It seems like just a week ago state Rep. Chip Limehouse was in the news for his tone-deaf proposal to move a revamped Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum to the Navy Yard, where it'd be paired up with the Hunley as part of, I don't know, a Lost Cause fun house of sorts.
As you know, the relic room is slated to be the new home of the Confederate Naval Jack that once flew on Statehouse grounds. The first proposal to turn the museum into a shrine to the Confederacy came with a $5 million price tag, an astronomical figure for a task that should have been no more arduous than tossing the flag into a display case and leaving it at that. The second proposal was a few million cheaper, but still in possession of a nearly religious devotion to those who fought for the Lost Cause.
Of course, it goes without saying that preserving history in its true historical context is probably the last thing on the minds of those who champion the Relic Room renovation. Instead, it's yet another instance of how a particular tenacious subset of the establishment refuses to let go of the twisted tenets of Confederate mythology, whereby the cause of the rebels was righteous and true, when it fact it was anything but. Which brings us back to Chip Limehouse's Relic Room proposal.
Limehouse didn't ask North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey if his administration wanted this particular Rebel flag-lovin' sideshow in his neck of the woods. If the representative had, he would have learned that Mayor Summey wasn't a fan of the idea. This was a smart decision on the mayor's part given the racially fraught nature of the Emanuel Nine and Walter Scott shootings.
Meanwhile, the Friends of the Hunley, the group that oversees the submarine's restoration, also noted they didn't see a reason to pair the two properties.
Now, sometime after the word got out about Limehouse's proposal, and the expected minor controversy had erupted, The Post and Courier'
s Brian Hicks wrote an uncharacteristic, aw-shucks defense
of the Charleston representative. Hicks even went as far as to prove what a good guy Limehouse was in regards to all-things Confederate flaggy, noting that Chip had voted to remove the battle flag from the Statehouse dome in 2000 and again from the Confederate War Memorial on the capital's grounds. Unfortunately, Hicks, a writer I greatly admire, failed to put either vote in the proper context. The former was a compromise solution between Republicans and Democrats, white and black, while the latter received but a few paltry votes from the true-gray Johnny Rebs in the Upstate. Limehouse wasn't a trailblazer on either. Both moves were clearly in line with the wishes of the establishment, who wanted a change to the Statehouse status quo — if only for purely political reasons.
When it comes to proving he's a proper Heritage Not Hater, Limehouse even penned a fiery column bashing the NAACP's then-ongoing boycott of South Carolina, a move that forced the Atlantic Coast Conference to nix plans to hold a 2009 baseball tournament in the Palmetto State. For Limehouse, it was clear that any controversy over the Confederate flag was in the past. It was a non-issue.
Given all this, I wasn't surprised to see Limehouse leading the charge last week to get his fellow legislators to pass an anti-Sharia law bill. This act was nothing more than a bit of xenophobic grandstanding since U.S. law already forbids some of the code's more horrific statues — beheading anyone, infidel or otherwise, is illegal in all 50 states, at least as far as I know. And then there's the fact that foreign laws are more or less meaningless inside our borders. Limehouse knows this, but in order to appeal to the red meaters, he has to play the part of the reactionary rube who is afraid radical Islamists are going to sneak into the National Archives Building late one night and rewrite the Constitution when no one's looking — in permanent marker no less. Egads.
The point here is that Limehouse made a strictly political move. Although he's not running for re-election in 2015, the 53-year-old legislator has gone on record saying that his days as a public official are far from over. He ran for what is now Mark Sanford's U.S. House of Representative seat, and although he lost, it's clear that Limehouse has higher ambitions.
Chip's not alone in his attempt to score political points by championing a doomed bill. Enter state Rep. Mike Pitts, of Laurens County.
A few weeks back Rep. Pitts introduced a bill requiring all South Carolina reporters to be registered with the state, a clear violation of the First Amendment. Now, Pitts would like you to believe that his bill was all a stunt to draw attention to how journalists of all stripes — TV anchors, big-time daily editors, and lowly alt-weekly columnists — have few reservations about emasculating the Second Amendment. I think that's giving Pitts too much credit.
If you ask me, Pitts actually thought the bill had a chance to pass, and you know what, there's no reason to think it didn't. The hatred of the press is high across the nation, but it's religious doctrine to the thug-y cult of conservative cretins in South Carolina who feast from the chum bucket of backward thinking and despairing disparity.
But instead of simply mocking Pitts, the press took offense. And so we were bludgeoned with article after article about how this bill was a sin against the divine word of the U.S. Constitution. The press' reaction, in many ways, proved Pitts' argument: The Second Amendment is just as sacred as the First, and yet the Fourth Estate is quick to forgive Second Amendment transgressions, but quick to anger if the First is threatened. The latter affects them, the former, not so much.
The press was on the right side, of course. The First Amendment is pretty clear in its intention, the Second Amendment not so much. However, the self-important indignation went too far. It was all just so unbecoming.
Truth be told, when it comes down to it, bills like Pitts or Limehouse's are increasingly becoming the norm. Perhaps they always have been. The press knows that a good portion of bills introduced by our legislators are crafted solely to score political points with a particularly precious voting block. We look just as foolish as Limehouse and Pitts when we ignore that.
So my fellow members of the press, lighten up and enjoy the sideshow. The Statehouse is full of freaks and geeks and grotesques, and they should be treated as such.
Cover image by Flickr user: ironypoisoning