Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Ideals of America, 2009

Lots of friends and acquaintances have been asking this week what I would be writing about the Mark Sanford affair. They know, as most of my readers do, that I have been a Sanford critic for a number of years, and, in fact, ran the 2006 campaign of Sanford’s Republican primary challenger, Oscar Lovelace. (That’s possibly the reason Sanford called me “creepy” at a press conference last year.) Regular readers of this column are also aware of my unofficial advisory role to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, as well as having served as campaign manager for Senator Jake Knotts, another key figure in the ongoing Sanford saga.

Suffice it to say that, yes, I could write an interesting and informative column about the Mark Sanford affair. But I’m not going to, because there are approximately 10,000 other newspapers taking care of that business.

Frankly, I’m more interested in this week’s celebration of America’s birthday… Independence Day… the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, which led to a Constitution giving all these newspapers the right to freely comment on the Sanford affair, and all Americans the right to express their individual opinions on the matter.

So, instead of piling on, I’ve decided to reprint my column from July 4th, two years ago, to commemorate the set of ideals – freedom, liberty, and equal justice -- which are obviously still alive and well in America:


“When in the course of Human Events…”

So begins the Declaration of Independence, to document which declared the creation of the United States of America, the signing of which on July 4th, 1776, is the date we celebrate as our national holiday of patriotism.

It’s no accident, I think, that our national day of celebration commemorates a document, rather than the end or beginning of any battle or war, or any military victory, or any national incident. To be sure, there are many other dates which will, indeed, live in infamy or be cause for perpetual celebration. But the single day we have chosen to celebrate Americanism is the day the ideas on which our nation was created were signed into effect with a single declaration.

We celebrate words -- not battles, not royal bloodlines, not military might -- because words convey ideas... and America is a nation founded on a set of ideas: freedom, liberty, justice, equality, and opportunity. These ideas, represented by written words, created the foundation on which our way of life has been built.

Because our American Way of Life is built on a set of ideas/ideals, and because I’m pretty sure we ALL take these ideals pretty much for granted on a daily basis – and it would probably be a good thing if we reminded ourselves of them from time to time -- I thought I would commemorate this July 4th by offering a bit of a quiz on some of the Words of Patriotism we have come to cherish.

Below, I’ve listed twelve patriotic phrases. Your job is to identify where each phrase comes from. These correct answers are at the end.

Here we go…

Patriotic Phrase #1: “We the people of the United States….”

Patriotic Phrase #2: “The land of the free, and the home of the brave”.

Patriotic Phrase #3: “WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”

Patriotic Phrase #4: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”

Patriotic Phrase #5: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

Patriotic Phrase #6: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

Patriotic Phrase #7: “Crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea”.

Patriotic Phrase #8: “ … no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”.

Patriotic Phrase #9: “Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above.”

Patriotic Phrase #10: “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”.

Patriotic Phrase #11: “A new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”.

Patriotic Phrase #12: “Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”.

How did you do? Here are the answers: 1. Preamble of the Constitution; 2. The National Anthem (The Star Spangled Banner); 3. The Declaration of Independence; 4. Inscription of the Statue of Liberty; 5. The Pledge of Allegiance; 6. Inscription of the Liberty Bell (we would also accept Leviticus 25:10); 7. America, the Beautiful; 8. The First Amendment (or The Bill of Rights); 9. God Bless America; 10. The Declaration of Independence, again! 11. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; 12. Preamble of the Constitution, again.

Hope you have a safe and happy Independence Day. And as we all celebrate freedom, let’s please keep our fighting men and women in our thoughts and prayers. God Bless America.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I’m an expert at eating food

With BBQ season in full swing – and the biggest barbecue day of the year just ahead – it’s only fitting that we should have a little chat about food in general. And Bar-B-Q in specific. (I especially want to spare you transplanted Yankees of the inevitable bar-b-cue embarrassment you are likely to experience if you try act like you know anything at all about B-B-Que around Good Ole Boys who grew up on Bar-b-cue.)

Barbeque is, of course, the best food ever invented in the whole, entire history of mankind. (It’s also ranks high among “foods which can be spelled a lot of different ways”, which you may have noticed in the preceding paragraphs.)

