Humanity, Not Quite Ready for Civilization: South Carolina, Take Down That Flag

Rally outside the South Carolina State House (Image via Arik Bjorn)

Rally outside the South Carolina State House
(Image via Arik Bjorn)

Part II in a series that explores whether humanity is ready for Civilization.
Read Part I here.

The eyes of the world rest upon South Carolina. I would say the eyes of the “civilized” world, except I have a little trouble using that descriptor for any planet that has had so many global genocides in the past several centuries that its online encyclopedia requires an alphabetize function for users. And don’t even get me started on the fact that it takes a full minute to scroll through Wikipedia’s “List of Serial Killers by Number of Victims” article.

We’ll get to the Confederate Flag, positioned like a racist hood ornament on the South Carolina State House grounds, in a moment. By the way, I took the photo used for this article. That devil-begotten quadrilateral piece of fabric flies about two miles from where I’m typing this article. For years, I have passed that flag multiple times every day. I have walked within spitting distance of it countless times on the way to work meetings.


I even took this video of Ole Dixie a few days ago during the historic Take the Flag Down Rally. “TAKE IT DOWN! TAKE IT DOWN!” Has a bit of a ring to it, I must admit.

Anyway, before we get to the Confederate Flag, I want to share with you a conversation I overheard the other day while waiting for my vehicle to be serviced at a local auto dealership.

Two men in their late 60s/early 70s were sitting near one another in the dealership waiting room. One of the men held a deaf and blind wiener dog in his lap. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more devoted pet owner in all my life; he stroked his pooch lovingly, as if his very touch was vital to maintaining the animal’s breath. And despite the fact that the dog was deaf, the man asked it every several minutes if it needed to go “potty-potty.”

Here are some fragments from the stimulating conversation of these two Southern gentlemen.

“I was in the Corps before it was insensitive to burn people with napalm. Burn you at 2,700 degrees it will.”

“Heh. I had to join the army so they’d send me somewhere with snow. Marine Corps only sends you to hot countries, know what I mean.”

“Nam, man. Nam.”

“Semper fi.”

“You know what, DUIs aren’t as fun as they used to be. Need to go potty-potty?”

At this time, I left the room—probably to protect my sanity. When I returned, the two men had moved to the subject of the upcoming Palmetto Sportsman’s Classic event.

“Still, I do most of my fishing at the Kroger now. $74,000 for a Suburban. That’s just too damn purty to go in the woods.”

“Say, my dad’s 93 now. He’s a Marine—still doing one-armed pushups.”

“Nam, man.”

“Semper fi. Thing is, only exercise I get anymore is running from jealous husbands. Need to go potty-potty?”

I was dying to learn the dog’s name. I interjected from my side of the room.

“His name? Oh, this here’s Yak-Yak.”

I somehow withheld a smile, “I see. Can’t see, can’t hear. But she goes ‘yak-yak’ when she’s got to go potty-potty?”

“Bingo!” the ex-Marine replied. “By the way, I was up in Chapin once, watched an 18-wheeler plow straight into a dog on I-26. Weirdest sound I ever heard. Oh, that lady screamed. Man, you shoulda heard that squish. Semi dragged that thing all the way to the ocean, I imagine.”

Wow. Life.

And so what does this conversation have to do with the Confederate Flag? You mean, other than the fact that those who support the Confederate Flag as a symbol of heritage are like a man devoted to the needs of a deaf-blind wiener dog who has no qualms about the U.S. military dropping nearly 400,000 tons of napalm upon Southeast Asia in the 1960s?

Welcome to South Carolina. (Actually, welcome to Planet Earth. South Carolina’s just a bit more honest—threadbare?—about its cultural fabric.)

South Carolina is of course a state ravaged by racist murders, including the April 2015 unjustified shooting of Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer. As well, of course, the unthinkable, coldblooded killing of nine worshipers in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston just last week by a hate-diseased racist whose name I will not dignify with a single kilobyte keystroke.


Then, of course, there are those “other” murders. You may have heard of them. It’s a long list, so let’s just refer to them as The Institution of Slavery. (Those with deaf-blind wiener dogs in their laps choose to call it “heritage.”) In South Carolina, this holocaust institution began in the late 17th century and ended on January 31, 1865, with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by the United States Congress. Two hundred years or thereabouts; quite the run.

Then there were the race-based murders that occurred after slavery was constitutionally deep-sixed; let’s call those “Pitchfork’s Reign of Terror.” Remember what ole South Carolina Governor and U.S. Senator Ben Tillman once said on the floor of the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1900:

“We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it … and we eliminated, as I said, all of the colored people whom we could under the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments.”

By the way, there’s a statue of that murderous lynch leader a mere stone’s throw from the Confederate Flag on the South Carolina State House grounds. (And there’s also a major building named after him on the Clemson University campus. Good ole Academia.)

Ben Tillman finally gave up the ghost in 1918, whereupon followed (um, still follows) another century of racist murders, including the spectacular execution of 14 year old—YES, 14 YEAR OLD—George Stinney Jr. for a crime he clearly did not commit. Need to go potty-potty?

I had an entirely different article in mind for the second part of this “Civilization” series. Then tragedy hit my state of residence. There was a quality about this horrific crime that seemed to separate it from the thousands of race-based, slaughtering murders that preceded it. It involved upstanding members of the Charleston community, including a state legislator. It occurred in one of the country’s most historic houses of worship. Also, state leadership seemed to realize all at once that the killer grew up within a mere several miles of the inspiring symbol of his unreasonable hate flying front and center upon the state government’s grounds.

Suddenly, the Confederate Flag was no longer a conservative chew toy. Its legally-mandated position of prominence had, almost without question, inspired a madman.

Now, just imagine if South Carolina’s political leaders had acted sooner, say, all the way back to 1961, when the Confederate Flag was first raised atop the State House dome in Dixiecrat defiance and impudence.

#shameonSC

In Part I of this series, I suggested that despite the fact “that Civilization is only now just being born,” we all have a part to play:

Every act of kindness, every thoughtful gesture, every advancement of human knowledge, is significant. And it will in fact take tens of billions of such actions for us to finish laying that foundation.

Tearing down that damned flag won’t solve the culture of racism that permeates South Carolinian subculture and U.S. society as a whole. But it is, without question, a necessary step along the way to building a foundation for Civilization.

So is there any act of kindness or thoughtful gesture that you can do?

Why, I’m glad you asked!

From the two links below, you can quickly contact members of the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives and send a message exhorting them to remove the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds. It won’t take but a minute, and I guarantee it’s the best thing your keyboard will do all day:

South Carolina Senate
South Carolina House of Representatives

One final thought: TAKE IT DOWN! TAKE IT DOWN! TAKE IT DOWN!



Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!

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