South Carolina editorial roundup: Dec. 16, 2021


The (Charleston) Post and Courier

Dec. 11

We need to know more about John C. Calhoun's potential temporary home

Since Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg first proposed it in 2017, we've supported the idea of using the massive statue of John C. Calhoun as a teaching tool about an important if uncomfortable part of our history - to explain how a society embraced cruel and vicious race-based slavery for generations, how a nation became divided over it and what that history means to us today.

Tragically, the Charleston City Council never followed through with this commonsense, common-ground idea, because too few of its members embraced the middle-ground language composed by a panel of historians: "Unlike many of the Founding Fathers, who viewed the enslavement of Africans as 'a necessary evil' possibly to be overcome, Calhoun defended the institution of race-based slavery as a 'positive good.' The statue remains standing today as a reminder that many South Carolinians once viewed Calhoun as worthy of memorialization even though his political positions included his support of race-based slavery, an institution repugnant to the core ideas and values of the United States of America."

Instead, council members on the left were determined to remove the statue, while those on the right were determined not to support anything so balanced and honest.

So on its face, there's something quite attractive about the idea of lending the city's warehoused statue to a museum for inclusion in a new artistic exhibition about how American race-based slavery, the Civil War and its aftermath reverberate in today's world. If it can't serve as a teaching tool on the streets of Charleston, shouldn't it serve that role somewhere else?

The question about the request from a Los Angeles museum - particularly considering that our elected leaders were never able to settle on agreeable language - is what precisely the curators would say about Mr. Calhoun. In other words, what's the context in which Charleston's statue would be displayed? It's a question the city should have answered about any piece of its art that a museum wants to borrow. The question of context is, for that matter, one that copyright owners routinely ask before allowing their photographs or text or other material to be included in books and advertisements.

We don't mean to suggest that we should veto any language that makes Mr. Calhoun look bad; his own words, in many cases, make him look bad, and our goal for years has been to make those words more accessible. But we should veto any language that fails to also address the nuances of history: the important role one of South Carolina's most significant national figures played in the life of our republic, how his view fit into his era, how our city viewed him over time.

LAXART's director Hamza Walker told the Charleston History Commission in a Dec. 5 letter that he cannot stress enough how important the Calhoun statue would be to a planned exhibit by the nonprofit and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, partly because it comes from the city where the Civil War's first shots were fired and where nine African-Americans were killed in a church by a white supremacist in 2015.

As he explained: "Calhoun's position on slavery and secession are most relevant and as such, we will use his own words and place them within their proper historic context. This in and of itself cannot diminish his accomplishments as a U.S. Senator, Secretary of War, Secretary of State, and two time Vice President. It is precisely Calhoun's prominence and importance to American history that makes his stance on slavery relevant and essential to include. ... We must hold both Calhoun's stance on slavery and his influence on the formation of American identity at the same time. We do not want to erase Calhoun from our history. On the contrary. We want to take a magnifying glass to his legacy with a specific focus on his views on government, the Constitution, and slavery."

He said the exhibit "will in no way shame any of the participating municipalities or institutions. In fact, we believe that the hardest step - removing the monument - has been taken and that Charleston should be commended for responding to its citizens. ... The framing provided by a museum setting will acknowledge the real power inherent in Confederate monuments while also removing them from their intended context, rendering them as objects worthy of study rather than reverence."

Still, Charleston attorney and History Commission member Robert Rosen says it's important to keep in mind that Charleston's Calhoun statue was built and dedicated after his death to emphasize his stature as a national figure and his contributions to the Union, not to memorialize the Lost Cause or advance white supremacy. We agree and share his concern that the monument still could be misrepresented even by those with the best of intentions to make a political point.

The History Commission is set to meet Dec. 15 to consider the loan, and Mr. Rosen has asked that the meeting be delayed until the city knows more about who would write the exhibit's narrative. That strikes us as the very least the commission should demand - we'd prefer to see the text itself - and a demand that no one acting in good faith would have any trouble meeting.

The (Orangeburg) Times and Democrat

Dec. 9

Obesity problem growing worse during pandemic

Much of the concern about the state of health today is focused on the threat of the coronavirus. But there are other issues that have been magnified by COVID-19 realities.

A key one is obesity, with the pandemic being blamed for an increasing problem. And obesity can put people at risk for more severe illness after coronavirus infection, not the least of which is diabetes.

With obesity costing the health care system an estimated $147 billion each year, the personal-finance website WalletHub has released its report on 2021's Most Overweight & Obese States in America.

