A Liberal Lives in South Carolina

People ask me all the time why I live in SC because I do not fit just about any demographic for the area. I’ve been thinking about this a fair amount with some of the latest SC news. I found this map about higher education funding, in which SC is decreasing funding, yet is surrounded by states investing in higher ed. My teaparty governor wishes to cut nonessential state funding and made a point of calling out the arts in her first State of the State speech. And I came across this little charmer of an ad from NC, in which they basically say “let’s not try to be like that backwater SC.” (Really, I’m not exaggerating.)

Plus, I had a wonderful lunch with a young friend from Massachusetts who is frustrated by what she’s experienced while living here and I found myself justifying why I live here. So why I live here has been on my mind a lot.

Here’s the list:

1. The weather. While this one is the easy one, it’s a big one for me. I loathe cold weather. Really hate it. We had a freak warm weekend in which I ran in 68 degree weather at the end of January. Then it got cold and miserable at the end of the week. It got to 39. My friends in the midwest were sitting under mountains of snow and insanely low temperatures. No thanks!

2. Misfit. I grew up this way, so I’m actually a little uncomfortable being in the majority. It’s one of the reasons I like David Sedaris. Poor thing grew up in a family of girls, a northern Greek orthodox family transplanted to NC in the mid-60s. I could relate! My parents grew up in Connecticut and ended up in SC for work. I was raised with that Yankee liberal attitude.

3. Missionary work. This is actually my mother’s standard answer for why she lives in SC. I’ve concluded my job living in SC is not to change people’s minds on the issues. I’m here to show conservatives that liberals are not some sort of evil, sushi-eating, tea-sipping freak. I’m here to show them that I’m their neighbor who happens to eat sushi and sip tea. (This blog post reminded me that I am indeed a white liberal.) When we lived in Easley, we lived across the street from a family that we got to know fairly well. Our kids were a year apart in age and they seemed to enjoy playing together. And yes, they were conservative Baptists. They liked Sarah (at least for a while, don’t know their current opinion right now), they posted nasty things about the health care bill on their FB feeds and they go to church every Wednesday. She overlooked my UUism and my enthusiastic support of Obama. She never said a word about the Planned Parenthood or Sierra Club mailings that might have been in my mail she picked up while I was on vacation. We did share a sense of humor and we found that we really wanted the same sort of thing for our country and our kids. I’ve concluded that being here is a way to remind conservatives (as well as myself) that we’re not the evil other team. We’re each other’s neighbors. (OK now hold hands and sing kumbaya, but I do mean this one.)

4. Scenery. Have you ever been in upstate SC? Once you get beyond some of the towns (sorry Easley, you don’t even qualify as pretty), it’s stunning down here. My husband and I, on one of those freaky warm January days, jumped in his Datsun 260z that he’s restoring and rode up to Sassafras Mountain and back. It’s a drive that takes an hour one way. Within 20 minutes, I can be in the mountains. And even where I live is really pretty. I live in an old neighborhood, with lots of trees and wildlife. My husband the birdwatcher (as well as his companion cat) loves that. And on a warm summer morning, there just is nothing better than running down a country road, surrounded by the pines and the birds singing. I don’t have to drive to get to this route. It’s part of my running route from my house.

5. Growth. Oh, I’m not so arrogant to assume that I’m going to change everyone around me. I think I might be able to challenge some attitudes, sure. But really, I live here for my own growth. It keeps me grounded to remember that my opinion isn’t so obvious to everyone around me. I have to really work to stand by my beliefs. And so I become a better person for having my ideas and beliefs challenged. I’m not the status quo. This is good.

6. Family. Remember the part of this blog where I talked about my parents moving down here? They are still here. And yes, they drive me nuts. But we lived in Dallas for a year where it turned out I was so much of a misfit there that it made me uncomfortable enough to come back. But that wasn’t the only reason. I had a baby before we moved out there and after a year, in which my father had some health issues and my in-laws had a few scares as well, we realized we had this adorable child that could be loved by four people who she should get to know. So why were we living 1,000 miles away? We moved so that our child could have grandparents. And we moved so we could be closer to our family. (Cue swelling violin music, I know.)

