When you look at the Charleston shootings, the politicization of them, and the outright conflict that resulted, depending on which of the three levels you focus on, there are feelings of sympathy, admiration and condemnation.
My feelings and thoughts are macro and broad, rather than specific because Iím not from South Carolina and have not lived any of this history, nor am I related to it in any way. For instance, Iím a northerner with no ties to slavery, southern history or tradition, and none of my ancestors fought in the Civil War. I wasnít here when they put the Confederate Battle Flag on the capitol dome in 1961 or took it down and put up a monument on the capitol grounds with a baby battle flag in 2000. It would be like me asking you what you think of the New York Knicks going back to their inception in 1946. Difficult to find a frame of reference.
However, watching this all the last couple of months, I do have some insights, about what it says about the political culture we live in today.
Level 1: The Murders
The racial murders of nine innocent people were met with widespread sympathy and support, not only in Charleston, but throughout South Carolina. There was an outpouring of admiration for the families and the leaders of Charleston in how they handled the tragic event. The killer and what he stood for was universally condemned. I believe if the event started and ended there, this would have been a unifying force for the state of South Carolina and the nation as a whole.
Level 2: The Politicization
When a situation gets to the point people are killed be it in Missouri, Baltimore or Charleston, politicizing the issue is a no-no, because the risk is it fosters more division leading to more violence. Astute politicial leaders that place the safety of the people above all, realize this. Unfortunately, too many don't, and these murders were politicized by pulling in the Confederate Battle Flag (and ultimately all Confederate monuments of the South) into the mix within days of the shooting.
People were naturally coming together over the shootings, under the leadership of those in Charleston and universal sympathy for the shooting victims and their families. Pulling in this wedge issue drown-out the positive response that budded and started to grow, and stamped out the opportunity to turn this into a unifying event.
Like I said, I have a lot of broad observations here, and that was one of them. Many more to come.
Level 2: Respect All Monuments:
At the heart of the flag issue, I have sympathy for both sides. Most blacks see the flag as a sign of slavery and oppression, and are offended. Most whites see it representing their southern heritage, a symbol of statesí rights and a way to honor ancestors who fought in the Civil War. For instance, this not being my history, I see the flag they only way I know it -- as a modern day rallying cry for statesí rights.
Two or more can look at the same exact thing, and think or feel something differently. It happens all the time, especially with monuments or symbols, and most all are genuine in their viewpoints. There is a true disconnect in terms of what the flag means to people.
The flag was part of a Confederate Soldiers Monument on the state house grounds. I think all monuments and memorials have their detractors. Some find them offensive. What is going to be the driver as to what stays and what goes? How the majority feels? Or if some are offended?
Clearly, the driver is majority rules. For instance, memorials to the Holocaust offend some minority, mainly Germans because some displays paint all Germans as Nazis. Monuments to the heroes of the expansion westward offend American Indians. William T. Sherman monuments offend those in South Carolina and Georgia. All remain standing on government land because the majority supports what they stand for, some positive effort or ideal.
If I thought South Carolina put up that Confederate Soldiers Monument with the purpose of offending blacks, I would have condemned it. By and large the majority support the Confederate Soldiers Monument for the right reasons (heritage, statesí rights, and honor ancestors). True, it offends some, but given what general rule is applied everywhere else, the flag should have remained.
Once we apply the rule that someone feels offended so your monument needs to come down, we fall into this ad hoc mode of selectively targeting of monuments. Who will be the judge for what stays or goes? The national media, with its biased viewpoint becomes the judge. This results in a harmful societal spiral, which you have all seen the last few months. We should just respect each otherís monuments and leave it as that.
Level 2: Weaponization of Words and Symbols:
I strongly oppose the weaponization of words and symbols in order to divide people by race for political gain. This dynamic is one of the main reasons I left New York City where it goes on 24-7-365, creating a toxic environment between races and ethnic groups that I just didnít want to bring my family up in.