So here’s what you need to know before diggin’ in on July 4th:

1. There are many different kinds of BBQ.

2. Grilling hamburgers or hotdogs ain’t one of ‘em.

That’s the common mistake made by Yankees. They confuse grilling with barbecuing. I don’t know where they got that notion. Probably from growing up with a lack of actual barbecue, so they’re just trying to make do.

Actual variety in BBQ comes from the various sauces: mustard-based, ketchup-based, vinegar-based, and a whole lot of other bases in exotic, faraway places like Texas.

How do I know these things? Because I am a food expert. I have eaten it almost my entire life, and I try to exercise my skills every day, usually several times a day to keep in practice. I learned about food at an early age, and have been carefully observing it ever since. Hence, I am an expert.

I remember food before there was fast food.

Back then, “eating out” was rarity… a special treat reserved for the occasional Sunday after church.

Soft drinks with meals were also a bit of a treat. Pepsi, Coca-Cola, RC Cola, Nehi, Seven Up came in bottles, not cans, in a cardboard six pack with a handle. But… they were not on the regular shopping list, because, once again, they were for special occasions. (For some reason, small cokes – half the size for the same price – were considered a special delicacy.)

WE opened those bottles, incidentally, with the bottle opener located at the other end of a “church key”. At our house, we could never find the bottle opener… which was okay, because the handles of our kitchen drawers doubled nicely as bottle openers.

With meals at my house, we drank a lot of (a) water, because it was free; (b) iced tea, because we were Southerners; and (c) milk, because it was delivered to our back door several mornings each week by the Golden Glow Dairy.

The meals themselves were a variety pack: some days were practically gourmet home-cooked feasts… and some days were the same cereal we had for breakfast for lunch and supper… if I could get away with it. (I was a kid! What could be better than Fruit Loops three times a day?!)

My other most memorable kid’s meal was the daily lunchtime “mannaze sammich”. I was in high school before I discovered that the Miracle Whip which comprised the entire inside of my sandwich was not mayonnaise at all, but salad dressing.

As I got older -- maybe eight or nine -- the mayo was replace with a Vienna sausage and mustard. Now THAT was good eating!

Here’s some other foods which were mealtime favorites at the Shealy household, circa 1962:

Spam. We liked it. We made sandwiches out of it, or we fried it and ate it like steak!

Hot Dogs. We simply wrapped a slice of white bread around it like a bun, because actual buns were unheard of, except at restaurants.

Collards, turnip greens, and mustard greens. There was a special way we ate them – with ketchup on top – which, to this day, I can’t find anyone else who has ever heard of this gourmet offering.

Salmon. Once upon a time, canned pink salmon was apparently very, very cheap, because we ate it a LOT. There was salmon gravy, salmon stew, salmon and eggs, and salmon patties (which were called croquettes when you saw them on the menu in restaurants.)

Gravy. On everything, the way it was intended. Gravy on grits. Gravy on potatoes. Gravy on rice. Gravy on biscuits. (If for some reason gravy was unavailable, then a big slab of butter was a decent substitute on any of the forgoing dishes… although it wasn’t really butter at our house… it was margarine, but we didn’t know the difference.)

And, of course, being from the South, there were certain automatic items of cuisine at our house: boil’t peanuts, mater sammiches, and wallermelon slices.

I could go on and on.

I could also make a rather lengthy list of foods I had hardly heard of, let alone tasted, until high school or college: pizza; burrito or any other Mexican food; Chinese food, such as Wong Tong Ching Chang Wow; any seafood other than fish. Shrimp, scallops, lobster and such didn’t even exist in my world.

But they do now…. Because I am a food expert. I try to eat every day.

And on July 4th, the food I plan to be eating is BBQ!

Along with an RC Cola, if I can find one.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nostalgia was better in the old days.

This week, I’m writing yet another in my long line of columns about “nostalgia”... the good ole days!

It’s one of my favorite things to write about because the good ole days were…
well, they were the good ole days!!!!

For instance… Do you remember the old days of analog TV. I certainly hope you can remember, because it was LAST WEEK!

The Big Switch to digital occurred last week, and yet another piece of the old ways fell by the wayside. No more big metal antennas decorating the roof of your house. No more rabbit ears on top of your set.

I remember when you needed two separate antennas: one for picking up VHF (which I knew only as Channel 10); and one for picking up UHF, which were the other two channels – 19 and 25 – that contained the TV shows that some of the other kids in my class talked about, but I had never seen because we only had one antenna.