7. Rebel. Let’s face it: anywhere else and I might be your run of the mill liberal soccer mom. Yawn. But down here I’m a crazy liberal, with crazy ideas! Letting my kid learn about Hinduism and Buddhism on Sundays! Eating quinoa and acorn squash! CRAZY! I figure it’s a lazy gal’s way of being a rebel.

8. Job. I have a great job. I have a manager that listens to me kvetch all day and helps me channel that into solutions. I have a director that begs his employees to grow and learn. Both are incredibly supportive. They give me freedom to get the job done as I see fit. A large part of my job is convincing high school students that Clemson is the choice for attending college. It’s hard to mess that up.

9. Irony. My manager can tell you this. Many of my stories begin with “ok, you know I love irony.” I was struck by how my young friend took some of the situations around her. Me, I find humor in them. It’s one of the reasons I like working with engineers (to a point.) We think entirely differently. I’ll give you an example. I was headed to church one Sunday and at a stoplight, I saw a big banner at a bank that read something like “open a checking account and get a free Snuggie!” I thought this was hilarious. When I’m looking at banks, the free crap they might give you is the last thing I am concerned about and of all things, the much lampooned Snuggie? So I took a quick shot on my phone (before the light changed) and I was showing it around after the service. Most found it amusing. Then I showed it to my engineering professor friend. Her response? “I don’t get it.” Which I found even funnier than the banner, actually. So I’m so deep into irony that I really get a charge out of people’s differences. This makes SC the perfect spot for me to live.

10. Love. I had an argument with an old high school classmate who turned out to be a very angry conservative. I dismayed about something about our state once, probably about our governor or the like, and she wrote back “well then why don’t you leave?” (Like I said, she was an angry soul.) So yes, beyond the weather and the lazy rebel and the scenery, this is indeed my home. I love my home, warts and all. I’m very comfortable here and I love the people who live around me, despite the differences we might have. It would be easy to leave it and head somewhere else, but I stay here to fight for it. I stay so that I can indeed say “leave the arts alone, why destroy that rich tradition we have here?” or “do not cut education, it is worth investing in our children” or “let’s work on building a first class institution here so that we can attract industry” or even “uh, taking down the Confederate flag off the capitol and flying it down front isn’t exactly what we meant?” I love SC enough that I’m willing to fight for her.

And so here I am. And really, is it that much of a sacrifice? Maybe I am not surrounded by people who think just like I do or have fun boutiques or a plethora of unique dining establishments. Hey, that’s what travel is all about. And if you’re worried about the education my kid might be getting, she’s doing OK. SC schools may not be perfect for everyone (those with special needs or in need of individualized attention are a particular problem), but we are fortunate that Bella seems to have thrived. And living in a small college town really is a special slice of heaven. (To me anyway.)

May you love your home as much as I do.

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3 thoughts on “A Liberal Lives in South Carolina

  1. Holley Ulbrich

    You was riz good. And you have taken that odd mix of parents, sisters, and environment, and done great things with it. I’m proud of you. And also as a writer, a heritage not just from your Mom but also from your grandmother, even if she did write some strange things–a heritage that I shared with my sister Pat and you share with your sister Carla.
    Mom

    Reply
  2. Angela Nixon

    Love it. The way I view my relationship with my home state is this…..I compare it to my relationship with my younger sister. We’re polar opposites. We rarely see eye to eye. We sometimes don’t get along so well. But she’s my sister and I love her and she’s a part of who I am. That’s the way I view SC: I may not agree with a lot of (OK, MOST of….) the politics around here, and there are a lot of bass-ackwards things that bother me about this state. But it’s my home. I’ve never lived anywhere else. It’s part of what makes me ME, and I can’t imagine ever moving (as much as I joked around that I would after the latest gubernatorial election).

    Reply

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