Early on I described where this could end up, and proved to be right for the most part when I described the following dynamic: an event occurs here, like clockwork is exploited and dragged to something else over there, all the time the political leaders and activists throw gasoline on it, the media then lights a match, often resulting in protests, sometimes street violence and maybe even a riot on some scale.
Nothing good comes of it for the people, the city, or society in the long run. It is the exploitation of a tragic event, plain and simple. When the media and political/ community operatives are gone, in their wake is a town, city or state that is more divided, not less. It is a harmful dynamic, because if it is repeated too many times it causes a downward spiral where the divisions become permanent, creating a toxic environment for all.
Level 2: Haley Was Bad
I thought politicians like State Representative Gary Clary and Gov. Nikki Haley rushed to judgement on the issue, demanding the legislature do this or do that in the wake of the killings. Haley gives great speeches and looks good doing it, and she didnít disappoint the media this time around either. Really, what has she accomplished in six years? While Republican Governors in states throughout the country are reforming education, taxation or government restructuring, she canít even reform the SCDOT. She is words over actions.
Instead of driving home this wedge issue days after the killings to boost her poll numbers or help her find a job after she is term-limited, why didnít she use the occasion to lower the temperature and then take steps to improve the opportunity for education, job creation or upward mobility for all, including those in the black community. While this was a great photo opportunity with all those national big-wigs, removing the flag did not materially improve one personís life one bit.
Level 2: Shock and Awe
Gov. Haley did a 180 degree turn on the flag in a short period of time. I think this was due to one of three reasons. The national media shocked and awed the governor and state legislators. The media, not the state governor or leaders in the general assembly set the agenda, the terms of the debate and the timetable. They were swimmers in the current and really were washed along with this national tide.
I think the legislature should realize by now this wasnít just about that 2 x 2 Confederate Battle Flag. The aim is to cleanse the South of its unique history for some political purpose. These national forces (President, national corporations, and national media) will be back again, using the same angle and tactics, and the next time I hope our government leaders ask themselves, who is setting the agenda here, the terms of the debate and the timetable? If it isnít the leaders of South Carolina, all of our state leaders should step back in unison and say, this isnít how it is supposed to work. If they donít, again, the national media or national corporations will be in control of our fortunes on the issue they happen to pick, not those state reps we elected.
Haley could have been advised you are term-limited as governor, so your career in the state will soon be over. You have to look more inclusive or more like a big-tent Republican to gain national appeal. With this bright spotlight on you, it is wise to show everyone this new Nikki Haley.
Or it could have been rougher than that. All the national Republicans, many seen with her in the press conference could have said, we know the legislature is all but shut down, and normally this would have been taken up in January. However, we canít have this debate raging then, right in front of the South Carolina Presidential primary. Call the Senate and House back and force them to address this now.
Level 2: Obama Was Worse
I think President Obama was worse. In his first speech he drove home the wedge issue of guns. I listened to his eulogy at Senator Pinkneyís funeral. Typically when you give a eulogy you talk about intimate moments with the deceased, or times together or what made the person special to you. Obama didnít know Pinkney. While the first half was good, the second half sounded like a campaign speech on guns, racism in the country, the flag and the lack of opportunity given to blacks. The unifier? I missed Obamaís sermon on national unity or putting forth an issue we could all united behind, and his words on why it was not the time to politicize these murders.
Looking at it another way, a racist man murdered nine people. What was the paramount goal in the wake of this? Most all would agree healing in a way that brings people together. What would have been the best way to achieve that?
a) All denouncing racism and get together in a joint prayer meeting.
b) Citizens, community organizations and local and the state government doing what they could for the families and the Charleston community.
c) Mobilizing government to give all people especially blacks more opportunity in schools, jobs and upward mobility, or
d) Pick divisive issues like guns or the flag that further divide the state and nation, amplifying those issues in the media, fostering more division, and angering both sides, increasing the probably of more violence just after the killings.
While all choices were being undertaken, unfortunately choice ďdĒ was latched onto by some in the legislature, our governor and President.
Whenever an event is politicized the collateral damage is often so bad it outweighs any good that might come from the event. In the end, the state will be divided after the political leaders, national activists and media have finished doing their thing, when really this could have brought unity to the nation, the state and race relations. A missed opportunity by our political leaders.