I guess things just change... and the Big Switch to digital is just one of the latest examples.

Consider for a moment how much changed in the last week:

A week ago, there was analog TV… and there were amusement parks known as Six Flags.

A week ago, millions of kids were high school graduates… and now, a week later, they’re just unemployed.

A month ago, there were Pontiacs, but apparently no more.

A year ago, there was Circuit City and Sharper Image, and banks actually loaned money. A year ago, most people had never heard of Rod Blagojevich or Bernie Madoff. (We thought a Ponzi Scheme was something dreamed up by one of the characters on Happy Days.) And, a year ago, there were still Republicans!

A decade ago, there wasn’t anything called Reality TV. Watching TV was an escape from reality… although I’m not sure why we were escaping, because reality back then, in retrospect, was pretty good.

A decade ago, there were two really tall, side-by-side skyscrapers that defined the skyline of New York City. Like the lyricist said, “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”

A decade ago, this little newspaper chain was turning 10 years old… because it was two decades ago this summer that Yours Truly decided to launch our first newspaper – The Lake Murray News – motivated largely by the fact that a close friend who had been the newspaper business told him “it couldn’t be done”.

Now, 20 years later, the current economic climate suggests that he might have been right!

But, as we embark on the celebration of our 20th year in business – which you will most certainly read more about in coming weeks, right here in this little column – we are entrenched in a mission, which is not about profit as much as it is about providing the community a forum to exercise the “freedom of the press” which our forefathers felt strongly enough about to include in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Twenty years ago, four of the five newspapers we publish each week didn’t exist.
While those WERE the good ole days, we didn’t have any good way to share the details of those days with the rest of the community.

Just as TV has changed from analog to digital, from three channels to 300 channels, from rabbit ears to cable, and from an escape from reality to Reality TV, so will this newspaper change in the years ahead. We’re not sure exactly how, but we’re sure it will change…. because things just change!

But in one form or another, it will continue to be a part of the community, since having a forum for the exchange of information within the community is too important to let melt away.

And, in the next few weeks, as we pass the milestone of having published weekly newspapers for the 1,040th week in a row, we’re gonna keep plugging away -- recession or no -- and try to remember that THESE are the good ole days we’ll be writing about 20 years from now in the Summer of 2029.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

June is busting out all over!

I was all set to write a column this week about our 20th anniversary in the newspaper business, which we will be commemorating this summer, when a press release caught my eye and changed my mind:

The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued a press release noting that our Governor has proclaimed the month of June as “Obesity Awareness Month”.

When I read that, I thought to myself, “Huh! He finally got something right!”

Because June is definitely Obesity Awareness Month. That’s because it’s the month when we all put on swimsuits and head to the water. Which definitely makes you aware of obesity. (I took my first swim of the year this weekend, and I became painfully aware of my obesity! Along with the obesity of lots of friends who also should not have been wearing swimsuits.)

But now we have the month officially proclaimed. Thank you, Governor.

I decided to check my files and reference materials to see what else the month of June might have in store for us.

The Big One is the beginning of Hurricane Season, which started on June First. (This season, it should be noted, marks the 20th anniversary of a little storm we might recall as Hurricane Hugo!)

June is also the time for an annual Palmetto State rite of passage known as “First Week at Beach”… which is happening right now along our coast. There are thousands of youngsters who aren’t really even old enough to pick out their own underwear spending their first week of freedom from school with bunches of their equally unprepared friends. Lots of the things school didn’t teach ’em during the last 180 days… they’re learning now during seven days.

I hope they stay safe and have a good time… especially those who just graduated. They need to have a blast before they come back home and find out we’re in a recession and they can’t find a job!

June is National Dairy Month, too. Drink your milk!

Turns out, there are a lot of other food celebrations during the month. June 5th is Donut Day AND National Applesauce Cake Day. June 6th is National Gingerbread Day. And June 12th is World Egg Day. (I’m not sure who makes the proclamation to designate a “World” day.) June 17th is Eat Your Vegetables Day. (But I’m not sure if it’s a World, National, or State day.) After eating your vegetables, if you want dessert, June also has National Fudge Day and Chocolate Pudding Day.

