especially urban centers, is a major factor. Votes are wasted when a group of voters are clustered together in such high numbers that their district would have been won by the same party without many of them. White populations are more evenly distributed throughout the state and this provides an automatic electoral advantage, giving them greater voting strength with fewer votes wasted.

The other big factor is incumbent protection. Incumbents of both parties have engineered their
districts to be “safe.” They have amplified the differences caused by demography to create even
more extreme differences by carefully choosing their boundaries to include neighborhoods favorable to them and exclude others. This bipartisan process, repeated through successive redistricting cycles, has led to some excessively predictable districts. (Bipartisanship is not always the Holy Grail of good politics.)

A very recent presentation on redistricting in South Carolina is posted on-line at the League website. It includes maps of our noncompetitive districts as well as a short summary of Vagnozzi’s research and discussion of where we are in the redistricting process.

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

Are you consuming more news these days, or less?

WashPost

For me, it’s definitely less. I can only bear so much.

And maybe the problem is just me. You know, I lived and breathed this stuff for so long, and I subscribe to multiple newspapers so I don’t miss a beat, and maybe I’ve just reached an age where I’m like, “Nobody is paying me to do this anymore, so…”

But I don’t think that’s it. At least not entirely.  I think the news is actually worse. More than that, the way people engage issues has become so counterproductive that immersing oneself in it seems pointless. Once, we had energetic discussions of issues we disagreed about, and found elements to agree upon. Now, we yell at each other. And too often, it’s not even about trying to win an argument. It’s about establishing one’s bona fides as a member of this or that tribe, and expressing how you hate that other tribe more than anyone else does.

So much of it is depressing. Other bits are just stupid. Often, the items I read and hear are both.

This past week, whenever I call up one of the papers I read or turn on my NPR One app, I’m greeted by one of the following:

  • Abortion. Abortion, abortion, abortion. This is particularly true whenever I turn on NPR. It’s usually the first story, and it goes on and on. One story that was on when I entered the kitchen a day or two ago must have used the word, “abortion,” ten times in the first minute. I tried to be positive about it. I tried to say, “Well, at least these folks are being honest and using the actual word, instead of evasive euphemisms such as ‘women’s healthcare’.” But that didn’t cheer me up. I just turned it off before having my breakfast.
  • Masks. And other repetitive stuff about the coronavirus, but mostly unbelievably moronic disputes over wearing masks or being required to wear masks or being forbidden to require people to wear masks, just on and on and on and over and over again. This is particularly a problem when reading South Carolina news. And this one fits securely into the “stupid” column. But of course, it’s so stupid, and persistent, that it’s also deeply depressing.
  • Afghanistan. The utter misery of the situation, the idiotic things that are said about it, the stunning fact that apparently all sorts of people seem surprised that our precipitous abandonment of the enterprise would have any other effect than the one it did, the lifetime of misery that is ahead for people who are there and can’t get out, and the disastrous effect it is all likely to have on U.S. foreign policy for so long into the future, and I just can’t go on…
  • Mind-numbing local horror. This one, of course, is as far into the depressing column as you can get. A couple of nights ago, my wife — who watches TV news shows, even though I don’t, called my attention to the screen, on which was an early story about the two babies dying the van. Horrified, I had the pointless thought, “I hope it wasn’t twins.” Somehow, I thought that would be even worse, although that’s debatable — is one family suffering such a double tragedy necessarily worse than two families having their joy destroyed forever? Of course, it was twins. I’ve done my best not to read or hear another word about it, because it’s just too painful.
  • Bad weather. Or, if you prefer, call it “global warming.” Now I know that those of you who want to call it global warming and those who don’t want to yell at each other, so go ahead, but out of my hearing. And comfort yourselves with the knowledge that if a break occurs between hurricanes, it will be filled with huge fires in California. So you can keep yelling.

So I’ve generally been avoiding news this week. You?

 

Open Thread for Thursday, August 26, 2021

Screenshot 2021-08-25 at 10.17.38 AM

I initially typed, in the headline, “August 25, 2921.” That would have been… revelatory. But then, who would care what we say about it, eight centuries from now?

(And then, since I didn’t get it posted last night, I had to change the day as well.)

  1. Hawaii governor says ‘now is not the time’ for tourists to visit — Every once in a while you see a headline that emphasizes dramatically how different this moment in history is from every other. And that’s what this headline does. Let’s just say Burl and I didn’t hear anything like that back when we were both living on Oahu 50 years ago. Now I’m waiting to hear something similar from Henry McMaster — something that shows he is aware of the difference between now and other times. I expect to be waiting a long, long time…
  2. Charlie Watts was a gentleman in the world’s most dangerous band — I kind of enjoyed this as a a second-day take on our loss of this guy. So I pass it on.
  3. Stop Politicizing the Misery in Afghanistan — Amen, Frank Bruni. It’s a good piece, and I’d take it a bit farther: We need to stop doing this with every fricking thing in the world, not just Afghanistan. Back in the days when our nation’s politics were functional, and often even rational, I was dismissive of people who complained about “politics” intruding upon this or that. I would say, “Politics” is simply our term for how we, in a free society, discuss and deal with issues that affect us all in the public sphere. The term describes something that is not only not bad, but essential. But that has changed in recent years. For a couple of decades, the mindless competition between the two parties got more and more poisonous. And then came Trump, and everything got exponentially worse, and disconnected from reality. It’s one reason I blog less than I used to — there is less opportunity to discuss anything in a way that leads to any sort of practical consensus on anything. This is worth a separate post, if I can get to it.
  4. Inconclusive review of virus origins prompts calls for more probes: ‘We have to get to the bottom of this’ — No, we don’t. This is an example of what I’m on about with the previous item. Again, this is stupid, Trump-era politics. Supposedly, we’re supposed to respond to it in one of two stupid ways: Either we see it as essential to get to the bottom of how “Ji-na” inflicted the “Kung-Flu” on us, or to somehow demonstrate the opposite, conclusively. Which is not only impossible (I mean the “conclusively” part, in such a complex situation), but in no way essential at this moment in history. We don’t “have to get to the bottom of this” right now. What we “have to” do is beat the virus, and save as many lives as possible. And that’s enough. As for how it started, I can’t see how that’s immediately relevant, unless we’re looking to identify someone to prosecute, or seeking a premise for war. I suppose it’s also good, looking ahead, to have tips on how to avoid such pandemics in the future. But it’s nowhere near the most essential aspect right now.
  5. A naked baby helped Nirvana sell millions of records. Now 30, he’s suing the band for ‘child pornography.’ — Of course, it’s not just politics that displays the fact that, as our lawyer friend Bryan often says, this is a stupid time to be alive. You really don’t have to read beyond the headline to get that point, I think.
  6. The viral Milk Crate Challenge has left people injured. Doctors are begging them to stop. — I just included this in case the other posts didn’t convince you about the rampant stupidity thing that is sort of this post’s theme.

