Guest post by Kylee Burgess
I started my day reading a brief and mildly amusing article from my hometown’s newspaper which posits that South Carolina ranks number one in politeness according to a study. (This same study also claims that Massachusetts ranks among the top five most polite and least profane states in the nation. Obviously, it’s an incredibly accurate and legitimate study.) It doesn’t surprise me that South Carolina would score well in politeness though. I grew up in a culture where you greet or smile at strangers as you pass them; children are often expected to call adults Mr. or Mrs. [insert first or last name, depending]; helping the elderly with their groceries isn’t an act of valor, it’s just what you do; and addressing people as “honey/hun” or “sugar” isn’t patronizing, it’s polite. Also, swearing in public is a bit taboo, and based on this study it’s apparently not often done, even in the privacy of one’s home, when on customer services calls.
Despite our proclivity for politeness, I should have known better. After all, Miss “the Iraq,” Governor “Oops! I went missing in Appalachians but found myself and my mistress near the Andes” Sanford, Governor “Women don’t care about contraception” Haley, and a slew of other geniuses all hail from the great state of South Carolina.
South Carolina embarrassed itself yet again (this yearmonth week), when Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark decided it was an excellent idea to be publicly and unforgivingly absurd, by stating that he would not be following the President’s order to fly the U.S. flag at half-mast to show respect for the life and loss of Nelson Mandela. Clark’s reasoning, according to his Facebook page is that, “Nelson Mandela did great things for his country and was a brave man but he was not an AMERICAN!!! The flag should be lowered at our Embassy in S. Africa, but not here.”
“Are you [colorful string of expletives] kidding me?” Surely, you jest Sheriff Clark? Surely, you did not follow up this sham with another comment aiming to further justify your actions by citing that the US Flag Code is not enforceable? I don’t give a fat flying toad fart if the order is not enforceable. Surely, the “politest” state in the nation can at least feign enough decency to not broadcast this irreverent use of free speech (read: flagrant abstention from displaying the flag at half-mast for Mandela’s sake). Furthermore, the U.S. Flag code states, “In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.” Weird. Why does it say that, if the flag should only be flown at half-mast for “AMERICANS!!!”
Would Clark’s act of defiance happen if it had been the Pope who died and was to be honored? Oh wait, the last time the order was given to honor a foreign dignitary was when President Bush lowered the flag for Pope John Paul II in 2005. I don’t recall public officials being so obstinate then and Pope John Paul II certainly wasn’t “AMERICAN!!!” Was it different because he noteworthy for being a Christian (albeit a Catholic, those freaks)? Or maybe because the 300 inbreds who liked Clark’s Facebook status also believe that our current president is a Muslim who was born in Kenya? From what I could see, not a single African-American liked Clark’s status or posted a comment, despite the fact that Pickens’s black population is 4.2% higher than the national average. Hmm. Maybe ending apartheid rubs you the wrong way? Oh, wait. I almost forgot that my high-school U.S. history book called it “The War of Northern Aggression” (Yankee friends, I shit you not).
Clark, just so we’re clear here, Mandela didn’t just do “great things for his country.” He did great things for mankind. He wasn’t perfect and he wasn’t American, but that doesn’t mean that the U.S. should not show him respect. So, for the love of sweet tea and hushpuppies, put down the stars and bars! (Wait, wrong South Carolina flag debate.) Kindly, lower the U.S. flag to half-mast without a disclaimer that you’re doing so for the loss of a local deputy and Pearl Harbor Dayonly and specifically not in order to extend the tradition of paying respect to a noteworthy foreign dignitary to Nelson Mandela. For, what is South Carolina with all its old-fashioned manners, if not the ultimate respecter of tradition?