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Rebel Without A Cause


I have a dirty little secret to confess. As urbane as I like to appear, the truth is that, deep down, I am a South Carolinian, born and raised in the Palmetto State. And, enter dirty secret number two, I'm rather glad to be a South Carolinian, at least at this point in my life. Of course, growing up down there, I wanted more than anything to get away. When I was in high school, my friends and I would dream of moving to fantastic and far-away places such as Japan or Charlotte. In these new locales, we imagined, people didn't point and gawk at kids who wore Birkenstocks or try to run over guys with longer than average length hair. So, naturally, once I had the opportunity, I fled, seeking friendlier and more culturally aware skies. It was a good thing that I left because someone as liberal-minded as myself would have gotten herself run out eventually anyway.

I've enjoyed the cities I've lived in since then. Chicago and Charlotte both offer many possibilities for the mind of the writer, and I admit I've been inspired frequently -- it turns out that people behave in incredibly bizarre and stupid ways no matter where you live. Still, it's nothing like home. Since moving out of South Carolina, I must also admit that I've hungered for the kinds of stories that come out of that state. It's not just any place that boasts of a tree-climbing dog, a Lizard Man and more beach ghosts than any other state in the country. For a writer, South Carolina is very nearly a paradise, although not exactly the kind of paradise you want to raise your children in. But between the state of South Carolina and my very own mama, I've got more material to write about than I would be able to cover in a lifetime of novels. So I have a special and slightly insane part of my heart set aside for that state.

This little bit of personal background may explain why I tend to turn the radio up a notch when the announcer mentions something about South Carolina. It's rather like when you see a movie preview that involves Adam Sandler and you know that antics are about to ensue. Well, when you hear there's a news story involving South Carolina, same thing. You know antics are about to ensue.

The most recent news is that the NAACP is still boycotting South Carolina, and now they're picketing at the state welcome centers as well. They want to remind tourists and others that the NAACP hasn't yet ended the boycott, which began when the Confederate flag still flew atop the South Carolina statehouse, and continues despite the notorious flag's relocation to a busy intersection. NAACP supporters also protested the NCAA tournament games held in Greenville, SC as a part of this new effort to renew enthusiasm for the boycott. The NAACP doesn't think the Confederate flag has any business flying anywhere on statehouse grounds in South Carolina, and they are willing to fight an eternal battle to see that flag come down.

Now, first of all, I've thought the damn flag should be removed from the statehouse since I first heard about the whole issue approximately one million years ago. It's just not a complicated issue for me. A lot of people find the Confederate flag offensive -- people who do happen to be citizens of the state, what with emancipation and all. Black South Carolinians have a point, considering that the flag represents the Confederacy, an organization that felt rather strongly that black people should be slaves. So strongly, in fact, that war broke out. And say what you will about the Civil War really being about states' rights, we all know what a pile of crap that is, so, I've changed my mind, don't even say it.

As fellow South Carolinian Michael Graham (who was kicked off of the radio right here in Charlotte) eloquently pointed out a few years ago -- before South Carolina got smart alecky and took the flag off the statehouse roof and placed it in front of the statehouse, where you can't really miss it -- the flag shouldn't be there as a simple matter of etiquette. It's simply good manners to take down something that's offensive to so many people.

This wouldn't make it against the law to fly the Confederate flag. Individuals who may or may not be considered to be tasteful people could continue to display the flag on their personal vehicles or other personal property, such as t-shirts. But I'm with the NAACP on this one. The flag needn't be flown on the statehouse grounds. Or any other public building or area, I'd better add, before they decide to put it on top of some other publicly owned property.

But then, I don't really need to reiterate any of this, considering that I live in a state that has more sense than, well, more sense than the entire state below it. Most other states, even the Southern ones, have reasonably seen that racial harmony is much more important than honoring dead guys who fought on the losing side of a war. These dead guys can be honored from the privacy of one's own home, after all.

It's sort of quaint to hear about those zany South Carolinians still arguing over this sort of thing, though. Things just haven't changed much there since I left, or even since I was born. But I am rather hopeful that change is coming for South Carolina. Now that they've started the lottery, South Carolinians are sure to become smarter. With all that money from the lottery, they'll have enough cash to purchase brain transplants for at least half the state and, with any luck, all of the state legislature. *

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