I didn’t really mean to embark on such a riff. But actually, it’s an important reason why I don’t post as much as I used to. Everywhere I look, I find it hard to take the foolishness…

DeMarco: If there was a vaccine for cancer that was 99% effective, would you take it?

Covid vaccine TheState 2021 8 21

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The vaccinated among you who read this will rightly wonder why, as a doctor, I don’t make a stronger case for vaccines. First, plenty of frontal assaults on the unvaccinated have already been published. Second, it’s one thing to talk theoretically about vaccine hesitancy and another to have a one-to-one conversation about the vaccine with someone for whom you are providing medical care. Although I am frustrated and confused by the widespread resistance to vaccines, unleashing that frustration on my patients would do no good. If the piece leaves you wanting a more direct, robust argument, I sympathize. But I’m not writing for you. I’m hoping to address readers who can be convinced to join your ranks.

When I hear stories about illness, I often imagine that I am the physician for the sick person being described. So when I read about people who decline the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19, I envision them sitting with me in one of my exam rooms. By now I’ve had hundreds of conversations about the vaccine.

In the winter, many of them were about where patients could get the vaccine most quickly.

Over the past several months, the discussions have evolved; now it’s mostly coaxing the unvaccinated to overcome their hesitation. Hard-won experience has taught me that as I attempt to persuade a reluctant patient to accept a therapy, the harder I push, the less I succeed.

I begin by asking whether my patients have been vaccinated. If they say yes, I exhort them to encourage everyone they know to follow suit. I have several vaccinated ministers who tell me that every week they implore the disinclined among their flocks to get the vaccine.

There are very few patients (myself included) who do everything their doctor recommends. Countless patients of mine have refused my offer of a flu shot because “I got the flu from the flu shot.” Despite my gentle rebuttal that it is impossible to get the flu from the flu shot (although you can get flu-like symptoms from the vaccine), I rarely win the argument. I recognize that my advice is only part of my patients’ decision processes: Personal experiences, advice from other people they trust, and information from media also inform their decisions.

With the COVID-19 vaccine, I have had more success with ambivalent patients, although the majority still decline. Since I have an office practice, I spend much of my time trying to prevent illness rather than saving lives. But during a pandemic, convincing a patient to get vaccinated can be lifesaving, and therefore has been a source of intense focus for me. Most of my patients are over 50 and have chronic diseases that put them at higher risk. Thus far, I’ve lost two patients to COVID-19. Several more of my patients have lost family members. One patient lost a brother, a sister-in-law, and a niece in the space of just a few days.

If patients says they have not been vaccinated, I ask “Do you want to talk about it?” Most do, and express legitimate concerns – it was created and tested quickly; it’s still under emergency authorization or it had been when I wrote this); there have been side effects (blood clots and heart inflammation, to name two); they are not in high-risk groups; they don’t go out much; and they social-distance. A number can’t articulate a reason except that they are afraid of the vaccine.

My response goes like this: I acknowledge their fears. I admit that I can’t guarantee that they will not have a rare side effect from the vaccine. For those who express fear of dying from the vaccine, I acknowledge that the risk of death is currently unknown. All I can say is that it appears to be exceedingly rare.

My argument for the vaccine is based on what we do know. The latest data I can find from the CDC (for the calendar year 2020) shows the COVID-19 death rate in South Carolina was 78 per 100,000, making it the third leading cause of death in our state behind heart disease and cancer. Since the beginning of the pandemic, approximately 10,000 South Carolinians have died. The vaccine is approximately 99% effective in preventing death from COVID-19. If there was a vaccine that had a 99% efficacy in preventing death from heart disease or cancer, I ask, would you take it?

Surprisingly, a few of my patients, when I ask whether they want to talk about being unvaccinated, say “No thanks.” If that is the response I leave it be, but I wonder what they are reading or watching to make them unwilling to hear from the person in whom they have entrusted their medical care.

I suspect their unwillingness is driven by cable news or internet media. One of the worst things that has happened during the pandemic is the unwarranted attachment of political and philosophical meaning to the virus. Recently, I heard a caller to a radio talk show describe people who wear masks as “our enemies.”