To determine which states contribute the most to America's overweight and obesity problem, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 31 metrics. They range from share of overweight and obese population to sugary-beverage consumption among adolescents to obesity-related health care costs.

South Carolina ranks as the ninth most obese and overweight state. (1=fattest; 25=average):

- 10th - percent of obese adults

- 8th - percent of obese children

- 9th - percent of physically inactive adults

- 12th - percent of adults with high cholesterol

- 16th - percent of adults eating less than one serving of fruits/vegetables per day

- 6th - percent of adults with Type 2 diabetes

- 9th - percent of adults with hypertension

- 22nd - obesity-related death rate

For the full report, visit:

Earlier, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released a study in September about obesity trends during the pandemic.

It found:

- An estimated 22% of children and teens were obese last August, up from 19% a year earlier.

- Before the pandemic, children who were a healthy weight were gaining an average of 3.4 pounds a year. That rose to 5.4 pounds during the pandemic.

- For kids who were moderately obese, expected weight gain rose from 6.5 pounds a year before the pandemic to 12 pounds after the pandemic began.

- For severely obese kids, expected annual weight gain went from 8.8 pounds to 14.6 pounds.

The rate of obesity increased most dramatically in kids ages 6 to 11, who are more dependent on their parents and may have been more affected when schools suspended in-person classes, the researchers said.

The information came as four more states were added to the list of those in which at least 35% of residents are obese. Delaware, Iowa, Ohio and Texas joined the list that had totaled 12, including South Carolina.

The numbers show the obesity problem is not limited to young people - and the threat posed is compounded by the coronavirus.

Reuters reports that a study has found that a majority of global COVID-19 deaths have been in countries where many people are obese, with coronavirus fatality rates 10 times higher in nations where at least 50% of adults are overweight.

The report, which described a "dramatic" correlation between countries' COVID-19 death and obesity rates, found that 90% or 2.2 million of the 2.5 million deaths from the pandemic disease so far were in countries with high levels of obesity.

The study analyzed the COVID-19 death figures from Johns Hopkins University in the United States and the World Health Organization's Global Health Observatory data on obesity.

Obesity is not a problem that can be solved overnight, despite the immediate threat posed by COVID-19. It will take time - and a commitment.

What that commitment must look like is stated by the CDC: "To change the current course of obesity will take a sustained, comprehensive effort from all parts of society. We will need to acknowledge existing health disparities and health inequities and address the social determinants of health such as poverty and lack of health care access if we are to ensure health equity."

The (Greenwood) Index-Journal

Dec. 14

How you can help tornado victims

This is a busy time of year when most of us are buying and wrapping presents, hosting and attending parties and, in many cases, doing something to make this holiday season merrier for others in need right here at home.

In neighboring states, however, this will be the saddest and darkest Christmas season they will experience.

The unprecedented swath of tornadoes this past weekend brought death and utter destruction to communities in six states. Hardest hit was Kentucky, with Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee also seeing loss of life and widespread damage.

Perhaps you cannot drive to one of these states to be of help, but you still want to do something because this is one of those times when we set aside our differences, when we don't respond on the basis of red state or blue state. It's when we come together as a people, as a nation. It is a time when our compassion for humanity should shine brightest and, we dare say, be a reflection of our core beliefs during this season.

Thank goodness for the internet in times like these. Thank goodness for apps that enable us to quickly transfer money to organizations that are and will be deeply involved in the relief efforts - efforts that will go well past Christmas and well into next year in many cases.

Do help, but a word of caution first. While the internet is, as we just noted, a useful tool for those who truly want to help others, it can be and will be a tool others use to commit fraud and divert your dollars to serve their selfish wants.

With that in mind, we urge you to proceed carefully before you give. Do some research. While The Salvation Army, Red Cross and United Way are familiar names most of us know and trust, there are many other groups and organizations out there, especially within the states that were struck, who are seeking monetary help from those willing to share.

Most, we want to believe, are sincere, honest and reputable. But you know the adage: Trust but verify. Toward that end, we urge you to take ample time to conduct research. Guidestar and Charity Navigator are a couple of sites that rate nonprofits on the basis of effectiveness and their transparency in how they operate.

Type "how to help tornado victims" in your search engine, and you'll find a plethora of articles published by newspapers answering the question. You'll find official government sites in the affected states that can also provide helpful information.

You want to help, but you also want to ensure your donation will reach those who need to be reached and not line the pocket of a scammer. So it is important that you take the time to research.