By the age of seven or so, most people have learned one of life's most valuable lessons: don't touch a hot stove. We've all been there, haven't we — a young, innocent child in the kitchen standing next to the stove while someone's making dinner. Maybe we're wanting to help, or maybe we're just curious, or maybe we're still in the "see what this does" phase of development. Typically, though, all it takes is that one good burn and we learn a lesson that lasts a lifetime.
Then there's state Rep. Chip Limehouse, who started the year off by putting both his hands down firmly on a very hot stove. Last month, he announced a bill to move the Confederate flag, which was taken down from Statehouse grounds last summer, to the home of the H.L. Hunley in North Charleston. And not just the flag, but the entire Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum which is now taking up space in Columbia. Needless to say, many in the community didn't take this proposal all that well.
For Limehouse, the first burning sensation probably occurred when North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey repudiated the proposal, saying he was not only unaware of Limehouse's plan but wouldn't support it. You'd think that would be enough to give Limehouse pause.
But instead of dropping the plan, Limehouse followed up by making an unscheduled stop at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where the Hunley currently resides. He was met by a local TV crew in the parking lot. What happened next is disputed. Either Limehouse and his crew were kicked out of the parking lot or they were denied access to the inside of the facility. Also disputed: Whether Limehouse showed his proverbial ass or there was a genteel, Southern conversation about rights. It doesn't matter, though. The end result is that Limehouse and the TV crew left.
Whatever transpired that day, you would hope that at this point Limehouse would have let go of the stove. But he hasn't.
Last week, Limehouse and a handful of other state representatives were pushing the "cost-saving" notion of moving the Relic Room out of Columbia.
At this point, I think it's only fair to point out that I don't think Mr. Limehouse is intentionally trying to rankle people with this. At worst, he might be suffering from Oblivious White Person Syndrome, which is characterized by a lack of understanding why people who aren't white might be upset by reminders of the legacy of brutal, authoritarian white supremacy in the South. OWPS most affects those white people who consider themselves "not racist" or "colorblind." As Limehouse reminds everyone, "I voted twice to bring the Confederate flag down from the Statehouse."
I'll give Limehouse the benefit of the doubt here. I don't think there's any ill-intent behind his proposal, but I still think it's misguided, even as a cost-saving gesture. This is because the near-holy reverence of Confederate memorabilia in the South, particularly in South Carolina, is doing more harm than good if the goal is to get us all to a point where talking about "Southern heritage" won't cause so many fights.
Speaking of Southern heritage, keep in mind that a poll of likely South Carolina Republican voters revealed that slightly more than half of them wish the flag was still flying over the Statehouse, while about one-third wish that the South had won the war and 10 percent actively believe whites are a superior race (another 10 percent aren't sure, though, so there's that). And that's just those who are openly saying they'd essentially like to see a return to Jim Crow, the Confederacy, and slavery, in that order. It doesn't take into account people suffering from OWPS who are hobbled by a denialist spin on history. I believe this is due, in part, to that reverence shown to Southern heritage memorabilia, like the Confederate flag, that directly relates to the South's oppressive history. As I watched the flag being taken down last year, I couldn't help but think that there was entirely too much honor being given to a flag which should have never been flown above a public building in the first place.
So it's hard to argue that keeping Confederate memorabilia on display is doing anything other than keeping all the worst aspects of Southern heritage alive. If Chip Limehouse truly wants to save money, he should move to have the entire collection of memorabilia mothballed until we're ready to talk about Southern history in more than just the terms of the Lost Cause.