COVID-19 is no respecter of political party or religion. It’s a simple virus with no brain. All it knows how to do is reproduce itself in our cells. The longer it has susceptible hosts, the longer it will continue to infect us, and the more efficient it will become. The delta variant is the latest example of this. The longer it takes for us all to be vaccinated, the more likely another, even more infectious and more deadly, variant will arise.

You may not be my patient, but as a doctor I care about people’s health whether I know them or not. Please get vaccinated.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net. This was first published as a column in the Florence Morning News on Aug. 18.

Covid vaccine DHEC 2021 8 21

Caskey: President Biden’s Speech on the Afghanistan Withdrawal Disaster

Editor’s Note: Y’all, I plan to post on this today, if I can find the time to do it right before I go to bed tonight. In the meantime, here’s Bryan’s take. — Brad

By Bryan Caskey
Guest Columnist

The speech starts at the 46:20 mark if you haven’t seen it. I watched it, and came away…unimpressed. The entire speech was a perfectly fine justification for why the United States should no longer have a military presences in Afghanistan. Whoever was arguing for staying in Afghanistan was really steamrolled by Biden’s compelling speech on why the US should leave. However, the whole thing that prompted this press conference was the terrible way the exit was mismanaged, and he didn’t talk about that…really at all.

For instance, Biden didn’t say anything about the decision to just walk away from Bagram Air Base weeks before the final pull-out. To me, that’s one of the oddest military decisions I have ever seen. To chose just a single point of failure, the Kabul Airport (with one runway) as the lynchpin of the entire withdrawal seems beyond strange. It is beyond an intelligence failure to think we would just leave Bagram and the Taliban would remain far over the horizon.

There were no specifics on how to get to the airport. No details on how to get out of Afghanistan. No details on the humanitarian crisis unfolding in real time.

Now we have scenes of thousands of people mobbing the Kabul Airport in what is an insane situation that was entirely preventable in a situation where the Taliban surrounds the evacuation mission and one guy with a grenade can kill hundreds. People may be trapped in Taliban controlled territory behind Taliban checkpoints.

The majority of American people are fine with leaving Afghanistan. It’s a bi-partisan area of agreement. Trump and Biden both agree that it’s time to leave. But the point isn’t whether we should leave or stay. At least not now. We know what Biden wants to leave Afghanistan. He didn’t need to give a speech about that. “We needed to leave” is simply non-responsive to the issue of the disastrous exit.

At this point, the essential failure is in HOW we are leaving. Americans like leaving, but we hate leaving in a humiliating way. So the speech was really more about the defensible strategic decision to withdraw, and not at all about the tactical debacle unfolding in the actual withdrawal. I mean, if I was an American or American ally who was still trapped behind a Taliban checkpoint, I’m not sure I would take much comfort in Biden coming out and saying how much he stands by his decision to withdraw.

I’m not sure what the point of that speech was since he didn’t address the actual problem that is actually still ongoing. Finally, not taking questions was pretty much a foregone conclusion, but not a great look in just walking away.

Anyone else have any other thoughts?

How about if we pay attention to reality instead?

Oh, look -- Henry's "urging" vaccines! But read the actual story. The news is that he's NOT mandating masks, and he's only URGING vaccines....

Oh, look — Henry’s “urging” vaccines! But read the actual story. The news is that he’s NOT mandating masks, and he’s only URGING vaccines….

For a couple of months, I’ve had in mind a certain blog post, but haven’t written it because of the time it would take — time I don’t have. The basic idea was this: As you know, I’m sick and tired of the usual stupid news stories with ideologues yelling about whether people should, for instance, wear masks in public.

My idea was to contrast that with the real world. When I go out in public — to the grocery, to Lowe’s, to Walmart, and especially to medical facilities (which I visit a lot, usually to take my parents to appointments), people, generally speaking, wear masks. Everyone does at the medical facilities, because otherwise they don’t get in. Elsewhere, sure, fewer people were wearing them, but it was never perfect. Even at the worst moments of 2020, there were always some twits who didn’t wear them — in places where folks in charge lacked the nerve to enforce the rules. This summer, the numbers of maskless were greater — even serious people were starting to think they didn’t have to — but it wasn’t some ideological war. Reality was complicated, and most people were trying to be sensible.

But I missed my time for writing that. In recent days, things have changed. For instance, on a personal level, last night my wife told her high school classmates she would not be attending the 50th reunion in Memphis. Everyone else in the class was sending in similar messages. She attending a Catholic girls’ school that had only 37 seniors graduating in 1971. Of those, 22 had planned to attend. Now none are going, so once again the event is postponed.

This morning, she followed that up with a note of regret that she would not be attending a wedding she had planned to go to while in Memphis.

As she did these things, I nodded, because it seemed consistent with what I’ve seen around us in recent days — hospital beds filling back up, people re-evaluating gatherings and resuming precautions when they go out, all because of such factors as the Delta variant and the insanely large number of people who have refused to get vaccinated. Here and there, you even see a report of someone who had refused but has wised up.

Normal, rational human behavior — people adjusting to shifting circumstances. All that is in the real world in which we live.

But then I look at the world being described most prominently in media we consume — from mainstream to social. And I see the idiotic ideological arguments, the same taking of absurd positions that would be laughable if they weren’t so harmful to public health.

You know what I’m talking about. Locally, our alleged “governor” continuing to refuse to take any responsibility for public health. (At least he’s consistent, right? This is what the majority out there voted for, to its great shame, in 2018.) Our attorney general reaching out to try to prevent other elected officials from taking any such responsibility as well. Other such behavior across the country, from local to federal levels.

Occasionally, I comment, usually on social media, when things get really far from reality:

But mostly, I just look around and wish I could see more reporting on what’s really going on, and less about what stupid things “leaders” who refuse to lead are prattling about.

