Tag Archives: South Carolina

Terry Munson

Blogging–not unlike other forms of more-or-less “mass” communication–is a conversation largely directed to people the blogger doesn’t know personally and is unlikely to meet. Obviously, I form impressions about those who comment regularly, but in most cases, I will never have an opportunity to compare those impressions against personal observations.

Terry Munson, who died last week, was an exception.

Terry and his wife Pat live in an area of South Carolina where my husband and I have for many years owned and used a vacation time-share. Some years back, we joined friends from Indianapolis who split their time between here and there at a get-together of the local chapter of “Drinking Liberally.”  (I joked that it was a gathering of all 30 of South Carolina’s liberals…). When we were introduced as Indianapolis folks, the man sitting next to my husband said he followed a blog written by a woman from Indianapolis.

Needless to say, we immediately became friends, getting together with Terry and Pat for dinners and conversations whenever we were in the state.

Terry was incredibly thoughtful: when I mentioned that one of my grandsons was interested in marine biology, he set up a dinner at which that grandson could meet and converse with a close friend of his–a professor at Coastal Carolina who teaches marine biology. (My grandson was wowed.)

Terry hasn’t commented here recently, as his health further declined, but many of you will recall the thoughtful and erudite observations he shared here on a wide variety of subjects.  Those opinions were informed by a wide, liberal education and a wealth of life experience, and by Terry’s ongoing intellectual engagement with the world in which he found himself. In retirement, his hobby was writing letters to the editor on the multiple topics he had researched and analyzed; according to his friends in Drinking Liberally,  several hundred of those letters have been published.

His voice will be missed.

Engaging in written commentary, entering into always-civil, evidence-based debates on the important issues of our times, is my definition of exemplary citizenship.

Terry was a Chinese linguist, a systems engineer with IBM, and a passionate environmentalist. His obituary noted that he was a co-founder of SODA – the movement to stop off-shore drilling off the South Carolina coast–and asks that memorial contributions be made to the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) at www.scelp.org.

If this country is ultimately saved from the vicious and vacuous know-nothings who threaten it–the empty suits who have captured headlines and far too often, political power–it will be because America produces  enough sane, civic, good-hearted and generous people like Terry Munson.

R.I.P.

 

 

One of the Many Reasons Elections Matter

Yesterday’s post focusing on GLBT rights reminded me that we’re heading toward June and Gay Pride. As we prepare for the annual Pride celebrations, two things are clear: 1) GLBT Americans are winning the fight for civic equality, and 2) the nature of the remaining threat to that equality has changed.

I won’t belabor the first observation; anyone reading this blog can recite the “wins.” Same-sex marriage is recognized in more and more states, Fortune 500 companies are falling over themselves to be welcoming–to extend benefits and institute policies mandating fair treatment. Popular culture and even pro sports are accepting their no-longer-closeted celebrities.

All of these indicators point to a sea change in the attitudes of average Americans, and that change is confirmed by survey research. The days when coming out meant risking ostracism from friends and families, or difficulty getting a job, aren’t altogether over, but we’re getting close.

The threat today comes from the Neanderthals we keep electing–the theocrats who insist that America is a “Christian Nation,” who reject science, who believe women should be “subservient,” barefoot and pregnant, and that GLBT folks should be closeted (or worse).

Just a couple of examples:

A couple of days ago, the Indianapolis Star revisited a controversy that arose a couple of years back over allegations that a Ball State University Assistant Professor was teaching creationism, aka “intelligent design.” BSU’s President, JoAnn Gora–somewhat belatedly–issued a letter confirming the institution’s commitment to science, and its recognition that intelligent design is religious dogma, not science. (To do otherwise would have massively degraded the value of a BSU degree.)

Subsequently, the Indiana legislature’s God Squad made threatening noises; the explicit message was that requiring faculty to teach real science in science classes “violated Academic Freedom” (!) and the implicit message was that it would cost the University when the time for state appropriations rolled around. Last week, the Star reported that the professor involved was promoted. Whether he is still teaching Intelligent Design is unclear.

Indiana’s legislators aren’t the only ones waging war against genuine academic freedom, diversity and modernity generally. South Carolina’s not-ready-for-this-century lawmakers voted to slash funding for two of the state’s largest public colleges in retaliation for the introduction of books with gay themes into the schools’ freshman reading programs.

In February, the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to cut $70,000 — the entire cost of the offending programs — from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate.

These two incidents—which, unfortunately, are anything but isolated—should sound alarm bells.

Red state legislatures are dominated by frightened old heterosexual white guys whose unspoken motto is “Stop changing the world, I want to get off.” The broader society is making its peace with complexity, diversity and inclusion, but these lawmakers, and the Rabid Righteous base that elects them, is waging a last-ditch effort to turn back the clock.

These guys—and they are almost always guys—are able to be elected thanks to a combination of voter apathy, vote suppression and gerrymandering. Those who go to the polls in states like Indiana and South Carolina are opting for candidates who reject science, progress and inclusion in favor of a constricted and literalist religiosity.

In 1966, Richard Hofstadter wrote Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. That anti-intellectualism–characterized by the elevation of sloganeering over analysis and “biblical truth” over complexity, evidence and education—is  still with us; it characterizes the Tea Party and too much of today’s GOP.

It poses a threat not just to GLBT folks, but to all of us; it’s a formidable barrier to our ability to create a sane and tolerant society.

 

 

 

 

 

Another Kind of Polarization?

In a column justt before the South Carolina primary, David Brooks relayed a number of conversations with Republican primary voters. His treatment of them was what one might expect of the always civil Brooks–sympathetic and respectful.

But one line in particular struck me.  After commenting on the nostalgia expressed by several voters, Brooks noted that such sentiments–however understandable–make for “an incredibly backward-looking campaign. I sometimes wonder if the Republican Party has become the receding roar of white America as it pines for a way of life that will never return.”

As if to underline that observation, yesterday a number of people posted to Facebook an exit poll that broke down the composition of the GOP primary electorate–how many males, how many females, how many who self-identified as Evangelical, etc.

South Carolina is 26% black. The racial composition of South Carolina’s GOP primary voters was 99% white.

Whatever conclusions one might draw from those numbers, one seems pretty safe. In a country that continues to diversify, a political party that cannot appeal to Americans of all races and ethnicities has no future. If and when the demographics of South Carolina’s GOP reflect the demographics of the national Republican party, the party’s over.