Monday, December 28, 2009

These Are a Few of My (least) Favorite Things

Since my New Year's resolution is to stop letting my pet peeves get under my skin, to follow is day two (of five) of my soap box rants leading into the newer, happier, far less irritable 2010.

Volume Two: Four Annoying Misconceptions about South Carolina (and South Carolinians)

Myth #1: A Place Called Carolina

Let me start this one with a simple fact: South Carolina is a state. It is not a region of Carolina, as some from "off" seem to believe. The State of Carolina does not exist. There is South Carolina, and there is North Carolina. If you called South Carolina Fred, and North Carolina Ginger, it would be the same. I am not from Carolina. I was born and raised in South Carolina. If and when you ever meet someone from North Carolina or South Carolina, do not ask them about Carolina.

Myth #2: Southern Accents Are The Same, And They Denote Stupidity And/Or Laziness

Making an assumption when you hear a Southern accent that the speaker may not be as well-educated or well-traveled as most, is in itself a lazy way of thinking. It is simply the way they speak. And there is no one Southern accent. In fact, there is no one single South Carolina accent. I can often tell when speaking with someone of they're from the Midlands, the Lowcountry or the Upstate. They all have their own unique lingual flavors. My previous rant notwithstanding, an articulate Southern accent can be a charming thing to listen to. (Ending in a preposition there - I'm learning to accept it). The Huguenot influence on the Charleston accent alone is worth listening to, if you can find someone who still speaks it.
Has anyone ever listened to the horticulturalist Rowland Alston of Making It Grow? When recording shorts for ETV Public Radio, he frequently refers to "sol." The object to which he's referring (there's the preposition issue again) is actually "soil." Yet here is a professor from Clemson University, the host of his own gardening program. He gives lectures, teaches classes, and writes. He does all three quite well.
Had I made assumptions about peoples' intellect or how interesting they may or may not be when confronting the dialects of many Rhode Islanders or Londonders, I would not have come to know some truly incredible people.

Myth #3: South Carolina Is The Buckle On The Bible Belt

While it's true that South Carolina is the home of the tolerance vacuum that is Bob Jones University, it is also home to some 77 colleges and universities, only a handful of which are likely to tell you why and how you are going to Hell. Many of the rest, including the Citadel, College of Charleston, Furman University, University of South Carolina, and Celmson University have made pretty good names for themselves.
Columbia is actually one of the more liberal cities I've experienced. This includes Providence, and certainly includes Slough. It may seem like a small conservative Southern town at first glance, but one barely h as to scratch the surface to find a thriving set of subcultures. It's actually far more interesting a city than it was when I grew up.
Greenville, while certainly built on a conservative foundation, with its influx of foreign workers and peripheral business growth, is quickly becoming a far more diverse city than many I've seen (likely more of one than many inhabitants would like). While Charleston's growing population of students who choose to remain (who could not fall in love with that city) and the installation of the new Boeing facility, as well as the soon-to-be much larger GE wind turbine facility, Charleston is set to become a far more metropolitan area than even most South Carolinians would have ever predicted.
With the transplant population ready to explode, we can almost watch the percentage of Evangelicals shrink. I'm not saying anything bad about Christians in general, far from it. I'm not even saying anything negative about many evangelicals. I am however saying that Alabama should make some room in the very near future.
Besides, would the buckle on the Bible Belt ever produce the likes of Stephen Colbert?

Myth #4: South Carolina is a Racist, Bigoted State

Sadly, there are racists everywhere.  But the fact that I was in the eighth grade before I realized racism was still an issue here should say something, and my mother did not raise a sheltered child. I'm sure she made a point of not having it brought up as an issue, and she has always been a proponent of diversity. She too, by the way, was born and raised in South Carolina.
Actually, I encountered far more aggressive racism in England that I ever saw growing up here. In fact, I even saw a bit more of it in New England than I've ever seen in Charleston. It's the perception of racism that maintains it as issue, and in itself perpetuates the myth and the fact. Put simply: if you raise an issue enough, existent or not (and I'm not saying it's non-existent, just not as prevalent as those in and outside the state would like to believe or would like us to believe), it becomes, or at the very least remains, a tangible issue. It's impossible to be color-blind if all you ever talk about is color.
As far as homosexuals are concerned - Columbia is one of the very few places I've ever felt comfortable showing any type of affection toward a member of the same sex in public. There are bars in Columbia that are proudly "mixed." And at the Pantheon Club in Charleston, a self-procalimed gay dance club, there are often as many straight men as gay. As industry grows and word of Charleston continues to get out (as much as that pains some of us), the openly gay population will continue to grow. Once again Alabama, watch out for some ex-pats.

I could easily go on. But it's cold out here, (we have Winter in South Carolina as well - but it's relegated to two or three months, between the hours of about 7pm and 8am). My fingers are numb, and I should stop before I continue to insult Alabama the way so many have done to us.

I'm sure it's a nice place.


Anonymous said...

Will, I love everything you have to say here. We seem to share so many of the same pet peeves, especially as they concern SC.

Doc said...

Being a native North Carolinean I have been more than guilty on occasion of perpetuating South Carolina stereotrypes but I agree that your post is pretty accurate.
One thing is about SC/NC that is true however is that we kept electing old fashioned biggots like Strom Thurmond and Jessie Helms to the Senate forever...

Doc said...

BTW - Part of the reason that people think of the region of Carolina is because of my beloved Panthers. Remember their first foray into the Playoffs when The Dallas Cowboys had to come to Charlotte? head coach Barry Switzer had no idea where Charlotte was and thought it was in the state of South Carolina.

Oh and yesterday I made an accidental mistake by over exaggerating about my eyesight at 6AM in the morning on a foot bridge trying to catch a tuna fish.

(sorry had to)

Will Shealy said...

Ha! I know you had too, but its okay - alot of people feel the need to say these things but they dont. Thanks for speaking up!