Sometimes I do see it. For instance, there was this, put out by The State in the past 24 hours:

Lexington Medical Center is experiencing a critical shortage of intensive care unit beds as it approaches a record-high number of COVID-19 patients, hospital officials said.

More than 90% of the West Columbia hospital’s 557 beds were occupied Tuesday morning, including 146, or about 26%, of which were filled with coronavirus patients, Lexington Medical Center spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said.

“We are approaching our highest number of COVID patients hospitalized at one time ever,” said Wilson, who added that the situation at Lexington Medical Center was “very serious” and encouraged South Carolinians to get vaccinated.

The vast majority of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, she said.

Only 16% of coronavirus inpatients at Lexington Medical are vaccinated, and just three of the 43 COVID-19 patients in the hospital’s ICU are fully dosed….

That’s about the hospital that you can see from the street I live on, if you walk down that street a bit to get a better angle on it. What’s going on there, and in the hospitals across South Carolina — and the nation, and the world — is infinitely more important to me than the pronouncements of people who have made it startlingly clear, over and over, that they will in no way do or say anything that reflects what’s happening in the world.

Oh, and by the way, Jennifer Wilson — quoted in that news item I cited above — is married to that same attorney general mentioned above. The difference between them is that she lives and works in the real world, while her husband lives in one in which continued employment depends on showing people you are devoted to Trumpism.

Yes, reporters should continue to cover what the governor and AG say and do. Who knows, they might even run across a “man bites dog” story like this one from Arkansas: Arkansas’ governor says it ‘was an error’ to ban mask mandates. You know, a point at which reality and Republican political speech actually coincide.

Maybe someday our governor will stop trying to outstupid Texas, and instead endeavor to outsmart Arkansas.

But while you wait for that actual astounding news to develop, cover the reality more, please…

Paul DeMarco: The Meaning of a Life

The Op-Ed Page

AG Park 2021 7 31 Wide view

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

July 30 was a remarkable day for Marion County. We dedicated the Amazing Grace Park, built to honor former state senator and minister Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in 2015 in the Emmanuel Nine massacre. Although Clementa (pronounced “Clemen-tay”) was not born in Marion County, his mother was raised here and he is buried in the family plot near the eastern edge of the county.

Our local state senator, Kent Williams, is Clementa’s cousin, and it has been a labor of love for him to shepherd the park into being.

The dedication gave full voice to the multiple facets of Clementa’s life – husband, father, citizen, politician, and as he described himself, “itinerant preacher.” To accommodate all those who came to pay tribute, including Governor McMaster, it was necessarily long (over 90 minutes) and South Carolina hot – the kind of heat that soaks the knot of your necktie. I came late and missed out on a seat in the shade; it took four bottles of water to sustain me.

The best speech was by his daughter, Eliana, who will soon matriculate at Temple University. She reminded us of the meaning of legacy with a quote from the musical Hamilton – “planting seeds in a garden you will never see” – and asked that when we visit the park, we shoulder her father’s legacy and “live and love as he would.”

Eliana’s framework makes the park an extension of her father’s life. I can’t think of a better way to remember him. Few of us are immune to the effects of memorials, monuments and symbols. We feel their power, we are uplifted (or sometimes offended) by their messages. My former favorite is the Lincoln Memorial, at once awe-inspiring and intimate.

But, for me, the park will leap ahead of Lincoln because it is personal and accessible. Although I never knew Clem, as his family calls him, his park will become a new part of my identity as a Marion resident. It is a pretty mile-long walk from my home, one that I expect to travel on a regular basis.

In 1993, when my wife and I moved to Marion, the county seat of Marion County, the economic base of the region – textiles and tobacco – was unraveling. The next two decades saw much stagnation and loss: plants closed like falling dominoes, tobacco warehouses were abandoned to slowly crumble, and long-time businesses were shuttered. It’s depressing to look at photos of the Main Streets of Marion and Mullins from mid-century, when shops were bustling, and compare them to today. But over the last five years or so, powered mostly by young entrepreneurs, our Main Streets are reviving. The park, which is two blocks off Marion’s Main Street and adjacent to the Marion County Museum, will be an important step in our city’s recovery.

As important as the economic boost will be the spiritual one, which can be appreciated whether or not one claims a faith. Rev. Johnny Coe, a presiding elder in the AME denomination of which Clem was a part, reminded us of the verses in Luke describing Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As the crowd chanted hosannas, some of the Pharisees urged Jesus to quiet them down. “’I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’”

Rev. Coe urged all the visitors to the park to keep Clem’s memory alive, to tell his story, so that the stones and the trees that surrounded us wouldn’t have to cry out instead.

Building a park is a risk, particularly in a county like Marion, whose future is in question. Locals hope that the charm of our shops, neighborhoods and countryside, the warmth of our people, and our proximity to the beach will produce a renaissance. Online shopping and remote work make rural living easier than ever. But most of the growth in our corner of the state has been in neighboring Horry County. The pull of urban amenities and schools may overwhelm the attractions that we offer.

Having lived the first thirty of my years in bigger places (Brooklyn, Wiesbaden, Charleston, Charlottesville and Columbia) I’m an ardent believer in small-town living. My 20-minute commute into Florence is the most relaxing I’ve ever had. The cost of living, especially home prices, is low. There is no night life to speak of, but I moved here with two young children and have never missed it. It’s been a lovely place to raise them.

