University of South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner, left, poses with Greenwood resident and Clemson University fan Nick Nicholson. (Submitted)
Sometimes we take ourselves and each other too seriously. The way things look and sound these days, I no longer think we've made the headway in race and cultural relations I previously thought we had.
South Carolina, something of a microcosm of all this, seemed to have made much progress. Legendary Sen. Strom Thurmond seemed to have seen the error of his ways and sought atonement. It took a while - all the way into the 1990s - for the state to realize it should take the Confederate battle flag down from the dome, but it did. After all, we operate under our state government and within the union that is the United States, so flying a trio of flags that included the battle flag sent a wrong message, nearly indicating we were still part of the Confederate States of America. We have our statues and proper historic locations for them and the various flags of the Confederacy, but that was the right thing to do.
Here in Greenwood, a bastion of conservatism, the city elected Floyd Nicholson and the county later sent Nicholson to the state Senate.
And today, a portion of state Highway 28 in McCormick County will be dedicated as the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Highway.
WE CAN EVEN CELEBRATE how diverse the state has become as companies from overseas set up shop in the Palmetto State. Fujifilm in Greenwood, Michelin in Greenwood, BMW in Greer, Nan Ya Plastics in Lake City and a host of others have brought a mix of nationalities, cultures and religions to this state.
But let the Greenwood County Library and The Museum partner to bring an educational exhibit designed to broaden people's knowledge and understanding of another culture, and we find ourselves turning back the clock to what we should hope would be a bygone era.
The library and The Museum are hardly promoting terrorism or calling for a jihad, but based on the reactions from some residents, one would think that is the case.
"Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys" at the library, and Friday's accompanying program at The Museum were simply intended to be an educational and cultural experience, giving visitors a glimpse of the people and practices that make up much of the Muslim world.ONE LETTER WRITER TOOK issue with the library exhibit, suggesting that nothing to do with the Muslim faith or Muslims in general should be allowed inside the taxpayer-funded building. He even cited separation of church and state, as though the county-owned library was attempting to impose a particular religion on library patrons. Interesting. If he holds to that thought, he would also oppose any books, including reference books, that deal with Christianity. And is there a Bible in the library? Of course, the irony here is libraries and museums are exactly the places where one would expect to find opportunities to learn about other people, religions and cultures.
And so it goes that as much as we have moved forward, it is not enough. And our forward progress is hampered by the Trayvon Martin and Paula Deen news stories that stay on our TV screens and, yes, in our newspapers. Race and race relations remain front and center in a nation that could easily be labeled the United States of the Offended. At every turn, someone is looking for a lawsuit or, at the very least, lodging a complaint. Comedians have to tread ever so lightly and advertising firms have to spend more time analyzing their creations before releasing them. Who would have thought a Cheerios ad would cause such a stir? A mixed-race family is portrayed, heaven forbid. You'd think as diverse as the mile-long cereal shelf is in the grocery store, people wouldn't blink at this commercial. And Coke? Recall the hit it took from some in the Arab world for its supposedly stereotypical ad during the Super Bowl. If you don't, you can pull it, and others, up on YouTube.
YOU KNOW WHAT? We need more people like Greenwood's Nick Nicholson in this state. Heck, we need more like him in this nation and world.
First, he and the good senator, Floyd Nicholson, always refer to each other as "cousin" when they see each other at various public functions.
Second, anyone who knows Nick Nicholson also knows what a rabid Clemson University fan he is. Heck, the man drives an orange VW Beetle. Rumor has it even his unmentionables are Clemson orange.
His Clemson allegiance, however, did not prevent Nicholson from sharing a lighter moment recently as he posed for a photo with Gamecock Athletic Director Ray Tanner. He did not just pose, as you can see by the photo published here, he went so far as to put on a Carolina cap and appropriately colored shirt.
Yeah, we take ourselves too seriously these days. We don't have to give up our own beliefs, our own cultures and religious practices in a quest to better know and understand others' beliefs, cultures and religions.
Best I can tell, some people would just as soon put a wall up around the state, toss out any non-Christians, and possibly even do a little race purging. They would do that in the name of keeping the state pure and secure. Ironically, they would simply succeed in making themselves prisoners of their own little world.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email email@example.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.