June is a very good month for kids’ characters. No fewer than five were born or invented during the month: Oscar the Grouch on June 1st; Donald Duck on June 9th; Garfield on June 19th; Captain Kangaroo on June 27th (He, incidentally, was actually born, not invented.) And, the biggest of them all: Superman, was born on June 30th!

Kids might also like to know that June 15th is officially designated as “Fly a Kite Day”… so designated to honor Ben Franklin’s famous kite experiment.

And, interestingly, a couple of favorite summertime pastimes were invented in June: The drive-in movie was invented on June 6th; and our national pastime, baseball, was invented on June 12th.

My reference material doesn’t say when the biggest summertime pastime of all – swimming -- was invented. But I’m going out on a limb and guessing it was invented many, many centuries ago in the month of June.

Along with Obesity Awareness!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sum, sum, summertime!

It’s summertime! Vacation time! Everybody’s favorite time of the year! (Except, of course, for Christmas time, which is everybody’s OTHER favorite time of the year!)

Most all of my best memories from my youth seem to have occurred in the summertime. Smatterofact, I think I’ve repressed most of the other months of my youth -- the school months – because getting up early each morning and being forced to sit still and quiet through the drudgery of classes all day long was not my idea of a good time when I was nine.

But I definitely remember summertime.

Right now, this week, millions of schoolkids are finishing up for the year, and getting ready to spend the next dozen weeks creating their own summertime memories.

It’s sad to say, but there’s not a chance that their computer games and online adventures will match up to our sandlot baseball games, bicycle rides, and afternoon swims in the lake.

Since its summertime, and I’m on vacation, I shouldn’t have any homework… such as writing this column! So instead, I’m just going to sit here and remember some random stuff from the summertimes of years gone by:

-- On Sunday afternoons, we churned ice cream. It was hand-cranked in the early years! I remember making peach, banana, strawberry, vanilla and lemon. The bag of ice required a special trip to the ice-plant – where they would crush a big block of ice for you -- because there wasn’t bagged ice for sale at every corner convenience store. (Come to think of it, there weren’t even any convenience stores.)

-- We didn’t have air conditioning… but we had an attic fan, and it cooled us pretty good at night time. We also had screen doors which let the breeze in. The screen door always had a coiled, metal spring, which made it SLAP closed. You could hear anybody coming into the house. We didn’t lock it, we “latched” it. (Growing up on Main Street in Lexington, SC, I don’t recall the doors to our house or car EVER being locked!)

-- The screen in the screen door was for keeping flies and gnats out… but invariably, a few would slip in. So the fly swatter was always handy. The fly swatter also occasionally doubled as a disciplinary device.

-- I spent a lot of outdoor time at “the spicket”. Many times a day, I would turn it on and cup my hands under it for a quick slurp of water. Or, better yet, I would attach it to the garden hose, and connect the sprinkler to the other end. It’s possible the sprinkler at our house was used for watering the lawn or garden… but if it was, I didn’t know about it. I used it for pure recreation. Turn it on, and spend an hour running through the streams of water shooting into the air.

-- If I was indoors and I needed a drink, there were two choices for kids: tap water, and for special occasions, Kool-aid! The beverages were most often served in jelly jar glasses – not the ones with screw on lids (we weren’t hillbillies!!!), but the kind with the snap off lids that doubled as drinking glasses when the jelly was all gone. Those jelly glasses were the fine china at our house. To chill our drinks, there were ice cubes, made in aluminum ice trays in the freezer. Each tray made a couple dozen cubes, and the rule of the house required that you refill the tray with tap water after you used it, so the next batch of ice cubes would have time to freeze.

-- Other than the sprinkler, the major form of recreation was apparently “swinging”. Back yards in the 50’s and 60’s seemed to automatically include a swing set (some even had a sliding board)… but those couldn’t compare to the tire swings hanging down from sturdy tree branches… or, occasionally, a Tarzan swing. The best swing of all was the rope swing that swung out over the lake, so you could let go and splash in.

-- Evening recreation and entertainment consisted mainly of chasing fireflies. Except on Wednesday nights, when it was free movie night as the U.S. 1 Drive In movies… and I lived practically across the street… within walking distance!

Ah, summertime: A neighborhood sandlot baseball game every morning. Swimming in the lake every afternoon. And bicycle riding in between… anywhere I wanted to go.

I hope the kids today have a summer half as good as the ones I remember.