The most inviting aspect of the park is its openness. There are no walls, no gate. We come to the park as vulnerable as Clem did the evening he welcomed Dylan Roof into his church. We come to enjoy the light and the grass and the flowers despite the knowledge that evil exists in the world and that, if we live our lives as openly and generously as Clem did, we could share his fate.

If we walk through the park in his shoes, we recognize the long line of martyrs he has joined, and we take up the baton of creating the beloved community. The park reminds us that there is more light in the world than darkness, and that no amount of hatred or violence can overcome it.

The park gets its name from Clem’s eulogy, delivered by President Obama at Mother Emmanuel, which he closed by singing a verse of the hymn. It was fitting that the dedication was closed with a version of “Amazing Grace” and a benediction by Bishop Michael Blue, a native son and dynamic preacher. He reminded us that the name “Clementa” is derived from a Latin root meaning “merciful.” “Let us go from this place,” he declared, “A park named ‘Grace’ for a man named ‘Mercy.’”

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

AG Park 2021 7 30 Bust with Wings

DeMarco: Reconsidering Thomas Jefferson

The Op-Ed Page

nickel

A version of this column appeared in the July 21st edition of the Florence Morning News.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Reconsidering learned history is difficult. As we are educated, most of us create a world view that portrays the tribe with which we identify in a positive light. For most of America’s existence, schoolchildren have been taught a story favorable to whites. This narrative persists and tends to harden in adulthood.

As I wrote about in a previous post, I continue to learn that my formal and informal education about my country’s and world’s history has been skewed in my favor. This relearning has been particularly difficult with one of my heroes, Thomas Jefferson.

I am a proud class of 1985 graduate of the University of Virginia. More than most universities, UVa reflects the personality of its founder. As I walked the Lawn, I had a window into Jefferson’s expansive mind. I saw him at the drawing board at Monticello, poring over competing designs for his “academical village.”  I was grateful to be one of thousands of students he had inspired. I spent four years at the university in awe of Jefferson’s creativity, intellect, and eloquence.Jefferson

Although I knew he owned enslaved people, I never grappled with the awful reality of what that meant. Despite my four-year sojourn at UVa, I emerged with a child’s understanding of Jefferson. He was an icon, as near to a perfect American as there would ever be. This is partly my own fault; somehow I managed to graduate from UVa without taking any history courses.

One of the things I did learn about Jefferson while at his university was his epitaph. His gravestone is engraved with the following: “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” He was so accomplished that his two terms of president of the United States did not make the cut.

After I graduated, when rumors of Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman whom he owned, gradually bubbled into the press, I was skeptical. This information did not fit with the nearly faultless image I had fashioned for him. I was of the same mind as Dumas Malone who wrote an exhaustive six-volume biography, Jefferson and His Time. Malone opined in the fourth volume that the accusations related to Hemings were “distinctly out of character, being virtually unthinkable in a man of Jefferson’s moral standards and habitual conduct,” and I agreed.

However, in 1998 DNA evidence revealed that Jefferson could have been the father of one or more of Hemings’ six children. To be clear, the evidence is not definitive and there remains a group of scholars who argue strongly that it was another Jefferson relative (his younger brother, Randolph, seems the most likely candidate).

What is known is that Sally Hemings (who was 30 years younger than Thomas Jefferson) was herself the child of Jefferson’s father-in-law and an enslaved woman, Elizabeth Hemings. This made Sally Hemings half-sister to Jefferson’s wife, Martha.

I struggled with the fact that the possibility Jefferson could have been like many of the slave masters of his era who fathered children by their enslaved workers had never occurred to me (or was communicated to me) during my years at UVA. Despite seeing statues of Jefferson on the grounds almost every day, multiple visits to Monticello, and hours of reading, I had not fully reckoned with who Jefferson was. I saw what I wanted to see.

Irrespective of whether Jefferson was the father of Hemings’ children, my subsequent reading forced a deeper examination of the sharp contrast between Jefferson’s exalted words and his actions. Although he did make strong statements condemning slavery throughout his life, he was closely involved in the management and disciplining of the enslaved workers at Monticello. He, like many planters, would have been destitute without them. A nailery at Monticello, which ran mainly on the labors of 10- to 16-year-old boys, was critical to the economic stability of the plantation. The overseers occasionally whipped the children to ensure a sufficient output of nails, a practice about which Jefferson was fully aware. He also recognized the investment potential of enslaved people and calculated that “he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children.”

It was unsettling to have my comfortable images of Jefferson transformed in such a disfiguring way. It highlighted for me the fact that when Jefferson wrote the words “All men are created equal,” he was writing about people like himself, white male landowners: not women, not people of color, nor even white men who did not own property. Certainly not Hemings.

I’ve been included in Jefferson’s vision since he penned it over two centuries ago. I have had to fight for none of my rights. My freedom, my ability to live where I wanted, to be educated where I chose, to compete for any job, to expect only respectful deference from the police or any other representatives of government has been guaranteed since the founding of the republic. Not so for so many others.

Seeing our nation for what it really is – both great and deeply flawed, like Jefferson himself – will allow us to better understand and support those for whom the American dream remains unrealized.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

Lynn Teague: And so it begins… redistricting South Carolina

The Op-Ed Page

newest 7.20.21

EDITOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said so many times, there is no one more important thing we could do to reform and reinvigorate our democracy than to end the scourge of partisan gerrymandering. And it’s hard to imagine any task more difficult. So, when I got an email from our friend Lynn Teague telling me the Senate was about to start work on reapportionment, I was assured to know she would be riding herd on the process, and asked her to write us a situationer. I’m deeply grateful that she agreed to do so…

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

The Senate Redistricting Subcommittee will hold its first meeting to begin the process of redrawing South Carolina’s legislative district boundaries on July 20, and the House is planning its first meeting on August 3. The redistricting process, held every ten years to adjust legislative districts to changes in population, is required by the U. S. Constitution. It is among the most important political processes in our system of government, but one that the public often ignores. The impact isn’t immediately obvious without a closeup look, and a closeup look can easily leave citizens confused by technical details and jargon. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters wants to see that change. We intend to do all that we can to demystify and inform the public and encourage participation.