If they just had followed the lead of those families and community leaders in Charleston.
Level 3: Nationalization Of
At the first level -- the tragedy of the murders, were the victims, their families, the community, the leaders of Charleston and all who came to their aid and felt sympathy.
At the second level -- the politicization of the murders, were the political leaders and activists.
At the third level -- the nationalization of the murders and condemnation of South Carolina and the South in general, was the national media and national operatives.
Unlike the first and second levels were I felt sympathy for some and condemnation for others, at the third level I have nothing but condemnation for the players and their tactics. It is when the situation reached this level, I felt it went too far, and decided to speak up, writing much what you are reading here.
What started as a sincere effort of healing, was hijacked by the national media and national operatives who aimed to punish the state for its place in the national scheme of things, and they did so with total disregard for the societal harmony here in South Carolina and the South as a whole.
Level 3: National Media
The first culprit was the national media, or what Rush Limbaugh calls the drive-by media, which reports without firsthand knowledge, with little regard to the truth and does so in a heavy-handed way. The drive-by media sweeps into a city or state, pours on the lighter fluid, lights a match, and rings its cash register all the way. It then moves on to the next city or state, matches, cash register and cameras in hand.
Basically, the national media labeled the sole meaning of the flag as white supremacy and those who supported the flag and at times all South Carolinians as racists. A typical drive-by media smear-job.
I listened to the speeches during the state legislative debate. Senator Larry Martin tried and had some success pushing back on this, but by and large our delegation did a poor job of saying the flag means different things to different people, and most donít see it the way these outsiders are trying to paint it. And by the way, those who support the flag and South Carolinians in general are not racists, and this is why I know that.
Level 3: South Carolinians Not Racists
My grandparents came to Ellis Island in 1923. My parents spent their entire lives up north. I spent 40 years of my life in New York and only about 10 years in South Carolina.
What I do know is I've met a ton of white southerners who over the years have expressed strong feelings about the Civil War, southern history, statesí rights, the flag, slavery, the whole gamut.
Depending on who you talk to, they see the flag as representing one of three things: One, as representing their southern heritage. Second, as a rallying call for statesí rights. Finally, many white southerners look at the flag as honoring their ancestors who fought in the war.
I canít think of one white southerner Iíve met and have come to know that sees the flag as a sign of slavery or racism or white supremacy. Obviously they are out there, but I would say they are few and far in-between. By and large I think most have forgotten about slavery and theyíve long accepted integration. I donít see racism as a front and center issue like it is in New York City, for instance.
Level 3: Harmful Political Dynamic:
Like I wrote above, that harmful dynamic from event, to politicization of the event, to protest to street violence occurs 24-7-365 in New York. All the following went through that cycle to the extreme. Just off the top of my head: Freddyís Fashion Mart protest and fire, Gavin Catoís death on a bicycle, Bernhard Goetzís subway shooting, Howard Beach, Amadou Diallo sodomized by the NYPD, the list goes on and on. Entire political and community activistsí careers and organizations were built upon this regular cycle of racial exploitation and division.
You can see in Charleston there were some attempts to escalate these murders to street protests, but that was limited because the people of this state donít see society as strongly divided on racial grounds. As a result, racial division and unrest has not become an industry here like it is in New York.
If someone from NBC news had asked me what I thought, I would have said, and how long have you lived in South Carolina? Once I got the deer in the head lights look, Iíd tell them what I wrote above and said you are operating in a 1960ís time wrap and are clueless to sentiments today. Take your camera back to New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles and go fix the race problems up there. These people can handle this themselves.
It is quite unfortunate, the national media used the flag controversy it to paint flag supporters and too often all South Carolinians as racists. That was an unfair characterization, a bum rap that is simply untrue, and should have been discredited by our state leaders.
Level 3: A Broader Aim
The national media as a whole is driven by higher ratings and profit, so they all participate in this dynamic to a degree, but the liberal media and national operatives have a political aim here as well, and did from the start -- to take down all references of the Confederacy and southern heritage.
