How do we fix our beloved Palmetto State?

  • Wednesday, July 9, 2014

If you are anywhere on the South Carolina coast between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you don’t have to look too hard to see that we’ve got something here that people from all over seem to really want.

The crowds around the Lowcountry over the recent Independence Day holiday seemed, in my unscientific opinion, bigger than usual. It will be interesting to see the tourism numbers when those reports come in.

Having reflected recently in this column about the historic actions taken by William Moultrie, Francis Marion and the 400 men with them at Fort Sullivan (now Fort Moultrie) on June 28, 1776, I spent more time over the holidays thinking about what it means to be a South Carolinian, or “sandlapper,” as we call ourselves.

Throughout history, we South Carolinians have had a penchant for firsts. Everyone knows we were the first state to secede from the United States. We were the first colony to win a decisive victory over the British in the Revolutionary War. Most people know that the Moultrie flag flown in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island was the forerunner of our crescent moon state flag. What most people may not know is that the Moultrie flag was the first revolutionary flag of the colonists to fly in defiance of the crown.

You can also have a fun trivia game with a whole list of other South Carolina firsts, such as the first submarine (the Hunley) used in warfare, the first organized golf club (1786), the first recorded weather observations in the U.S. (April 1737), the first chamber of commerce in America (1773), the first public library in the United States, the first public museum (January 1773), the first regularly scheduled rail passenger service (1830), the first municipal college (now the College of Charleston, 1836), the first African-American to win the Medal of Honor (W. H. Carney in 1863); the first totally electric textile plant (1893), and the first Historic Preservation Ordinance (Charleston, 1931). See a complete list online at www.sciway.net.

The list goes on and is something for us sandlappers to be proud of. I have taken just a sample of South Carolina’s firsts to show that we as a people really do have a proud history of being innovative, determined and bold. Notice I didn’t say “progressive” because that term has been usurped as a code word for “government-centered liberal.” Side note: Speaking of “progressives,” have you noticed how complimentary and supportive they have been of the state’s first non-male, non-WASP governor, Nikki Haley? Yeah, me neither.

The question we must all find ourselves asking is, “What happened?”

Now, when you look at our firsts, we are first in things no state wants to be first in. We are first, or right near the top, in statistics such as domestic violence and lifestyle-related health problems. We are the only state that still elects its adjutant general and the only state that owns and operates its own statewide school bus system. We’ve known for decades where we stand in public education results, leading to the tired, old cliché about Mississippi.

All this is leading us to a crossroads in this state, both politically and culturally. If you take the influx of people moving here from other states coupled with the extant problems that we as a state have somehow uncharacteristically (from the overall historical perspective) failed to work out, something has got to give.

The answer lies in the hearts of those of us who call this state home and who hold it dear. Will we step up with boldness, innovation and solutions like those who came before us? Or will we rest on our laurels and let others fix our problems for us?

Spend a little time in a South Carolina history book and see if a little motivation doesn’t come over you.

Will Haynie has published more than 400 op-ed columns as a feature columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Hendersonville Times-News when it was owned by the New York Times. His niche is as a humorous conservative. Find him on Twitter at @willhaynie or email him at Haynie.will@gmail.com.

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