Lynn Teague

Lynn Teague

Why should you care? Gerrymandering is designing district boundaries so that the outcome in the November general election is a foregone conclusion. At present South Carolina is not heavily gerrymandered by party (although there are surely those who would like to change that in the upcoming process). It is, however, very noncompetitive. The map of Senate districts shows how many voters had no real choice at the polls in November 2020. Why is this? Sometimes it is because the population in an area is very homogenous and any reasonable district that is drawn will lean predictably toward one party or the other. However, too often the problem is incumbent protection. This is a game that both parties can and do play, carefully designing districts to make them easy to win the next time around. Because of this obvious temptation, the United States is the only nation that allows those with an obvious vested interest in the outcome to draw district boundaries.

The other major impact of designing very homogenous districts is that it feeds polarization. Representatives are able to remain in office by responding only to the most extreme elements of their own parties, those who participate enthusiastically in primary elections, and ignore the broader electorate. When you call or write your senator or representative and get no meaningful response, this is often the reason. He or she doesn’t have to care what you think. When you wonder why our legislators take positions that are more extreme than those of the South Carolina electorate as a whole, this is why. They are looking out for themselves in the primary election. They don’t need to be concerned about your vote in November.

What can you do? The League of Women Voters hopes that citizens across the state will participate in public hearings, write to their own representatives and senators, and urge representatives not to distort districts to protect incumbents or parties. Both Senate and House will hold public meetings across South Carolina to solicit comment on how redistricting should be done. The dates for these meetings have not been announced.

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina will be hearing from our own group of independent experts in our League advisory group, will present our own maps, will testify in public hearings, and will encourage members of the public to participate. Everyone can follow along as we present information that is needed to understand and participate on our website at www.lwvsc.org. Click on “Redistricting: People Powered Fair Maps for South Carolina.” There you can also subscribe to our blog, VotersRule2020. Follow @lwvsc on Twitter and “League of Women Voters of South Carolina” on Facebook. Our theme is #WeAreWatching. Everyone should watch along with us, and let their legislators know that they shouldn’t make the decision about who wins in November.

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

Are the Cuban people moving to end dictatorship?

Map of Cuba, circa 1680.

Map of Cuba, circa 1680.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s something Bryan tried to post, but it mysteriously disappeared on him. So I’m hereby posting it for him, in appreciation for his recent efforts to keep this blog alive when I’m too tied up with stuff to do so (which I still am). I, too, have been thinking about the Caribbean, and not just because my youngest daughter lives down there and, after a too-short visit, is returning there tomorrow. I’ve been wanting to write something about Haiti. Maybe I’ll find time at some point…

Over the weekend, protests moved into the streets of various cities in Cuba.

It looks like the protests started over the chronic issue of food shortages and other essential products and services. The pandemic has only made conditions on the island country worse. The protesters also demanded vaccines to combat the pandemic, but began shifting in tone with chants of “Freedom!” and “Down with Communism!”

The New York Times has this:

Shouting “Freedom” and other anti-government slogans, hundreds of Cubans took to the streets in cities around the country on Sunday to protest food and medicine shortages, in a remarkable eruption of discontent not seen in nearly 30 years. https://t.co/BbqQPLrNiE

— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 11, 2021

Freedom and other anti-government slogans?” sort of seems an odd thought, but… whatever. If your government is ever on the other side of things from people legitimately asking for “Freedom,” you’re doing something wrong.

In any event, I certainly hope the people of Cuba are allowed to be free to choose their own form of government at some point. If this protest turns violent the current lack of medicine and food is going to exacerbate the poor conditions that already exist.

DeMarco: What Gwen Berry does for America

The Op-Ed Page

This is a view of the giant American flag in the parking lot of Shuler’s BBQ.

This is a view of the giant American flag in the parking lot of Shuler’s BBQ.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Many people are rightly offended by hammer-thrower Gwen Berry’s disrespect of the American flag after her third-place finish in the U.S. Olympic Trials on June 26. The response from certain sectors was swift and predictable. Ted Cruz castigated Berry on Twitter, asking “Why does the Left hate America?” You’re shocked, I know.

But in addition to flame-throwing politicians, many fair-minded Americans expressed legitimate displeasure. In addition to scorning the flag, Berry was criticized for self-aggrandizement and for failure to understand her role as a member of the U.S. Olympic team and as an ambassador to the world.

I think all those criticisms are fair. It is reasonable to hold the flag as sacred and to be protective of what it represents to you and your fellow citizens. Many people see disrespect and desecration of the flag as unforgiveable sins. This is the same flag, they argue, that led soldiers into battle and represents the freedom for which so many have died.

I have a less rigid view of the flag, and one that has changed over the last decade or so. For me, the flag represents America, both its great strengths and its deep flaws. When I look at the flag I see both sides. One side represents our ideals, our desire to be Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.” On the other side are the many American mistakes and cruelties.

This two-sided view came naturally with the Confederate flag. From the moment I was old enough to be able to comprehend the realities of the Civil War, seeing that flag unsettled me. The bumper sticker defense of proponents was “Heritage not Hate.” But for me it was always “Heritage and Hate.” I understood what Confederate flag advocates were seeing on the front side of the flag – the bravery of Southerners who refused to capitulate to what they viewed as a tyrannical federal government. But I, along with many others, saw on the back side of the flag the horrors of slavery.