To the liberal media and national operatives, this is not just about the flag or people being offended by it. Like I said, William Sherman has monuments on government land. Iím sure when some see him painted like a hero, they are deeply offended. If it was about offensive monuments, where are the calls to take down the Sherman monuments?
Additionally, I didn't see Dylann Roof standing next to the Jefferson Davis monument, yet they called for that to be removed in Virginia. It was vandalized a few times, along with many other monuments in the South.
The national media wrote many stories like this one, ďTwelve of the Most Racist Monuments in the SouthĒ. They included a statute of Robert E. Lee on his horse in Charlottesville, Virginia or a plaque in Greensboro, North Carolina. Racist? No.
Level 3: New Federalism:
What is driving the liberal media here? They and their efforts are part of what I call a New Federalism. New Federalism is beyond a strong central government that Alexander Hamilton advocated in 1789. It is the national government (beit the President, US Congress, Supreme Court and federal departments), national media outlets, national corporations (like Walmart, Apple and Amazon) and national organizations like the ACLU all pushing for a new national order where these and other national entities dominate all facets of everyday life.
Additionally, most all seem to be pushing this same leftist national agenda. Hence they seem to be moving in unison to create this new national order. To support my point, the examples are limitless. Gay marriage was pushed by the federal governmentís executive and judicial branches, plus organizations like the ACLU, over 350 corporations like Apple and Amazon, and of course the national media. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is telling towns which holiday decorations they can put on their lawn. The EPA is telling people which light bulbs they should screw into our sockets. The national media and cable news programs aim to define what acceptable and unacceptable ďfreeĒ speech is. The federal government is imposing a national healthcare system, at the expensive of individual choice and a free insurance market. The Federal Reserve Bank now controls interest rates that used to be determined by free market decisions of individual borrowers and lenders.
Instead of having a police force to enforce this new national order like they did in the totalitarian countries like the USSR, New Federalists use the law/ courts where they can or corporate policy, but quite often they rely on weaponizing words and symbols via political correctness/ offense to punish those who oppose this new national order.
More discussion on Bob McClain's radio program
Level 3: Why Go After The Flag?
You see how this gets back to the flag, and the wider attack to the South as a whole. The South is the last bastion of traditional American values, has a unique history it is clinging to, abides by a God fearing lifestyle and still possesses an independent spirit once held by all Americans. All four of those things compete with this new national order, and hence, must be wiped out. To that end all are being attacked by the federal government, the national media, national organizations and national corporations.
One way to introduce and get the masses to adhere to a new order, is to first wipe out anything that competes with it. That is often tradition, history and God. Read a bit about Mao Zedongís Cultural Revolution by Googling it. Mao aimed to control China, but realized its people would never conform to his thought and new way of doing things, if they still clung on to the traditions, history or God. So he started what was called the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) that aimed to wipe out all traditions, God, social norms and the intellectual class was targeted for re-education. Once done, Mao handed out his own little Red Book with the new way of doing things. New Federalists aim to impose their new national order throughout the country. They are having a lot of success in most areas, but the South has been resistant holding on to what it believes in, be it God, their unique history and American individualism.
The debate of removing the flag was purposefully started, and then snowballed to all Confederate symbols and monuments in an effort to purge the South of its unique history that many still cling on to. A cultural cleansing; no other way to describe it.
They attacked the flag and Confederate monuments and those who defended them no matter the reason were called racists and tarred and feathered in the national media. South Carolina, was attacked for the same reason they attack Fox News or talk radio. Defiant and stubborn holdouts to the new national order.
My concerned isn't so much with the flag, but with the general trend we are seeing in this country of national corporations, national media, and national government pushing on the states to give up their sovereignty and for individuals to back up. The next time will our elected state leaders just concede the agenda, terms of the debate and timetable to these national entities again? Even if all the legislators were for taking down the flag, our state legislature should have set the agenda, terms of the debate and the timetable. They conceded the governing function of the state to national interests and this is a worrisome trend.