Sunday, March 29, 2009
Moseying around the South Carolina state house
Usually my daughter, Miss Wiggles, and I escape from the house as quickly as possible Sunday mornings before Dragonwife get all motivated about cleaning and reorganizing some aspect of the of a room or closet. Most weekends have us visiting Riverbanks Zoo or the South Carolina state museum in which we both have memberships. Both places are fantastic, offering much in the way of things to do in an otherwise dull area. But with a amazingly bright and sunny day we skipped our usual haunts for a nice walk around the state house.
As Civil War aficionados will eagerly tell you General Sherman burned the city of Columbia and the old state house to the ground. He also shelled this one although construction was not yet finished with most of the damage on the interior of the unfinished building and only light damage on the outside.
Since all that unpleasantness is long past the state house grounds now boasts an almost park-like appearance with beautiful trees and flowers. But Miss Wiggles and I were very surprised at all the diligent public servants we found mingling amongst the common folk on such a nice day. You can see Miss Wiggles and the great dog Sparky close to the statue of George Washington mounted on the steps. No, I would not let Sparky pee on this particular George's statue, all other Georges though I would probably pee on them myself.
We had several brief encounters with various state legislators and senators rummaging through the underbrush of the state house grounds. I'm not certain what section of the state this fellow represents since once he realized I had nothing in the way of food or money to give him he quickly lost interest in me. Now there is an outside chance that this is just a simple squirrel struggling to make a living like the rest of us but whenever on the state house grounds it is always safer to assume that when running across some animal that he or she is some politician. I'm figuring this animal was one of the few Democrats since he wasn't carrying a Bible or foaming at the mouth like most Republicans.
Surprisingly we came across Governor Sanford sunning himself planning his 2012 presidential run. Since Jindal apparently crashed and burned and Palin still hasn't figured out Africa is a continent and gets upset whenever someone asks about her reading habits Sanford is feeling pretty good.
He is always a nice man and it's so special to have someone so worried about the effects of running up the national debt. Little issues like turning down stimlus funds to help state agencies bridge the gap until things get better so they can continue to help those that need it are small matters when you are planning the holy campaign to take back the White House from Godless commies.
None of the encounters with our elected officials lasted long. Sparky would start straining at the leash barking and trying to bite them and they would quickly jump back into the shadowy underbrush. We looked for a few trying to get them back out into the light but all we found were worms and bugs claiming to be members of Cheney, Romney, and Bush families. On a side note I always figured Cheney's undisclosed location was a hole in the ground but I never thought it would be here in South Carolina.
The only scary thing we saw was a fat slug that carried a uncanny resemblance to Rush Limbaugh dragging an empty bottle of Viagra in its slimy trail.
The main reason we came was to see the azalea bushes blooming. My grandfather has several azalea bushes in his yard while I was growing up and I always thought the explosion of color they offered in the spring was at least one sign that God existed. Every year I try and plan a trip down to Magnolia Plantation in Charleston to see the azaleas down there but I just never can seem to make it. And it looks like once again I will not make it, so Wiggles and I dropped by to look at these. And I'll be damned but I didn't get the focus or the light settings right screwing up the picture.
In March of 2001, an event of note took place with the dedication of an African-American History Monument on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. State senator Darrell Jackson called it “a reflection of what can be done when all citizens work together in unity” (Bauerlein, “There are so many things,” 2001, A1, 12). The African-American Monument, the first such structure to be built on the grounds of a state capitol, had its genesis in a 1994 proposal for a state Heritage Act. Republican State Senator John Courson wrote the Heritage Act in an attempt to develop a compromise that would remove the Confederate flag from the State House dome. The legislation passed the state Senate but failed in the House. Two years later the state Senate passed another piece of legislation to create a monument, but the House refused to consider the bill. Two state senators, Darrell Jackson, an African-American Democrat, and Glenn McConnell, a white Republican, then tied the bill to an economic development proposal that Governor Beasley favored. Beasley responded by calling the legislature into special session, and the House passed both bills.
Although each of the twelve beautiful panels on the African-American Monument represents something of significance in the experience of South Carolina’s African-Americans, a visitor will find no words of explanation or captions under each panel. Following a series of public hearings across the state the Monument Commission determined that the African-American Monument would not “represent any actual human being who actually lived” (Davis, 2002). The casual visitor may look at a panel and think of an important historical figure like retired South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Ernest Finney, musician Dizzy Gillespie, or tennis player Althea Gibson. Some of the media even reported that the figures on the panels represent real people (Crumbo, 2001,A8). But the official position of the Monument Commission was that the panels would not be “an official, literal interpretation” of anyone (Davis, 2002). Each viewer should interpret the meaning for him or herself.
On the pavement in front of the Monument there is a depiction of a tightly packed slave ship.
It may be hard to believe in this day and age but it is not hard to find someone who will defend what was done to African-Americans during slavery. They wallow in some sort of delusional fantasy about the "Lost Cause" and speak of how the Civil War was about many other things but not really slavery. The fact that other reasons contributed to the Civil War is not in doubt, but what remains is that the South did depend on slavery as its economic backbone that allowed a few to have a rich and pampered lifestyle while many worked under inhuman bondage, for me that can never be defended.
On one of my earlier visits to the state house two visiting Japanese gentlemen asked me to explain why the Confederate flag was still flying so many years after the South was defeated. They wondered about their country, defeated after the Second World War, including the nuclear bombing of two of their cities, and how everything their grandparents held dear was forced to be cast aside.
It was a very uncomfortable discussion since I didn't see them or their grandparents as the victims of American imperialism.
I tried my best to explain how some people in the state feel about that flag although I didn't hold the same opinion. That really confused them and we parted without any understanding. Although I'm sure they now think Americans are far crazier than they ever imagined.
Just when I think I have this state figured out it goes and throws me for a loop. No, I did not post this wanted flier but if I found the guy who did I would buy him a beer. If it was a lady that did it I would ask her out for a nice dinner and ask her to marry me, especially if she was a nice looking hippy chick not wearing a bra.