In contrast to my understanding of the Confederate flag, my current faceted view of the American flag was not immediate. For me and my family, America has been the land of opportunity promised by Lady Liberty, who greeted my paternal grandfather when he immigrated from Sicily. The flag, for most of my life, has been a symbol of unalloyed pride and devotion. Massive American flags that some businesses fly never fail to inspire (the closest one to me is in front of Shuler’s BBQ near Latta (worth the trip!)).

But over the past decade, I’ve become gradually aware that my wholesome view of Old Glory was not universally held. My first epiphany around my unexamined patriotism came with the Pledge of Allegiance. After repeating it for years, I finally thought about the last line from the perspective of someone whose family had not had the opportunities that my parents and grandparents did. If my ancestors had been born with exactly the same intellect and skills, but been Southern blacks, my view of America would be less sanguine, and “liberty and justice for all” might induce anger for America’s unfulfilled promises rather than pride. When I had that small but significant revelation, I had to do some soul-searching about my lazy self-satisfaction. Did it change my love for my country? Not one bit. But it has changed my understanding of what America has meant to people who don’t look like me.

Speaking of people who don’t look like me, let’s return to Gwen Berry. Berry is a powerful woman who is taller, stronger, and braver than I. She is an exhibitionist who wears lipstick like war paint. I admire her athletic ability as I do that of DeAnna Price and Brooke Andersen (who finished first and second in the competition, respectively). I think Berry made an impulsive and self-destructive decision to turn her back on the flag. It was the wrong time and place. What bothers me most is that it was likely ineffective. Indeed, it may have hurt her cause more than it helped. But part of me is glad she did it. Here are my reasons:

First, her actions say to me that she believes in America’s capacity for change and improvement. You don’t take a stand like she did for a lost cause. But the pace of change in America is slow, and she is impatient. “America is the greatest country in the world,” she said. “We are capable of fixing these issues. I am tired of talking about them. I won’t do it anymore.” What do you do when you are tired of talking? You act.

Second, she made a sacrifice to promote her beliefs about America. She is not unique in this regard. America’s men and women in uniform do this daily. But few of us act on our beliefs in ways that put our reputation and careers at risk. Berry states her motivation was “to represent my communities and my people, and those that have died at the hands of police brutality, those that have died to this systemic racism.”

Third, the greatness of America lies not in our reverence for the flag, but our reverence for the freedom it represents. Some people are incensed by protesters who burn the American flag. And my first thought when I see images of the flag on fire is “Don’t do that. It’s disrespectful and not likely to help your cause.” But my second thought is, “I’m glad I live in country where that kind repulsive expression is allowed.” And to know if America is truly still that country, we must regularly be put to the test.

So I thank Berry for testing us, and for America once again passing the test. No one is calling for her to be jailed, although some have suggested, with some merit, that she be banned from the Olympic team. My hope for Berry is that she will represent America well in Tokyo. If she makes the medal stand, I would advise her not to use it as a protest venue. The name recognition she has gained through her gesture at home will allow her to promote anti-racism in more effective ways.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

Just a quick something to talk about, if you’re interested…

The rest of my week is pretty packed, but since I posted this on Twitter earlier, I’ll post it here, in case anyone is interested in discussing. It occurs to me this is a quick-and-dirty way to set up a discussion about something in the news today. If it works, I’ll do this more often. If not, you’ll have to wait until I actually have time to comment on something:

Your Virtual Front Page for Thursday, June 17, 2021

NATO HQ

Haven’t had one of these in awhile. But there’s been a lot going on. Here’s some of it:

  1. Affordable Care Act survives third Supreme Court challenge — Remember how so many people were worrying about this before the election, during the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett (while I was cringing over the fact we were having those hearings right then, because I was worried they would hurt Joe’s chances)? Well, they needn’t have worried. It was 7-2. I guess I needn’t have worried so much about the other thing, either.
  2. Biden, Putin hold ‘positive’ summit but divisions remain — This is getting a little old, but makes the page anyway because there wasn’t a page yesterday. Probably the best take I’ve seen on this so far is from E.J. Dionne, who wrote, “Biden to Putin: Stability, sure. But democracy matters.” That said, I should mention something else E.J. refers to: The Putin meeting was a sideshow, unavoidable in light of the last four years of madness. But the important thing that happened this week was the fervent embrace of Biden’s America by Europe. Yes, America is back.
  3. House votes to repeal 2002 authorization for military force — In other news, maybe there’ll be a vote coming up to repeal the Alien and Sedition Acts. Bet you didn’t know we still had those, did you? I’m not sure what the force authorization vote is about, other than people who weren’t there to make a difficult decision trying to distance themselves from Bush’s moves on Iraq, which are now unpopular on both the left and the “America First” right (which I suppose is why it was bipartisan enough that Nancy Mace voted for it). For the record, I would have been against the A&S Acts at the time, but I still probably would have voted for Adams in 1800.
  4. Former SC telecom exec Lightsey to succeed Hitt — This is the closest thing I could find to actual news on the local front. It makes it because Bobby, whom I first knew 30-something years ago in a radically different context, has now had this job for a decade.
  5. Supreme Court unanimously rules for Catholic group in Philadelphia dispute — They’ve been busy today, haven’t they?
  6. Biden is set to sign a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday — This is kind of old, too, but I guess Joe signing it today will make it fresher. And a lot of people are really happy about it, and good for them. Of course, I continue to think it an odd day to celebrate. Were it up to me, we’d be talking about Dec. 6, the day on which the 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865. That’s when slavery ended, not on a day when, in one out-of-the-way place, people first heard about the Emancipation Proclamation from two years earlier, which of course did not end slavery. But I’m kind of a pedant, right?
She's a pretty nice girl, isn't she?

