A good read or cry for help? You decide 😏
By Laura Haight
Most of you know that I spent the better part of my professional life as a journalist and newspaper editor. Over those 25 years my writing process was pretty much the same: I sat and stared at my notes, listened to my recordings, until I came up with my lead. Once I’d written that all-important first graph, the rest of the article, regardless of how short or long, just flowed.
This month, as I sit down for probably the fourth day in a row, that magic moment has not come. Instead, I am filled with things I want to talk about, unable to settle on one and make it interesting, useful, readable and compelling.
I want to talk about book banning – fresh on my mind after the Library Board meeting. I was so proud of our Democratic community and our non-partisan comrades like the League of Women Voters, librarians, teachers, who came out in force to support the LBGTQ+ community. I can’t swear to it, but I think we outnumbered the “Greenville is a Conservative Community” crew – as if that were the issue.
I want to talk about the education bills in the State House and thank those who have been phone banking in support of public education and public school teachers. Phone banking is challenging. Like dating: You kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. I had two or three great conversations with younger voters that really gave me hope. They asked me to send them more information and then stayed in touch after they had made their calls. Stephanie Pavik, one of our volunteers, shared with me some of her experience, which included two calls where the recipients not only agreed to call their elected officials but also made calls to friends to ask them to call and to help them register to vote! Another person had moved out of state, but said she would call her friends back in Greenville and ask them to make calls. Those are great outcomes. And while rare, it is those touches that will exponentially increase our footprint.
I want to talk about guns. Well, actually, I don’t want to talk about guns. But I must. I am horrified by the news coverage of these events. It is the same with each passing event: Expert guests talk about the trauma, talking heads debate one more time what we might expect to see happen (nothing), and with tears leaking out of their eyes they remember the victims. Oh and always there is some poor parent who lost a child in a shooting reliving the experience as they are questioned about “how they feel.” In my newsroom, I would assign every employee including sports and lifestyle to stake out an elected official with a camera and a recording device and follow them until they answered the question: What will you do now? I would do that after every shooting and I would publish their answers in full with video on the website. We have become desensitized and that is exactly what our politicians want. No one – including citizens of all political affiliations – is free of some of the stain of this national horror we relive on a near weekly basis.
I want to talk about legislators in our state and what their goals are. Every year, we see many hundreds of bills introduced. A small number become law. If you spend any time actually researching your elected officials (try www.billtrack50.com), you will see that the majority of the actions our legislators take involve renaming post offices, approving honors for long-time party members or state residents, and other bureaucratic functions. But the bills our officials introduce tell us so much more about their values. For Democrats, good public policy bills die lonely deaths in committees while our warriors in Columbia battle back the crazy and occasionally get a hard-fought win. Like finally passing Hate Crime legislation. But what are we to make of the bill – sponsored by alleged pro-lifers – that would make abortion punishable by death? Of the 23 lawmakers who put their name on this POS, four are women. Twelve are newly elected, in just their first couple of months in the job. I don’t know about you but my first couple of months in any new position I didn’t go seek out the angry malcontents and help them set fire to the cafeteria! When news got out, this bill became a national story. That must have scared eight of them, who suddenly decided they wanted their names taken off the bill. Well, not in my world, snowflake.
These legislators should pay for their lack of seriousness, decency, or humanity with their seats in 2024. Those with * in front of their names had hoped to dodge accountability by pulling their name off the bill. There are some Upstate reps in this list.
Rep. Robert Harris, Dist-36, Wellford; Rep. Mike Burns, Dist-17, Tigerville; Rep. William Chumley, Dist-35, Reidville; Rep. Jordan Pace, Dist-117, Goose Creek; Rep. Roger Nutt, Dist-34, Moore; Rep. Thomas Beach, Dist-10, Piedmont; Rep. Stewart Jones, Dist-14, Laurens; Rep. Joseph White, Dist-40, Prosperity; *Rep. Matthew Leber, Dist-116, Jones Island; Rep. Steven Long, Dist-37, Boiling Springs; Rep. David O’Neal, Dist-66 Fort Mill; *Rep. Katharine, Landing, Dist-80, Mt. Pleasant; Rep. Josiah Magnuson, Dist-38 Campobello; *Rep Patrick Haddon, Dist-19, Greenville; *Rep. Mark Willis, Dist-16, Fountain Inn; Rep. Ryan McCabe, Dist-96, Lexington; *Rep. Brian Lawson, Dist-30, Chesnee; Rep. Ashley Trantham, Dist-28, Pelzer; *Rep. Thomas Ligon, Dist-43, Rock Hill; Rep. Jay Kilmartin, Dist-85, Columbia; *Rep. David Vaughan, Dist-27, Simpsonville; *Rep. Dawn Pedalino, Dist-64, Manning; *Rep. Brandon Guffey, Dist-48, Rock Hill; Rep. April Comer, Dist-6, Anderson.
Perhaps we can now understand a bit more viscerally how women in Salem in 1692 might have felt. Just 5 centuries later!
Finally, I want to talk about what we do about it. We keep showing up and working the program. We will do more advocacy efforts to support like-minded organizations; we’ll phone bank and canvass. We’ll support Democratic candidates financially and materially to whatever extent the organization will support us with fundraising. We will increase our numbers and show our colors. We will speak out. We will hold officials accountable for their actions or lack thereof.
And we will not give up. We will not get desensitized to the idiocy of opposition legislation, the hatred of women and LGBTQ+, or the never ending images of white coffins while so many of our elected officials have the nerve to wear AR-15 lapel pins.
We need a victory. One damn seat in Greenville County flipped from red to blue. All of us together, working smart and strong, can help make that happen. Will make that happen. Period.