I don't want to make you envious, but I am writing this column while sitting on a balcony high above the soft sand and crashing waves of South Carolina's Grand Strand. Yeah, I'm at Myrtle Beach, y'all. My family and I made our annual pilgrimage here this week to enjoy the sun - which has been noticeably absent for much of the week, the ocean, some great Calabash-style seafood and, of course, one another's company.
For the first time in a great while we actually had all of our children here at one time - plus a couple of extras - and our short vacation has been all I had hoped it would be and more. But in addition to the sun, sand, surf, seafood, Fourth of July fireworks and fresh hot Krispy Kreme donuts each morning, we have run smack dab into a political controversy - and it has nothing to do with this state's womanizing governor. It has to do with the Confederate battle flag, of all things.
We, as a nation, are about to enter the second decade of the 21st century and South Carolina is still fighting the War Between the States.
Gwinnett County has the Braves. Savannah has the Sand Gnats and Toledo has the Mud Hens. These are all minor league baseball teams, by the way. Well, Myrtle Beach has the Pelicans. And the Pelicans have a really nice ball park. The ball park is so nice, in fact, that the Atlantic Coast Conference decided to hold their baseball tournaments at Myrtle Beach for three straight years, beginning in 2011. That decision was considered to be a boon to the area's economy because the ACC baseball tournament, unlike the ACC football championship, usually draws a lot of people. And when people come they bring money - which they spend, on food and lodging and T-shirts and salt water taffy and cheap souvenirs.
The folks along the Grand Strand had hoped that having the ACC baseball tournament at Myrtle Beach would help make up for some of the revenue the area has been losing because so many school systems have declared that August is no longer a part of summer.
But not so fast. It seems now that there will be no ACC tournament in Myrtle Beach; not as long as the NAACP has anything to say about it. The NAACP, you see, has, since before this century began, been attempting to get groups to boycott the South Carolina tourist industry because the state of South Carolina flies a Confederate flag over a monument to Confederate soldiers on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia, the capital city.
Quite frankly, the boycott hasn't been very successful. Not many groups have paid much attention to the NAACP. They still hold golf tournaments down at Hilton Head every year and stock car races up at Darlington and lots and lots of black people still roll in for Black Bike Week. The Democratic Party held one of its 72 presidential debates in Charleston in 2008 and an African-American sorority even held its national convention in Myrtle Beach this summer.
But the Atlantic Coast Conference won't be playing its baseball tournament here until the Confederate flag is removed from the Statehouse grounds.
The thing is, the flag was put on the Statehouse grounds as a compromise. It used to fly on top of the Statehouse itself.
No matter. An ACC directive said that playing their tournament in Myrtle Beach would violate the conference's "commitment to diversity, equality and human rights."
Goodness gracious sakes alive!
They have turned a baseball game in the Pelican's stadium into a human rights violation because 150 miles away a flag flies over a monument honoring men who fought and died for what they believed to be right. And it wasn't just about slavery.
South Carolina's governor has been flying all over the hemisphere to carry on some sordid sexual affair with his self-admitted "soul mate," while also "crossing the line, physically" with a number of other women. His words - not mine.
South Carolina's public schools are historically listed near the bottom of national rankings. Unemployment in South Carolina stands at 10.4 percent - second highest in the nation, and black people find themselves disproportionately without a job. High school dropout rates are higher for blacks in South Carolina than for whites. Blacks are more likely to find themselves in prison or in poverty, and the NAACP is worried that a baseball tournament will be played within the state's borders.
We can debate the direct causes and underlying issues of the War Between the States from now until kingdom come - and we probably will. We will never reach a consensus about the causes of the war or the meaning of the war's symbols. The ideology is far too complex and the emotions run far too deep. But deciding not to hold a baseball tournament within a state's borders won't do anything to change anybody's mind about anything. It will, however, cause a lot of money to be spent elsewhere and a lot of potential jobs to be lost.
Oh, well. It's no skin off my nose. Speaking of which, has anyone seen the Coppertone? The sun is finally beginning to peek out from behind the clouds. I think I'll go hit the beach.