She’s a pretty nice girl, isn’t she?

 

 

DeMarco: When Did You Learn About the Tulsa Race Massacre?

The Op-Ed Page

Tulsa, Oklahoma burns during the race massacre of 1921.

Tulsa, Oklahoma burns during the race massacre of 1921.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was supposed to run a couple of weeks ago, at the time of the anniversary of what happened in Tulsa, but it didn’t, and it’s entirely my fault. As y’all know, I’ve had a lot going on lately, day and night, and so certain routine activities — such as blogging, and checking my personal email — have fallen by the wayside. Well, yesterday, I managed to put up a post, and I’m getting close to catching up on email (maybe an hour or two of intense monotony left to do, whenever I can find an hour or two). Anyway, I still think we can have a useful conversation on this subject, so with my sincere apologies to Paul, I pass on his column, “When Did You Learn About the Tulsa Race Massacre?”

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

I am astonished and embarrassed that I learned about it so late in life. It’s particularly galling because the black freedom struggle is something I’m interested in and have read about. The March on Washington occurred the year of my birth, and I have always felt a connection to the Civil Rights Movement. The PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize brought the movement to life for me and propelled me to read the first volume of Taylor Branch’s trilogy Parting the Waters: America in the King Years. My interest in the subject has recently been rekindled and I have resumed my reading about it, focusing on South Carolina’s role in the movement. I just finished Claudia Smith Brinson’s Stories of Struggle: The Clash over Civil Rights in South Carolina which tells of some of the unsung heroes and moments in our state.

I have no memory of hearing about the massacre until earlier this year while I was listening to the podcast Teaching Hard History, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. I learned that the massacre was a brutal decimation of the wealthiest black community in America by an organized white mob. Estimates vary but dozens to hundreds were killed and more than a thousand black homes and hundreds of black businesses were destroyed. After two days of annihilation, approximately a 35-block area had been burned to the ground. No one was ever prosecuted. The 100th anniversary of the massacre coincides with Memorial Day.

The reclamation of this suppressed history is part of the George Floyd effect. Many whites, myself included, had been lulled into believing that America was becoming a post-racial society. But over the past decade there has been a growing sense of incompletion, of too much left undone. This unease began to disturb the national conscience in 2013 with the death of Trayvon Martin, was inflamed by the election of Donald Trump, and reached a tipping point with Floyd’s death. Each name that made national headlines (Garner, Brown, Rice, Scott, Castille, Taylor, etc.) was a message: We are nowhere near finished with racial reconciliation in the U.S.

I’m glad that this part of history is finally being told. The title of the podcast Teaching Hard History is apt. We know the easy, comfortable parts. If you’re a Christian, you will recognize a parallel with our religious education. The story of Tulsa has been treated by whites in a way similar to the way Christians have treated the hard sayings of Jesus. All of us have our favorite comforting verses. But some of what Jesus spoke to his followers was searing. One of the most demanding of Jesus’ prescriptions is found in the gospel of Mark. When a rich young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life, Jesus replies, “One thing you lack: Go and sell all you possess and give it to the poor.” Only courageous preachers use this as a sermon text.

Mixed with my gratitude that these neglected stories are finally being told is a disappointment that I have been deliberately miseducated. In contrast to my ignorance of Tulsa, I have retained the name of Denmark Vesey, a free black man who planned a slave revolt in Charleston in 1822. The plot was discovered and he and about thirty of his followers were executed. I remember being taught several times about this. How could I know the name of a man who killed no one but simply scared the bejesus out of white Southerners and not know about Tulsa?

Reasonable people can disagree about what history is essential to teach our children. However, I would submit that not teaching me about the Tulsa massacre was a deliberate omission by a white society that didn’t want to spoil the narrative of its benignity and wholesomeness. In that same vein, in the late seventies when I took South Carolina history in middle school, I was taught the Lost Cause narrative, the crux of which is that the Civil War (usually referred to as “The War Between the States” and sometimes as “The War of Northern Aggression” in my classroom) was about states’ rights, not slavery. Even at that tender age, I remember being confused. Wasn’t the right that all the fighting was about the right to own slaves? I remember arguing this point after class with a friend whose family had lived for generations in the Charleston area. We did not reach consensus.

Some whites are not interested in any reappraisal of our history. Exposing our middle and high school students to this and other episodes of ruthless racially-motivated violence takes some of the shine off the narrative that we have always been the good guys. Conservative politicians and news outlets recognize whites’ fear of this long-overdue reexamination and their desire to change the subject. This desire is the motivation behind the focus on critical race theory (CRT). I suspect that most people who oppose CRT have a very shallow understanding of it. Since they can’t say they are against studying the truth of our racial past, they beat up on the straw man of CRT, which they portray as a shadowy Marxist plot to convince our children to hate America.

Some states, including Oklahoma, have banned CRT and others are trying (Note to legislators: the best way to stoke interest in a subject among young people is to ban it). But most of those who recognize the omissions in the history we teach have no interest in CRT. All we want is for the full, unvarnished story to be told. Hearing the truth of Tulsa and other history like it will be a painful. But it will also set us free.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

The burned-out Greenwood District after the Tulsa Race Massacre.

The burned-out Greenwood District after the Tulsa Race Massacre.