Wow! What an amazing past ten days this has been. It started last Thursday morning before 7:00, when I saw on my I-phone, just as I was taking Freckles out for his morning walk, that nine people had been killed in Charleston. Then as I returned to take out Grover, I told Lynne about the news. When Grover and I returned, Lynne had already received a call from fellow Sun City friend and Democrat Bob Dixon that our mutual friend Rev. and Democratic State Senator Clementa Pinckney was one of those nine people killed during Bible study at his Emanuel AME Church. We have still not been able to fully comprehend the massacre, the lives cut short and lost, the twisted and racist mind of the alleged killer, or the incredible and unbelievable forgiveness by word and heart of the families of the victims.
But, then, the ten-day period started to get better. Many of you signed a petition we sent out demanding that the Confederate battle flag be removed from the SC Statehouse grounds. Before long, Republican Governor Nikki Haley was leading the effort to remove the flag, with lots of folks (both Rs and Ds) jumping on the bandwagon. Slow to respond were Republican State Representative Shannon Erickson, representing northern Beaufort County, and her fellow Republican State Representative Jeff Bradley, representing Hilton Head Island. Bradley's comments were particularly shameful: supporting the flag removal, unless "a viable alternative" appeared and blaming the "national media" for creating a "frenzy" for flag removal. Where has Bradley been? Where is his sense of history? He has obviously never walked in others' shoes. We need a new representative to replace him; who will come forward? Kudos to Governor Haley for stepping out on this effort. Now she and the state legislature must quickly follow through so that we can all celebrate the battle flag's removal. A Republican Governor in Alabama has already had the flag removed, and Mississippi's two Republican US Senators have called for redesign of their state flag to remove the battle flag portion.
The US Supreme Court, in a 6-3 vote, solidified President Obama's historic standing by affirming the Affordable Care Act's federal exchanges, and also ensuring that millions of Americans will continue to have access to quality health care. How proud we are in Beaufort County that our own Pat Goodman developed and led the effort where so many Democratic volunteers aided in the registration of ACA applicants. This is the type of political activism for which Beaufort County Democrats are known: providing positive response and help for others, rather than dividing each other and tearing down our President and his programs. Also on Thursday, by a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court endorsed a broad interpretation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, allowing suits under a legal theory that is a crucial tool in fighting housing discrimination. By the next day (Friday), we saw the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, affirm the right of same-sex couples to marry nationwide. Once again, love triumphs over hate. Now gay and lesbian couples will be treated as first-class citizens. With others, I personally worked to accomplish this effort through my own local Presbyterian (USA) congregation and am delighted to see affirmative action on the national level.
On Thursday, Clementa Pinckney's body was lying in repose at St. John AME Church in Ridgeland, SC. Lynne and I were able, along with countless other friends of Clementa's from Beaufort County, to pay our respects and offer condolences to his widow Jennifer and daughters Eliana and Malana. So many others were able to do the same both in Columbia at the State Capitol and in Charleston at Mother Emanuel AME Church. On Friday, I drove to Charleston with intent to attend the funeral service at TD Arena at the College of Charleston. Even though I thought I arrived sufficiently early, I was unable to gain access to the arena and returned to Lynne's sister's Charleston home to watch the proceedings on TV --- like many other Americans. The service was so meaningful and the President's eulogy so moving it brought tears to my eyes as my mind was flooded with many thoughts of the previous ten days.
- Maintain pressure on our state legislators to do the right thing and remove the Confederate battle flag.
- Continue to work for reconciliation among our governmental leaders --- at all levels.
- Rid our state of a photo requirement law which inhibits simple voter registration, particularly among minorities, seniors, and the young. Beaufort resident Jim Rowe already published a fact-based letter-to-the-editor rebuttal to an earlier nonsensical diatribe. Sun City resident Doug Nichols also provided a letter-to-the-editor on questions for a thoughtful citizenry to ponder.
- Seek gun control legislation that is practical and will help to stop these mass killings. First steps should be enhanced background checks and waiting periods before purchase.
- Work with local residents and churches in Jasper, Allendale, and Hampton Counties to help improve the educational opportunities of our children. Provide books and other educational tools to schools in these counties to help turn the Corridor of Shame into the Corridor of Hope.
- Volunteer your time to work for our local, state, and national Democratic candidates who share our President's and our Democratic Party's values.
- Consider seeking public office so that these values can be turned into reality. We may be seeing the earliest stages of a politically evolving, for the better, South Carolina. Help keep this evolution moving in the correct direction.
- And, finally, pray that all of us might have the same spirit of forgiveness in our words and hearts as exemplified by the families of the Charleston victims.
Blaine Lotz, Chair
Beaufort County Democratic Party